Sunday, July 01, 2007,7:31 PM
Homesickness, Resonance, and Longing
Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring to teach me something. When by seeming coincidence a certain idea presents itself to me in various forms over a short period of time. A call to consideration that if I claim to even pretend to be self aware I can't ignore. That's what happened this past week. In one form or another, I encountered the themes of faith, place, and longing. The idea that we are connected in some way to the land and that there are places in this world that resonate strongly with us - sacred places as it were. Or at least that we all suffer from a sort of "global homesickness" - the results of the disconnects present in modern society which leave us all longing for home.

It started this past week as I read Anne Bishop's novel Belladonna, the second book in her Ephemera series. It is a fantasy novel about a world where one must resonate with a particular landscape in order to live in harmony there. Being forced into landscapes not of one's heart leads to dissonance, depression, and destruction of the Light. People know intuitively what landscapes they resonate with because they feel content and whole in them - they feel at home. So as I read about resonating with the land I traveled to the beautiful woods of Northern Michigan. I found myself among family and towns that seems to share similar passions as I. So with this vague conception of connecting with the land playing through my mind, we drove the 7 hours home and by sheer coincidence ended up listening to two podcasts on that very topic. The first was Rob Bell's "Wine and Heaven" sermon (available for free download for a few more weeks here). It is an amazing sermon well worth listening to that covered a lot of ground, but in it he mentions how we have lost our connection to the earth. How we must go on vacations to get outside and be reconnected with nature (and each other). So with those words in mind we then selected to play a NPR podcast of Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett about Pagans Ancient and Modern which brought all those themes together. The program interviewed Adrian Ivakhiv, an environmentalist at the University of Vermont and a scholar of Paganism. Who "was first drawn to Pagan literature because of its strong emphasis on ecology, the natural world, and a sense of place. He's studied how ancient Pagan ideas are woven together in Western culture and even mainstream religion. He describes a fascinating connection between magic and meaning, and between sacred landscapes and what he calls "our global condition of homesickness."

Our global condition of homesickness. A desire to reconnect and resonate with place. The idea that there is something mystical or even magical that calls us to certain places - some that we sense are sacred, others that just feel like that's where we are meant to be. I understand that desire, I feel that need to be at home. A few years ago if I had encountered such ideas, I would have immediately assumed them to be examples of what C.s. Lewis described as sehnsucht - a deep "inconsolable longing" in the human heart for "we know not what." As he put it (and then fleshed out in his famous sermon The Weight of Glory), "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

But I don't know if I agree with that anymore (or at least the common interpretation of it that I've been taught). I know its generally considered heresy for a Wheaton alum to question the wisdom of St. Jack, but I no longer believe that our hope is in a pie in the sky when we die sort of scenario. I'm not sure that's what Lewis was intending, but that it most assuredly how evangelicals have co-opted his words (just read John Eldredge). But our hope is not in escaping to Heaven, but in the bodily Resurrection and a New Earth (and yes I see the significance of "new" there). So, I wonder, how can we say that we are completely in exile here or that this earth is not our home? Beyond the environmental disasters such theology has permitted, it has also led to our disconnect from the land. We no longer live in the places we resonate with and long to return home (whatever that may mean). So what if the answer to that homesickness isn't some gnostic escape hatch theology, but a need to see the truth that the "pagans" have clung to all along - that we can resonate with creation, find God in the Sacred (thin) places, and actually feel at home? Or some blessed balance of both?

I want to explore this more, I need to explore it more. I have no answers just many many questions as once again assumptions I had about the nature of the universe are clouded with doubt. My journey into the emerging church conversation has led to many such questions and I appreciate the challenge to seek understanding as unsettling as it can sometimes be. I would love to hear other's thoughts on this as I work my way through it.

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posted by Julie at 7:31 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 7/01/2007 08:17:00 PM, Blogger

    I would leave three comments:

    1) Society and the Urban City Landscape has created a void. If we still had relationships like we did in the "rural days", we would feel quite at home. Instead, city life has stole our sunsets and moonlit days. There's no place for a walk, for a quiet time with our favorite friend, etc.

    2) As a Christian - would you agree that the Holy Spirit indwells you? If that is true, why do you still feel a longing? Shouldn't you be the happiest person alive since God is with you? Is there something missing? Will the greenery or blue skies close that gap?

