Finding home and turning the self towards it

What is the weight of the principle of individualism, the story of our "self" as "one", disengaged and separate from the "other"? How can we re-late differently, through intergenerational narratives and stories of belonging to the land we find ourselves on? In this article, André Marques Chambel excavates new ways to move forward, to find ourselves whole again.

We’re currently living in a time of conflict and difficulty, where we may lack the roots to our ancestors, to an idea of home, to a past we may have been disconnected from. There is an underlying feeling of heaviness in our present society, like there is a weight to carry, a need to achieve some distant and unbreakable ideal — the principle of individualism. An ideal that can certainly come from the value we place upon the notion of comfort or a sensation of triumph or even the pressure of having power as a direction to look forward to. I’m talking about the need to be conscious of our sense of self and the potential desire to remain ‘one’, to remain unchanged. And the possibility of disengagement that comes from that, of separation from that which we call ‘other’, from what, we sometimes believe, is not ‘me’. This is something we may do even if we don’t intend to. A pattern that is a product of the systems we live in.

We are affected by a detachment from the roots of our own being, a being which is connected to the whole. By thinking like this — from the context of individualism — we become separated from our kin, from our purpose as incarnate beings. This is the imagined burden of ‘being an individual’, the weightless weight we conceptualise as severely heavy: the notion that we are better off alone, that we are the only ones who can ‘know’ the direction we should take, that the ‘I’ is the key and the agent to progress. That being an ‘I’ is opposed to being a ‘many’ or an ‘other’.

This is a notion of extremes: of a past that needs to be either immensely heavy or not present at all, and a self that needs to be ‘one’ or not a self at all. There is this burden of an either-or paradigm. And we feel its impact in the everyday of our lives.

Al Jeffery says, in the Re-storying Masculinity course, that the times we’re in “lack a weaving myth, a story, a cosmology that weaves us into the whole, in some way, and that helps us weave the parts of ourselves that we have othered (...) back into ourselves as well”. The story of that imagined burden that we have been telling ourselves is not conducive to a relationship with the whole. We’ve been focusing on the wrong story, the wrong direction. And, in times of difficulty such as these, we need to find the stories that weave us back, the stories that not only serve us but those that serve us and others, the stories that serve the whole and our connection to it. By making that moment happen, we discover a new direction, a possibility to live in a purposeful reality, and one that doesn’t build itself by having an ‘I’ in the centre of everything. In looking for these stories, these meaningful weaving cosmologies, we build a path that sustains us, we build a path to walk upon, and that path is one of connection and truth.

And what is the direction of that path if not the home that is the whole? If stories build this path for us, then our destination is that home, that whole. Because that is the purpose of reweaving: to find one’s home, once more, to come back to it. Maria Clara Parente, one of the co-curators of the course Re/membering Our Rooted Selves, tells us that “stories were this way of keeping something and bringing it for a future generation. It's just that the stories are a way: when you are not able to bring your home, you bring these stories... that they become a home”.

Storytelling is a way, a way for us to find our home even when we are distant from it. In that sense, stories are our guides, a manifestation of our relationships to accompany us in our journeys, an expression of home.

So, instead of looking towards an ideal of ‘succeeding being an individual that is untouched by others’, we should look towards the direction of home because home is never house to ‘one’ — home is belonging, and belonging is only possible by an openness to the Other. To belong is to be supported by a community, by a foundation that nourishes us and our bodies and our dreams and our needs. To have a home is to have a caring place with others, and to share.

By looking towards home we do find a power, but it isn’t any type of power, especially an all-encompassing one, it is our own power we find, the power that is deeply related to our purpose. We do find power, we do find comfort and triumph. But we don’t find those by looking for them, we find them as outcomes of finding a home, a place to belong. Because belonging is always a state filled with blessings and gifts. To find where we belong, with stories, is to find a home that is welcoming of our own stories and dreams. And all of this is also finding a home in the Earth that encompasses us, to look at this land that nourishes and to see in it a home that cultivates our purpose. It is acting from a both-and paradigm.

Téo Montoya, in the fifth session of Re-storying Masculinity, says that “the basis of all myth is an animate relationship with the landscape”. So let us go back to that foundation, let us remember what it is to be connected to the Earth and to the stories that it cultivates. Let us look back as a way to move forward more conscientiously. This is an intention that Naida Culshaw, co-curator of Re/membering Our Rooted Selves, expresses amazingly: “The concept is that you're going back, like members of your body, or members of your community, and you're going back to find pieces of ourselves, or pieces of our communities that have been left behind, (...) and to say: what are those pieces that would be very helpful as we move forward? What are the things for me that I can resource myself, by putting that part back into how I see myself, or how the community sees itself?”

Let us turn back home. Let us turn to that whole that is related to us. Let us be a part of this Earth, so we can be supported by many and be able to honour that connection to the whole.

*Header image courtesy of the author


André Marques Chambel

André Marques Chambel is an artist and writer based in Portugal.

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