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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Finding Home

The homeless are aware of their environment. They tend to be cautious about their movements, noting who is around them and if there are any police in the vicinity. The homeless tend to keep to themselves, too, given that relationships are not sustainable in the ways they are when one is housed. There is only so much room in my truck, for instance. One also learns quickly that bothering someone else can have unwanted consequences.

Tom got into a bad habit. He would open his car door, as though this lent a screen to his activity, and urinate in the other direction. Of course, out on the Bay, the college girls in their rowing shells could see him. This incident prompted a phone call from an irate parent who implicated Bob, along with Tom, in having some indecent intentions toward the nubile. The fact that Bob tends to stare didn't help.

So, there began the roundup. There were police vehicles cruising the parking lot for days. Tom was told he definitely had to leave the area. Since the police know Bob, they explained to him that parents with girls at the rowing club were concerned about idle, older men hanging around.

"But you're safe," Bob told me.

He meant safe from being run off by the police, and I am certainly not a menace to other women. However, I do have an expectation of civility, even if I do live in my truck.

By far the loudest and most annoying people are the housed. They do anything they want in public spaces, especially parking lots where the housed think they are alone. Through the warmer months, there was a couple who would drive in late at night, very late, late enough to wake anyone up who was sleeping. There is something about being surrounded by water that amplifies sound, so the woman's moans of pleasure pierced the air and echoed off buildings on the Point and houses along the bayside walk.

People get out of there cars and have lengthy conversations in the open on cell phones as though no one else could possibly hear them, even though it is broad daylight and people are sitting in nearby vehicles. Blaring radios and stereos are frequent disturbances, and, unfortunately, there is no shield from the high-decibel intensity of subwoofers. It is all too common for people to drive out to nowhere, which is where I live, and argue with their children or have a private conversation that can be heard all over the Bay. Too many people are doing their private life in public.

Why don't they go home?

My own answer to this question, which I pose with some indignation since I am subject to the vagaries of life in a parking lot, is that they do not have a home. It is true they live someplace. They are housed. However, as we all know, a house is not always a home.

There are metaphysical properties to a home: it must be a refuge, first of all. It must take one aside from the world and one's everyday doings in it. In this sense, it provides a boundary in space from everything that would irritate or trouble. Home is the ultimate source of nurturance, which is clearly not just about food and survival. Home is the place to experience the ground of one's existence. Home is intimate without necessarily being sexual.

However, many people cannot fathom such a place. They are not familiar with home; rather, they escape, even what they call home, through vacations, music, video games, alcohol, sex. They want to go unconscious for a while. Just think how many people are unconscious at any given time and what the consequences must be for the planet. Multiply the noise in public, in a parking lot, where people feel free to let go of constraint, by thousands and millions.

This is a loud planet.

It makes me wonder if birds are going deaf.

Boundaries are critical, and not just corraling people. I am not talking about more laws, rules, or restraints, but, rather, learning to find satisfaction within oneself, a sense of wholeness, a feeling that one is naturally self-contained and, as such, safe. This means more people are going to have to lift their eyes above the seething, unconscious mass. I am certainly doing my part by asking the lumpen who parks next to me to turn down his radio and roll up the window so that I do not have to breathe his cigarette smoke.

Truly, there is no reason why a public space should not have a feeling of home or should not be respected in the same way. Telescoping this idea, there is no reason why the planet should not be respected as home to every living thing on it. But we must all find a way to think privately about public space if we are going to live peacefully, indeed, if we are going to survive on this planet together.

By the way, there are homeless people who feel like home, who are home, because they have been away from the bustle for a long while. They have gone without comforts, conveniences, and personal escapes and discovered, instead, their own soul. Therein lies the great possibility in homelessness.

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