    3) I would agree with you that we Christians still feel a longing. St. Jack and St. Augustine also felt a longing even though they had the "Holy Spirit" in them. But they still felt something missing, and they couldn't accept the fact that 'the something missing' could be something "earthly". Thus, that longing must be for Heaven itself. I agree with them. That said, nothing beats the old country, the mountains, the rivers, the rural life.

  • At 7/01/2007 08:45:00 PM, Blogger grace

    I think a sense of abandonment, displacement, and rejection are a part of our broken condition. I agree with Jack's statement, "we were made for another world." However, I don't see that as a future destination, but rather as a present alternative reality (kind of like the Matrix). I think the other world we were made for is the kingdom of God and our current experience of that world is only partially realized.

    I'm not sure if that's where you were headed with this post, but those were the thoughts that it inspired in me.

  • At 7/02/2007 12:06:00 AM, Blogger Erin

    Julie - you have no idea how much this post means to me today...thank you.

  • At 7/02/2007 07:23:00 AM, Blogger sherri

    I've thought a lot about these ideas, but have come to no real conclusions--just questions and observations, like you.

    Since I became a global nomad at the age of six and have lived in or visited too many countries, houses, apartments and huts, I know what it is to long for home. For me, I know what I long for isn't the old homestead that several generations inhabited. It just doesn't exist for me. And I can't even honestly say that home is where my extended family is. I love them, but I don't long to be with them in the same way I long for this intangible thing called home.

    When I return to places where I have traveled before there is that pleasant and comforting familiarity or resonance that you write about. Yet, that resonance is not enough to make me stay there or even want to stay there long term. It is as if the part of me that resonates with Christ does not resonate with these places I call home because it is generally my desire to follow Christ that sets me off on a journey to a new place.

    I have tried to create places where I thought I could stay for a lifetime (and one of these was in an idyllic, pastoral setting which we still "own" but no longer reside in), but finding "home" hasn't happened yet. This longing for a home or belonging ebbs and flows and sometimes overwhelms like a tsunami.

    Will this longing only be fulfilled in the next life? In a perfect way, perhaps. But can we experience home here? I think so, but perhaps not until we can step outside our limited definitions of what home ought to be.

    I could say a lot more, but I'll stop for now...

  • At 7/02/2007 08:15:00 AM, Blogger Kay

    Wow! What a wonderful wonderful wonderful post. It speaks to my frame of mind and the condition of my soul perfectly.

    My blog post "Grumpy" was inspired by such feelings.

    I'm very interested to read where your thoughts and feelings take you.

  • At 7/02/2007 12:44:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Thanks for the responses all... a few short replies.

    Christian Alert - I truly don't think that the purpose of the holy Spirit or God is to make us into the happiest people alive. I think with God we can feel more deeply - mourn with lose who mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice, and be aware of mystical otherness that is out there. True "heaven" is earthly, but how much that is connected to what we experience now is part of the questions I am asking.

    Grace - I wasn't for sure exactly where I was headed, but I like how you put it - longing for an alternative reality of living the Kingdom of God here and now. So is that truly possible...

    Sherri - I know that this often is just a state of mind, but there are so many people for whom place is vitally important. sacred places, holy sites and all that. Or at least places where they know they don't fit at all. it all seems to be intertwined.

  • At 7/25/2007 12:43:00 PM, Anonymous Che Vachon

    Hey Julie, loved the post.
    And I've begun to explore these ideas/concepts as well.
    I have come to one conclusion...that there are places where we 'connect' and in that place, we can know a special peace and joy.
    I moved to this small town, after alot of heartache, and I felt God lead me here. I am on the ocean, which many find beautiful...but it's more than that.
    I feel connected to the land more here. I am in my 'right' place, though I know there are other places for me in the future. There is an energy in being in the place meant for you.
    In some of books, I have read of an 'affinity' for the land. I think this is true.
    But while I believe in the connection that we can have...I wonder if there will always be some longing unsatisfied. Maybe for what we were created to be before sin...maybe for heaven. Maybe for something beyond that.
    I have looked a little at what Pagans believe, and find myself saddened that as Christians, we mostly have forgotten that God created us to be here, to tend this earth. Maybe, they could teach us a thing or two about our relationship to the land.