Friday, September 5, 2008

More Longing For Home

While reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, I encountered his explanation of alienation. He discusses a feeling described by some of the great twentieth-century writers such as Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce.

"Alienation means you don't feel at ease in any situation, any place, or with any person, not even with yourself. You are always trying to get "home" but never feel at home."

Tolle calls this the "universal dilemma of human existence. This is a condition described by Christians as "homesickness for heaven." The idea is that since we are heavenly creatures, we don't and shouldn't ever feel completely comfortable here on a fallen earth. The book of Hebrews mentions this condition in the famous "faith" chapter:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a acountry. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Tolle claims to have an answer to this dilemma of human existence. His book details how a seeker can awaken to the inner soul and disassociate from the mind, or the ego. I appreciated many things about Tolle's rather new age thinking, and I wonder if it can be accomodated within Christian thought. Have you ever felt this "longing for home," this feeling of being a stranger upon the earth? Do you think scriptural teaching supports Tolle's proposition that humans can overcome their natural man and become integrated beings by getting in touch with the true self? Is this something we can accomplish while here on the earth, or will we always be a little homesick for our heavenly abode?


Zillah said...

This idea of alientation and of never being "home" echoes Augustine's idea that God is the ultimate object of our love, and we are always separated from that which we love, always striving to reach it.

I think that it's a condition of the human experience that we are constantly separated from the object of our love (the ultimate long distance relationship?), never quite at home. It is also a condition (in multiple senses) of our mortal experience that we constantly strive to overcome that division, rather than simply accept it. I believe that there are times when we transcend our temporality and connect with God, whether in prayer, when participating in an ordinance, or in less formal yet just as spiritual experiences, such as feeling the presence of God when with our families or surrounded by nature. Can we constantly feel the presence of God? Perhaps theoretically, but I don't think any of us do.

S.Faux said...

I definitely have this homesickness. Being an academic vagabond for about forty years (whew), I have moved all over the country and NEVER felt at ease. Now after reading your essay, I think I am just homesick for heaven. OK, OK, I don't need to get there right away. I still have classes to teach, papers to publish, and blogs to write -- -- Oh, yeah, and my family is important too.

Maraiya said...

I have felt this longing for home all my life. It wasn't until I had children that I felt a bit more fixed to this footstool. I don't think, though, that it ever goes away. Perhaps we learn patience and understand that we have mortal responsibilities and that lessens the homesickness, but I think it's always there. At least for me it is.

Maraiya said...

And I don't think that any one of us can transcend this feeling all on our own by awakening to our true self or whatever. If we do get peace, I think it's a gift from God.

SilverRain said...

I think some people don't have this feeling, or, at least, not in as much intensity. I know many people who feel part of their lives.

Here I always thought the feeling was a byproduct of growing up in military life.