From Aeon, here is a worthwhile reflection about home and rootedness / rootlessness in a world turned upside down.

This is a long and thoughtful piece. To be honest, I am anxious about posting this excerpt because of the references to Heidegger. However, I think the author of this article is right to focus on the disorientation of the modern world and how it can feed right wing xenophobia and nationalism.


"Home is where the heart is, and there is no place like home, yet a sense of being at home can come from many sources. Home can be a place of residence, where you go back to after work. It can mean the place you come from: where you grew up, and to which you return in your memories and for important family rituals. Feeling at home can come from an activity in which you feel at ease, in flow, in a landscape that’s familiar and uplifting. Doing satisfying work can evoke a sense of home, as can being with friends or walking along a beach with someone you love.

The common thread to all these meanings of home is that they provide us with a tethered sense of identity. Home matters so much just now because so many people feel the tether coming loose.

The philosopher who understood this search best is controversial: Martin Heidegger. A member of the Nazi Party, Heidegger never expressed remorse for the Holocaust and was often an arrogant, duplicitous bully. Some critics argue that his philosophy is too contaminated by racism to admit rescue. His ideas are often dismissed as parochial, nostalgic and regressive. Even his advocates acknowledge that his prose is deliberately dense.

Yet, as the Australian scholar Jeff Malpas has shown in several thoughtful books and essays, studying Heidegger helps to explain why we are now so preoccupied by feelings of displacement that are triggering a search for home. Given Heidegger’s Nazi leanings and the rise of the populist Right in many parts of the developed world, his work could repay study.

Heidegger detested René Descartes’s dictum ‘I think, therefore I am’ which located the search for identity in our brains. There, it was secured by a rational process of thought, detached from a physical world that presented itself to the knowing subject as a puzzle to be solved. Descartes’s ideas launched a great inward turn in philosophy with the subject at the centre of the drama confronting the objective world about which he tries to gain knowledge.

Had Heidegger ever come up with a saying to sum up his philosophy it would have been: ‘I dwell, therefore I am.’ For him, identity is bound up with being in the world, which in turn means having a place in it. We don’t live in the abstract space favoured by philosophers, but in a particular place, with specific features and history. We arrive already entangled with the world, not detached from it. Our identity is not secured just in our heads but through our bodies too, how we feel and how we are moved, literally and emotionally.

Instead of presenting it as a puzzle to be solved, Heidegger’s world is one we should immerse ourselves in and care for: it is part of the larger ‘being’ where we all belong. As Malpas puts it, Heidegger argues that we should release ourselves to the world, to find our part in its larger ebb and flow, rather than seek to detach ourselves from it in order to dominate it."

From Aeon by Charles Leadbeater