It’s been about 9 months that I have been living officially without a home. For the past two weeks, I have woken up in the morning and not known where I am. It made me panic for the first few days. To not have a place in my mind meant surely that I did not exist. The feeling was distinctly “if I do not know where I am, then I do not know who I am.” That’s not a belief that I subscribe to in consciousness so I made the decision to not be scared by it, and now when I wake up, I try to prolong the feeling and not fight to remember. It is growing into a blissful practice. For a brief, ecstatic period, I am just falling in space. I can only be present in me.
For a small period of time, I keep my tentacles wrapped into my body and not reaching out and spreading into eight different purposes. I am not reaching for my cell phone. I am not choosing what I will eat. I am not planning or worrying or desiring. This time becomes ecstatic, dangerous presence.
More and more I observe the things around me from a place that my friend calls detachment. I have a hard time identifying with the coldness within the word, but it’s the best way I know how to describe it. The tractor beam of existence is losing its hold on me.
Civilization burns with a manic insistence. It’s booming base draws us in the way that the roar of a passing motorcycle pulls a salt shaker off the table. I went to buy a pair of jeans today and the complexity of experience built into that store is so overwhelming and so thorough that of course a person would become swept up in at least its most basic self-assertions. I could feel the tiny tentacles of my own habit want to confirm and accept what I was seeing as “real”. But in this moment I remember that the feeling I have when I wake up is the truer one. This is only a place to the extent that I agree that this is a place.
The meticulously designed experience built into every corner of the room. The videos playing throughout, describing a lifestyle that I can buy from them (the idea of describing a lifestyle had to be invented, then the lifestyles were invented). The people looking at themselves in the mirror, deciding if these jeans are the right version of themselves. The exchange and belief in the value of money (which also describes the kinds of people who can come in here and get jeans). The security that protects this place at night and the hidden cameras that are protecting the property of an unseen owner. The helpful sales clerk who reminds me of his name twice as a way to communicate genuine helpfulness…except he is revealed at the end when the cashier asks me if anyone helped me today so that he can get his sales bonus. To everyone here, this is a place.
There is a permanence to it, the feeling that this sprang from a natural order, but none of it exists without our conscious or unconscious play along with the invention. So then what does it mean to exist? Life is made up of so much of this loud, important stuff and all of it has a pull: the dramas that we rope around one another, our quest for meaning through achievement, our political affiliations, our manias and addictions, our concepts of love.
So who are we then without this place?