Home is where the heart is, we say, but for many of us the heart is at work. It is not uncommon for folks to admit that they are relieved when time off is over, the vacation is done, and they can go back to their normal work routines. It is also not uncommon for a new mother who took time off the job to deliver the child to find herself longing to go back to work. It is not uncommon for us to find reasons to leave the house and do something, anything, rather than stay at home. In other words, we have learned to view the home as a kind of unwelcome captivity that needs an escape (more than now and then).
We have gotten to the point in history in which home is not home to most of us but merely the place where we sleep and occasionally eat. I know that personally and I bet many of you will admit it is more true than you care to imagine. We buy already prepared foods or eat take out so the kitchen is less for the actual work of making food than reheating it (or, truth be told, a showcase in which we display our newly purchased treasures in the form of labor saving devices).
According to Wendell Barry, the home has taken on aspects of a divorce: Marriage … has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and
impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their
understandably temporary association, the “married” couple will
typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of
each other. The modern household is the place where the consumptive
couple does their consuming. From money to things, we decide whose domain this will be and, more importantly who will exercise control over this area. Such negotiated rights sound more like roommate arrangements than the shared life generations before called marriage.
You can read an extended discussion of the whole thing here. . . I will not attempt to summarize or duplicate what you can find in longer form there. However, I do want to focus on a couple of lines.
In the pursuit of freedom (which we mistakenly conflate with autonomy)
we have successfully made it possible to be homeless at home. Our
kitchens resemble cafeterias, our homes motels. Afraid of losing “who we
really are,” we go to great effort to ensure that home will not become a
prison of domestic captivity.
The key here is autonomy. Confusing freedom with autonomy and we bow at the altar of choice and presume this is an ultimate definition of a successful life. It is no wonder that the Church is having a struggle if we think that autonomy is the highest value. From the marriage vows and the dreaded obey word to the Paul idea of mutual submission we have come to bristle at the very notion that any of us really needs the other. We have skills, we can earn our own way, we don't need some patriarchal vestige of the past to put the reins on our freedom and autonomy -- except in the things we have come to define as demeaning or beneath us (usually anything to do with the home). Our work at home has come to be defined as chores nobody really wants to do -- so it is easy to justify paying others to do it or depending upon the helicopter parents to come in and do it for us. The end result of our autonomy is that marriage itself has become peripheral to who we are and how we live. It is no wonder then that such marriages fail because they are no longer fun or rewarding or simply because they turn out to be work. It is no wonder that folks put off marrying until a later age when there are so many other things more urgent and more noble than domesticity.
Yet we cannot forget that God designed us, wired us, for exactly that. Running from that which is domestic is running from the inherent nature of our humanity -- even within its fallen state. The home is not a perfect place but the longing for home haunts even those who have made their peace with singleness and who have told themselves they enjoy coming home to an empty place. I think the author has keyed in on exactly those things that have left a home seeking people homeless even when we have an address and when we have a family. Until we learn it is neither weak nor a personal defeat to admit this is exactly who we are and the place we were created for, we will find many things unsatisfactory in our lives, our marriages, and our homes.
I cannot help but smile at that commercial that seems to play with our vocalized ideals and confront us with the longing within that teaches us what we say we want is not exactly what we mean... You watch and tell me if this is not the visual image of the well crafted piece of writing from Crisis Magazine!