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Home Is Where My Head Is

"So, does Cityville feel like home now?" she asks. Her questions are always difficult and a mile deep.

"No, it doesn't," I answer.

"Where you grew up, Cosmopolis, is still your home, then," she says.

"No, it's not."

"What place is home for you?"

"I've never had that," I say. "No physical place has ever felt like home to me. I've had places I liked that came close to it, though."

"That's so sad." She looks like she is close to tears after hearing my revelation. "What do you think you have to do to create home for yourself?"

"I don't think I can do anything. I don't feel the need to."

Conversations like these make me feel more alien than I already do. This woman is a religious minister and an environmentalist. She spends her life creating safe places on earth for the human spirit to grow. I become aware of a subtle lack of equilibrium, a dimensional shift. I'm one step over.

"How can you feel safe, though? Don't you want to have a place that is yours?"

"I've never had it, so I'm not sure what that would be. I create home spaces in my head."

"What do you mean?"

"Home is where I'm deep in the middle of creating things. When I'm writing or taking photographs, I am home. Home is not out there. It's in here." I point to my head.

"Does making homes in your head fulfill you?"

"I'm not sure that I understand what you mean."

"Does your creativity, what you do with it, bring out the best fruit from your passion? Do you love it?"

I think about this for a few moments. "Yes. Yes, it does. I can't imagine any other way of being."

People with a sense of home tied to place behave as though they think I must be terribly depressed, that I am inclined to off myself, when they find out that I've never experienced an external home. What they find difficult to understand is that my home is built perpetually inside my head, and that I carry it within me everywhere.

Being a stranger, that is to say "not-feeling-at-home," is today a condition common to many, an inescapable and shared condition. So then, those who do not feel at home, in order to get a sense of orientation and to protect themselves, must turn to the "common places," or to the most general categories of the linguistic intellect; in this sense, strangers are always thinkers. As you see, I am inverting the direction of the analogy: it is not the thinkers who become strangers in the eyes of the community to which the thinkers belong, but the strangers, the multitude of those "with no home," who are absolutely obliged to attain the status of thinkers. Those "without a home" have no choice but to behave like thinkers: not in order for them to learn something about biology or advanced mathematics, but because they turn to the most essential categories of the abstract intellect in order to protect themselves from the blows of random chance, in order to take refuge from contingency and from the unforeseen.

- from Paulo Virno's "A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life"

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