- Where you live at a particular time
- Housing that someone is living in
- An environment offering affection and security
- A social unit living together
So, you’ve finally done it. You either got a mortgage from the bank, or you are renting, but nonetheless, this building with four walls you are about to move into, is yours! No more parents telling you what to do, nobody to share with, you (and your partner perhaps) are finally free. You can choose your own furniture and décor, you can play music at a level you want to listen to, eat what you want. This is your home, and as long as you keep paying your bills, no one is going to take it away from you. It’s what you have always dreamed of. Now you have it. Congratulations!
Moving in day comes, and you have finally got your hands on the keys. You walk through the door and look around you. Home. This is where you will spend all your free time.
You spend the next few months buying new things, equipping the kitchen, getting the bedroom “just right,” pictures are hung, photographs are displayed, and the wide screen tv is placed in the corner of the room, ready to receive the latest news, movies, cartoons, and soaps from the satellite dish on your roof.
Soon, everything is finished, and you have got the house just as you want it. Now you can get on with the business of enjoying it (just remember to keep up the repayments or you’re out on your ear). But now it’s ready, what do you do in it? Well, you cook, clean, watch tv, water the plants, sleep – you may even make love to your partner! But what else is there? To understand this we have to investigate more deeply.
We have said that the four walls, in which you are now “contained,” is your home; that this is your secure place, where you come back to every night after a hard day at work. When you get home you do some chores and you probably “chill out” for a couple of hours before going back to work the next day. On your day off, you may, or may not, spend time at the home. You may invite friends over, or do some home improvements to keep yourself busy, then open a beer and turn on the tv. But what else is there?
You work hard to pay the bills, and over time you accumulate more and more possessions. Thanks to a surprise promotion, you find yourself with more cash and decide it’s time for an upgrade.
You look around and find a bigger apartment or house within your budget and soon you are moving again. You get the keys, you walk through the door and look around your new home. This is where you will spend all your free time. You spend the next few months buying new things, equipping the kitchen, getting the bedroom “just right;” pictures are hung, photographs are displayed, and the wide screen television is placed in the corner of the room, ready to receive the latest news, movies, cartoons, and soaps from the satellite dish on your roof. Soon, everything is finished, and you have got the house just as you want it. Now you can get on with the business of enjoying it (just remember to keep up the repayments or you’re out on your ear). Sorry, does anyone notice I am repeating myself?
Several years later you find you are expecting a child. What a wonderful moment. What great excitement. You can’t wait to decorate and furnish the child’s room and buy toys for them, but in the back of your mind you are thinking: “I wonder if this house is big enough?” And you set about looking for a bigger house, in a better area, where your child can grow up safely. You look around, find something you like and eventually get the keys…You get the idea.
When is enough, enough?
Many years later you now have the exact house you want in the perfect area. You have accumulated a mountain of stuff, and have had to invest in some serious security to protect it. New locks are fitted and an alarm is installed. You must protect the stuff at all costs. You have worked so hard for it, you must protect it, these are dangerous times, you know!
As time goes on, you notice that not only have the children grown up, but the four walls you call home, have turned into a storage depot! So you set about getting rid of things you no longer need, then decide it’s time for a redecoration, and actually the sofa’s getting old, and so are the carpets, so maybe you should change them too; or maybe it would be better to find a new house.
But this time, you downsize. You don’t need the extra rooms, so you find a nice house in need of a bit of renovation and you (or the bank) buy it. You spend a small fortune ripping out the walls, tearing the kitchen down and set about replacing everything in the house with more modern appliances etc. “This will do us,” you say to your partner. “We don’t have to move again now.” Or do you?
The thing with the human consumer is that he is never satisfied. He is continually moving. Moving in a direction he calls “up,” whatever that means. He has his status to think about, and the house is the ultimate status symbol.
Over the years, the human consumer attempts to fill his house with the best things he can afford (or can get credit for), and he hoards, and he hoards, afraid to lose his prized possessions lest he cannot get them again. But as people get older and pass into retirement these status symbols lose their charm and the human starts to become more concerned with the more down to earth business of just trying to survive! The four walls that meant everything to him are now not so important.
Sadly several years later, one partner dies, followed the next year by the other partner, and all that remains is a dead house; filled with dead things. But wasn’t the house already dead the day they moved in?
What else is there?
We all need somewhere to live, that is a given. Shelter is one of the primary drives for the human being, and a house is a good way of providing that, so I am not about to tell you to go and live in a tree in the forest. But let us think back to the beginning of this discussion where we finally left the nest and branched out on our own, where we got the keys to our own place.
Our place. No one else’s. This would be a place for me. No one else. Later, it became our house, for our family, and we installed locks, and alarms to keep everyone else out. “The home must be protected at all times” you thought. “These four walls are mine. No one else’s. This is where I feel safe. This is where I feel secure. I must protect myself and my family, but most of all I must protect my stuff; the walls and the possessions.”
