Thursday, March 10, 2011


Homestead Near Keld, U.K., Taken During My Coast to Coast Walk Last June

Where thou art—that—is Home.

Emily Dickinson

With the exception of a few sporadic comments here and there, I have been largely absent from the blogging community for about a month.  This all began rather innocently as my wife and I embarked upon a house search, thinking that we would like to relocate from Maryland to South Carolina later this year.  In a matter of days, however, I fell into a rabbit hole and descended into the chaos and confusion of today's real estate world.  

After considerable hand-wringing, debate, and prolonged negotiations with the owners of a particular house, we signed a contract to purchase the property, subject to several contingencies.  As soon as the ink was dry, however, we were visited by a plague of problems, some of which were legal in nature (e.g., perceived violations of setback requirements) and some of which were structural in nature (e.g., a malfunctioning septic system).  While we attempted to work toward the resolution of these issues, the sellers eventually decided that they preferred to have the contract cancelled, rather than provide the additional time necessary to address these matters.  In the end, it was much ado about nothing, except, of course, the wear and tear on the soul, which is what I want to talk about in this posting.

Lest there be any doubt, my purpose here is not to whine about losing this particular house.  Indeed, I am somewhat relieved that this affair has finally come to an end. What I do regret, however, is the loss of the time and energy wasted on, of all things, a material possession!  It wasn't just the money spent on experts, surveys, and inspections; it was the forfeited time that would have otherwise been spent in solitude and gratitude, time for listening rather than talking, time for watching herons and egrets meditate upon the edges of these coastal marshlands.  Take these hours from a person and you have essentially shortened a life.

One of the great ironies of modern life is that we must function in a world that is undeniably competitive, capitalistic, and ego-driven, while, simultaneously, we are called upon by virtually all spiritual wisdom to transcend that world.  It may be, as F. Scott Fitzgerald stated in The Crack-Up," that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."  I, for one, however, find this extremely difficult when it comes to remaining transcendent through the day to day challenges of living in a materialistic world.  Transcendence works best for me when I am immersed in art, nature, solitude, or some form of meditation.  Place me in the center of commercial negotiations, however, and I become a hopeless recidivist, trying to nail down my security in an insecure world and attaching myself to desirable outcomes.  It is only later — after diagnosing my dis-ease — that I return to the centering wisdom of my teachers, those who have repeatedly warned me that control of one's fate is an illusion and that attachment to desirable outcomes is a set-up for suffering.

Almost two thousand years ago, Pliny the Elder cautioned us that "home is where the heart is."  If that is true — and I believe it is — my home is in a place that has no measurable metes and bounds.  It is a place where art and creativity flourish, where ideas are more valuable than money or property, where kindred spirits become fellow pilgrims in the quest for better selves and a better world.  It is, among other things, here in this blogging community where I have returned to find inspiring poetry, spiritual insights, and heartfelt commentary on matters of ultimate importance.  When I see the tracks of my fellow pilgrims, I know that I am out of the rabbit hole, back to reality, and on my way home.