There is only one home to the life of a river-mussel; there is only one home to the life of a tortoise; there is only one shell to the soul of man; there is only one world to the spirit of our race. If that world leaves its course and smashes on boulders of the great void, whose world will give us shelter? — Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman

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I find the idea that worlds are not immortal deeply unsettling. Like people and things, worlds can and do get destroyed. They get smashed against things like time, history, nature, and opposite worlds. Soyinka’s words are dark, and I find their apocalyptic meaning haunting. That’s why I find it odd that they bring to my mind something quite trivial: the idea of home and far away places.

Leaving home is a tricky thing. These days the danger lies in not being able to tell the difference between home and its many globalized imitations. In a world where it has become so easy to feel at home anywhere, where missing home is becoming an alien concept since home is only a click away, I think Soyinka’s words should be taken as welcome warning. “Whose world will give us shelter” in the event that ours fall to ruin because of our wanderlust?

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Hopefully, it doesn’t sound too cheesy when I say that home is a place that gives us meaning. As we move like the vagrants that we are in this highly globalized world, home is what gives us political reality not just in the sense that it is the passport we carry but also that it is the passport that we set aside when we choose to adopt a different one. Home is also the place we disavow in a bid to live the illusion that we are citizens of a transnational world. Home is that illusion that you cannot lose without losing a part of yourself. It has always struck me as funny when people dismiss the idea of home as an illusion, as if illusions do not have their own strange forms of power. Illusion or not, home is that world without which no one will give you shelter. I pray you never become homeless in the political sense of being a non-entity. That is when you realize the cruelty that underlies every political promise of inclusion. No one will give you a home if you do not already have one. That is why those who chose to abandon their homes to claim political ties with other worlds must still be thankful that they have a home to abandon.

To wander in this our grave new world without getting lost, we must have a home. Whether we are carrying it with us and hoping to return to it in a future time or seeking to get as far away as possible from it, praying never to return to it, home is something that we need to possess. No one is asking you to love your home. Just be mindful of it and work for its survival. Home is always home and granted it must always be reinvented to survive the power that subjects everything to change. Still, no amount of reinvention should make your home unworthy of your labor.

 

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