But after we died, it wasn’t our home anymore. Sure it may still be in our name but if you remember, we are now dead!
All those years of striving for the perfect house, the perfect neighbourhood, the perfect sofa and the perfect curtains, now ended with nothing, except death.
Pretty quickly, if the house isn’t looked after, it will start to return to nature. The walls will start to break down, the carpets and the curtains will start to attract dampness, and the grass will grow tall. The bushes in the garden will start to grow wild, and nature will start to reclaim the four walls we spent our entire life striving to pay for. All those stressful late nights at work, all that moving, all that furnishing the interior, now means nothing. Do you understand? Everything you worked for is now dead, including you!
As dampness creeps into the floorboards, they start to rot, and the metal appliances start to rust. The house begins to take on an eerie smell, and all who go into it will feel uncomfortable. It will feel like “someone died here.” But we’re not talking about the “spiritual,” we are talking about nature reclaiming that which belongs to it. Think about it.
We never feel uncomfortable when we are out in any kind of natural environment, are we? Whether it be walking along a stream, out in the forest, walking in the hills, or just sitting under a tree. It feels good. It feels like you are alive. The same can’t be said for the house you built.
The house that died before you moved in
When we move into a new house it feels “nice,” doesn’t it? Everything smells clean and fresh, and if we don’t move into a new house, we quickly rip out the old interior, and replace it with new materials. But let’s not run away with ourselves thinking that what we are putting into the house is any way “new.”
The metals we create were extracted from ore which has been going through a process in the earth’s crust for millions of years. The timber we saw was a tree growing for anything up to a hundred years or more. And the moment the ore is mined, the tree felled, or the cotton harvested, it is dead (starting to change state), and through building new houses or renovating old ones we constantly try to keep the materials “alive.”
So we buy new sofas, new curtains, new lamps, new windows, in a desperate attempt to stop the house from dying. We clean it obsessively, refusing to allow dust to build up, or have anything “dirty,” but it is a feeble attempt by humans to stop the inevitable happening. And through our labours we maintain an illusion that the house is “alive.”
Why else do you think we like having an open fire or candles burning? It is so we can experience life again, even for a short time. We buy fresh cut flowers to “brighten” up the place, and have to change them when they “die,” but can’t you see, everything we surround ourselves with is already dead. We buy plants and herbs and water them constantly to have some life around us, but one day they too die. Hard as we try, we can’t escape death.
The natural energies we surround ourselves within our four walls have no more life to give. The tree no longer has any roots, and the minerals are no longer connected to the earth’s core.
So… Maybe that’s why we like so much tv! Television is constantly moving, constantly changing, bringing energy into a home to revitalise it.
How many times have you gone into someone’s home and said “it just feels dead, like there’s no life in there?”
When we have children, they bring a massive amount of positive energy into a home, but in the end, they leave, and we are left with our dead possessions, our dead appliances, our dead walls and dead roof. It just feels like there is nothing alive except for perhaps the music system or the tv in the background.
So what use is there to have a home surrounded by locks and security systems if all we are doing is imprisoning ourselves in a dead space?
Maybe that’s why we buy so many new things all the time? Maybe the consumer lifestyle is an attempt to bring life back to our homes, at least temporarily. “Wow, look at this new thing, it’s great!” we say, but soon it gets relegated to the attic or basement and is replaced by something “new.” Do you understand? So right now have a look around your home, and tell me what is alive? I mean really living, with its connection to the earth intact? Anything? Nothing?
People try everything to keep their homes alive. They learn feng shui (rules in chinese philosophy that govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to patterns of yin and yang and the flow of energy (qi); the favourable or unfavourable effects are taken into consideration in designing and siting buildings and graves and furniture) to create more positive energy flows around the home, but it is all too late, as the buildings themselves are dead. We even put in “water features” in our gardens to emulate the flow of a natural stream, and we hang up bird feeders to attract wildlife. But nothing works.
Soon we get tired of the house we live in, and we move to somewhere new hoping to re-stimulate the energies, and we get caught in a cycle that never escapes the dead materials. Some people talk of eco-buildings where they have a living roof of grass, and they may be onto something, but it doesn’t solve the problem of living with dead materials. They are everywhere.
As long as we continue to accumulate possessions, we cannot hope to escape this.
Breathing life into the dead
I do not have a “solution” that will solve all these problems. The city planners and the construction companies are deciding how we should live. The desire to create wealth and status determines where and how we live. Unfortunately, we have come so far from nature that we cannot hope to ever return to it. So I guess that means we are stuck with synthetic materials and dead wood, brightened up by the occasional plant, open fire, and water feature.
But is that really it? Is that the end? Can we not see a way out of this for ourselves? You may say: “But in order to create the four walls that protect me against the burglar and the elements, we must at least cut down trees, if nothing else.” But what are we talking about here? Are you saying you must have these four walls because you are scared someone will attack you and steal all your dead possessions?
