The most universal story of humanity
He had never been away from home, and he was terrified.
Everything was foreign to him: sights, sounds, smells, textures. He could make no sense of this new world. He was lost, confused, in pain, desperately lonely.
Even worse, he could not remember who he was or where his home was, nor could he remember how he got here.
He frantically tried to explain to people that he was lost, that he needed help to get back home. But no one could understand him, and neither could he understand them.
The more frantic he became, the more people resisted him and told him to go away.
His memories of home were vague, but the feeling they invoked were strong and made him weep: kind and loving parents, supportive brothers and sisters. A place of safety and peace. A place where he truly belonged, where he was seen and heard, where he really mattered.
His heart ached to get back home. But he had no idea how to get there.
And so he became a vagabond and wandered across the earth. He slept in the streets, under bridges, on beds when he could find them. To eat, he begged and stole, and worked when he could. He was harassed by the police, shooed away by shopkeepers, ignored by most.
Eventually, he was introduced to drugs, and they provided sweet relief from his pain and loneliness — at least, for a time. Every time the effects wore off, the pain came raging back, worse than before.
Over time, however, he learned to numb the pain by forgetting. He shoved his memories of home so deep down inside himself that he almost completely forgot. Occasionally, dim memories would arise as a dull ache in his heart, but he had many ways to quickly shove them back down.
He grew up. Secured a steady job. Eventually bought a modest home. Created some stability.
He met a woman and they married and had two children. Life was much better than his wandering days.
Until one day his wife left him, and his world was once again torn apart.
After she left, he lay on the bathroom floor, sobbing. His memories of home came flooding back. Something had been unlocked in his soul, and the memories were clear and vivid.
He knew, more than ever, that he needed to get back home. And so he set out on a quest to find home.
The universal quest to find Home
This is a story about you. And it’s a story about me. It’s the story of all of us.
We have left Home, and we can’t remember who we are or how we got here. We have been thrust into a terrifying and painful new world, which we don’t understand.
We’re lost, confused, in pain, lonely.
We have but distant memories of Home, in the form of the ache of loneliness, the yearning for connection, our feelings of love.
We frantically try to tell people that we need help getting home. But our desperation manifests as obnoxiousness, anger, aggression, violence, defensiveness, judgment and criticism of others, anti-social and offensive behavior (addictions, promiscuity, foul and abusive language, et al) — all the things people don’t like about us.
The more frantic we become, the more people push us away.
When our pain becomes too much to handle, we learn various mechanisms for numbing it. We stifle our memories of Home with our drugs of choice. We lose ourselves in work, throw ourselves into ambition and accomplishment, trick ourselves with materialism, hide behind the façade of superficial “positive thinking.”
But no matter how skillful we get at repressing our yearning for Home, it never goes away.
Eventually, at some point in our lives, often triggered by some tragedy, our memories and yearning for Home come flooding back to us and we are forced to face our pain, once and for all.
And so the quest to find Home begins again in earnest. This is the true beginning of the spiritual journey.
Where to find Home
Throughout our lives, many people point us towards Home: parents, religious teachers, mentors, peers. They explain their various versions of Home, and differing ways to get there.
Eventually, however, we realize that we can’t confuse the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.
We have found comfort in the “finger pointing at the moon,” and it has had its value. It has helped us to find and live according to life-serving values, regulate our behavior to avoid painful paths, and generally helped us to get closer to Home.
But we hunger to go to the moon ourselves — to experience Home in reality, rather than taking someone else’s word for it.
We stop running away from our pain and learn to embrace it as the gateway to awakening.
We do the work earnestly and consistently. At some point, the light of truth floods over us: We realize that Home is right here, right now in the present moment.
Home has never left us, but we have left Home. And we continually leave Home by wallowing in the pain of the past, or worrying about potential threats in the future.
One of my favorite books, which I can’t recommend highly enough, is What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self by Christian spiritual teacher Richard Rohr. In it, he explains,
“We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. As we take another it means God is choosing us now and now and now. We have nothing to attain or even learn. We do, however, need to unlearn some things.”
We never left Home. We simply forgot that we have always been Home.
An invitation to connect to Home as brothers and sisters
This article was inspired by the movie Lion, which my wife and I watched last week. Based on a true story, it’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. We cried through pretty much the whole thing.
I invite you to watch it as soon as possible. Furthermore, I want you to watch it in the context of this article. I want you to see beyond the story itself to the universal theme, which is embedded in the story, of trying to find Home.
Then, after you’ve watched it, I would love for you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your experience with it, in the context of this universal story of humanity.
I look forward to hearing from you and connecting with you.