“We must be rooted in the absence of a place. We must take the feeling of home into exile.”
Growing up, underlying all the awkwardness and feelings of not belonging despite my outward successes and what most people thought, I knew I would leave home and not return. Deep within me, though, I harbored an idea I would return and bring with me a more confident and proven history. If Simone Weil is correct, I have been in exile long enough any idea of returning to those midland South Carolina sand hills has left me for good. Home, after many years, means something entirely different, though I agree, the feeling of home remains. Discarding it would mean a loss of all self. Like self, I am forever tied to it. Home, after all, is not just where you are from but who you are, an idea rooted both deep within that self and the examination of perspective against one’s surroundings. Finding home meant leaving home.
One incontrovertible memory from those years is Mother’s love of vegetables and my equal dislike of them. Part of leaving home meant never having to be forced to sit at the table until finished and consume cruciferous vegetables. I longed to be free from the dogma of “it’s good for you.” Rebellion began young in me, enough that my sister and I frustrated Mom by covering our turnips with a napkin as if we were finished and telling her so. She knew, of course, and relented. Sometimes we won, mostly, she did. Forced consumption and submission was a cross I beared, my rebellion, Mom’s, which is also the meaning of cruciferous—bearing a cross. Or maybe, serving me turnips was her grand plan to get me to leave home. Well, it worked.
There are other crosses to bear in life. Some, we choose. Some, we do not. Leaving home, being free from parental constraints was the lie in my rebellion. Moving on just meant new constraints would come. I have harbored other lies, perpetuated them for my convenience. Time rinsed out those lies formed at home, but what is left are the truths learned that won’t die, in my lifetime and the lifetimes to follow.
I wonder if what we believe does not have an ingredient of being man-made, some hybrid formed, a falseness to shield us from truth and God’s love. Maybe those hybrids are the means by which we leave God because facing Him is too terrifying. Doing so exposes our lies and who we are. Home is never far.
But is truth not also like home, rooted in its absence, the feeling of it follows us into our self-imposed exile, our self-seeking comfort and in some strange way, brings us around to God.
Simone Weil again: the feeling of being at home, that’s what we’re meant to retain, that’s what will save us. There is a resignation in this statement, not defeat, but recognition. That’s what truth does.
Would you please pass the turnips?