“‘Home,’ By Contrast, Is the Place Where Least Has Happened.”

In the introduction to his book Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It, Geoff Dyer writes,

For several years now I’ve been puzzled by some lines of Auden’s–actually, I’ve been puzzled by many of Auden’s lines, but the ones I have in mind are from “Detective Story” (1936), where he talks about

home, the centre where the three or four things

That happen to a man do happen

I think I have trouble getting my head round this idea of home because I can’t refine down the number of things that have happened to me to ‘three or four’–or not yet I can’t anyway. Auden might turn out to be right, but for the moment, there are a lot of things that have happened, and they’ve happened in a lot of different places. “Home,” by contrast, is the place where least has happened. For the last dozen or so years, in fact, the idea of “‘home” has felt peripheral and, as a consequence, more than a little blurred. Or maybe, like Steinbeck, “I have homes everywhere,” many of which “I have not seen yet. That is perhaps why I am restless. I haven’t seen all my homes.”

As someone who has spent so much time thinking about my own experience of home, I found this fascinating.

Do you feel like “home” is the place where the things that matter happen–or that those things happen elsewhere? For me, the things that do happen happen at home.

  • leigh

    The few things that happen to everyone at home, the things that matter…. I can’t help but think of the enormous forces that parenting exerts upon one’s life. You do it right one time, by growing up in a moment when you need to. And you do it wrong once in way that is so wrong that you feel where the edges are of the known territory of yourself. Those are two things that happen. Also, you get your heart broken by what you lose, what you cannot preserve. And you have at least one moment where you hate yourself and your partner in a way that changes (deepens?) your understanding of love. Those are the things that happen in any home, I think, with children and with imperfect parents who are trying to do a good job. An old friend told me that having children is like being the Velveteen Rabbit — you get more shabby and more real. This was before I had kids and now I see what she means.

    • Debora

      This is a profoundly beautiful and insightful comment. Thank you.

    • SarahWT

      Thank you, Leigh, for sharing this. Incredibly moving….

  • leigh

    And I should add that I love it. : )

  • jr cline

    I think I’m more like Steinbeck. Before I moved where I am now home was where the people I loved were. The people I loved have moved on to other places or to the next life. My new definition of home is more along the lines of ‘where I am is my home’.

  • Lisa

    I love travel and can relate to the feeling of wanting to explore “all my homes.” Each new home is an adventure! Ultimately, it is in my own home where I truly relax.

  • morethanjustanadjunct

    For me “home” is wherever I am where one of those moments I want to last forever happen — around the dinner table with friends or family after a really good meal and during fantastic conversation, traveling with my husband (especially over a really good meal — maybe home for me has more to do with food than anything), one of those fleeting moments where everything clicks into place and I feel indescribably happy. Like I am, in fact, okay, just where and how and who I am right now.

  • BeachBum

    My favorite love song is by Billy Joel: I need you in my house cause you’re my home.
    ” If I travel all my life
    And I never get to stop and settle down
    As long as I have you by my side
    I’ve got a roof above and good walls all around”

  • Barbara

    It’s all about home and family and the feelings evoked by them…..home is where it ALL happens as far as I’m concerned…..

  • Polly Burns

    Ooh, I LOVE that Steinbeck quote, hadn’t come across that before, and it really resonates with me. “I have homes everywhere, many of which I haven’t seen yet.” That really resonates with me, as for me, home is where nothing happens. All my adventures happen away from the home, even if that’s just in the coffee shop down the street. That doesn’t mean I want to be alone, or away from the family, it doesn’t. I mean I prefer to be anywhere other than my four walls, preferably having my small son with me.

  • Ella

    Home is my refuge from the things that “happen to” me. Everything and everyone that matters most to me is at home, but that is not where things “happen to” me; at least not in the sense that I read that phrase.

  • bill

    I believe it’s the best way for many things to happen if they happen at home, to
    be most meaningful,enjoyable,such as eating,sleep,reading,etc,although they could be done elsewhere.As they say in my language,a shabby home is better than a house in gold.For example,a Christmas eve spent in hotels definitly gives a different feelings
    from one spent at home,because such things are supposed to happen at home.Also, sleeping happening at home makes one feel more relaxed and peaceful.

  • Jennifer K

    I guess it depends on your personality (homebody vs. wanderer), and how much time you spend at home, and what actually does happen there. For me, home is where most stuff “happens”. Playing and cuddling with my kids, hanging out with my husband, eating, arguing, growing, creating, working through homework, making decisions, making a home, crying, laughing, making memories. I am there most of the time, either by myself, or with family. Outside home we have adventures and experiences. But after recently uprooting and moving, I realized just how much was tied to “home”, at least for me, so I was very interested to read this post. I do wonder how much will “happen” at home when my kids are grown and gone, perhaps I’ll feel differently then.

  • Allison

    It’s where you come back to – to celebrate, to be alone, to re-group, to start over, to find the comfort of what you know. (maybe that’s why most websites have a ‘home’ button :o)

  • Well, I work at home, meditate at home, do most of the things that make me “me” at home, so it does seem like a fairly important place, and a safe and comfortable one. But I do like to leave it now and then to have memorable little adventures, and that seems important too. I don’t like to keep too much within my comfort zone.

    Life happens inside the house, but real living seems to be outside, I suppose. 🙂

  • jenny_o

    Without having read the book, my first reaction that the three or four things that happen to a man are – love, children, loss (of spouse?) and death.

    • jenny_o

      Sorry, meant to continue: These three or four things don’t necessarily happen in a physical home, but in the home base that is inside us, in our hearts and heads. In this sense, our home is wherever we are, and therefore all the important things DO happen “at home”.

  • liz

    just love that you’ve quoted Geoff Dyer more than once recently. He’s one of my favorite writers and so unappreciated. Maybe because he’s hard to categorize?

    • gretchenrubin

      It’s funny that you mention that – I started reading him because he came up in a conversation about writers who are hard to categorize! I’m amazed I haven’t read his work earlier, because it is so the kind of thing that I love.

  • Cristina *Tina* Ang

    we pass through this world but once, so i guess we should make each and every place we visit as if it’s our home; but of course there’d be places where you’d feel most comfortable to establish a home for the most time you’d allow yourself to be a visitor, tenant, to a resident..