If the possessions are already dead, why do you care? What does it matter if you lose all your possessions, things you desperately hang on to, and will fight anyone that tries to take them if you are going to die anyway. As far as I know, even religions that promise the afterlife, make no promises about inter-dimensional shipping of personal items. So I say unlock your doors. I vow to you I will do the same!
In order to remove fear of losing your possessions it’s not about saying: “I don’t care if I lose them,” we have to stop accumulating them. I have seen many monks with no possessions and they look perfectly happy! Not because they have found enlightenment but because they are free from the burden of fear that possessions come with. Do you understand?
The second is to find a way of living that brings nature back in through your front door! “What you must be mad, after what I paid for this house!” I hear you cry. But this isn’t possible whilst you still live at number 42 b consumer street. This will require a great shift on your part, and the possibility that you will have to let go of the individual to see yourself as part of the whole.
“I can’t believe it, he wants us to live in a commune in the forest like a load of hippies,” I hear everyone shout. But given the seriousness of the situation here on earth – especially in the westernised countries – we have to give our fullest attention to this problem.
We have to start asking ourselves what it really is we are doing here, and whether there is “something more” than just surrounding ourselves with four walls and shutting the door as quickly as possible, just in case someone comes in and attacks us.
We might like to think we are all “individuals,” that our home, and our stuff, is all that is important, but we are so much more than that; we are a community of the most intelligent species on earth, and the only thing individual about us is our thinking.
We have been told, by our parents, and our leaders, that building your own home is what you should strive for, that owning property is the single most important thing you will do apart from having a family; but that is just good business for the banks and the insurance companies.
So why do we close ourselves off from the world? Why do we lock ourselves in, watching life pass us by out the window? What is it “out there,” that we are so scared of?
We have to let nature back in, not shut it out
Maybe it all stems from our childhood, but I can assure you that it is not a natural phenomena. You don’t imagine for one moment that all the creatures that inhabit the earth are scared being out in nature in the dark, do you? That would be absurd.
Unfortunately, throughout our childhood, we are always told to be wary of strangers, and to lock the door when you come in. Given the amount of fear-mongering that goes on when we are young it’s lucky we even go out at all as adults!
But we don’t like to be outside where there could be strangers for too long, do we? We unlock the door, get into the car, lock the doors, go to our work then back home again and lock the doors. This might be an extreme example, but can you see the point I am trying to make?
We have separated ourselves from nature and each other by all this individual living. Ok, so it is nice to have your own space, but not at the expense of not even knowing the people who live down the road, or even next door. What has happened to our communities?
We came from small tribes, where we worked and cooperated together, for the good of the community, and we had shared interests, shared meals and shared accommodation. Do you think the old community members were more unhappy than we are now? Or more scared of nature?
I am not suggesting a hippie style commune where we all live under the stars, singing songs round the camp-fire, where everyone does everything together, as individual expression always ends up being repressed in all idealistic communities. Why? Because they are created by Man’s thought, which as we have seen, has always caused mischief in the world.
But I would like you to think about this now. How can we get back to our natural state, where we exist in harmony with nature; where we live and cooperate together and still have our own individual expression? Think about how we can bring living materials back to our homes (if we really all need our own homes).
The problem with any of these questions we pose ourselves, is we are coming at them from where we are now. From our three bedroom semi-detached houses in the suburbs, and our cars, and our well paid jobs, and we can’t see a way out of it. But remember what we said earlier on in the discussion – there is no inter-dimensional shipping company. When you die, you leave it.
Wouldn’t it be nice to find out if there was another way, a way to live with nature, to explore the universe with your mind, to learn, without having all of these burdens, which died many years before. Wouldn’t it be nice to breathe life into our own living spaces. Real living energy?
I don’t want to live in a forest. I like my house!
The answer is quite simple, although I cannot tell it to you here. You must find out for yourselves. But I will give you a hint. It starts with letting go of everything you think you are, and everything you have acquired. It sounds difficult, but freedom doesn’t cost a penny. Just a shift in your thinking. Right now.
You may either be thinking: “He’s completely mad,” or “how will I cope without the security of my nice house, I don’t want to end up homeless.” But homelessness in its purest form is merely a state of mind.
I feel sorry for the people who lie in the gutter in the cities begging for some money to fuel their addictions, or feed a hungry stomach; but what would happen if the homeless man was transported to a natural place where there was no one to beg from? What would he do? Would he die, or would he change? Would he realise he needed nothing more than already surrounded him, and create something new for himself?
So let’s not all worry about being homeless. When we think like that we are thinking as the individual, not as the whole. But when we start to realise we are all connected, the thought of just letting go becomes a whole lot simpler. And the great thing is, you don’t have to join a hippie commune to let go!
The earth is my home. Where’s yours?
by Alan macmillan orr
“The Natural Mind – Waking Up”