My wife Connie has been in Iowa City for the past four days, and together we have looked at houses for sale in the hope that we might find one that will serve as our new home. We’ve seen old houses, new houses, windows that face every direction, old neighborhoods and new. Connie is driving back to Ohio even as I type. Hi Honey! We’re about to find a new home!
What’s interesting about this process is that like so many other critical moments in life one is tempted to imagine that every detail, every thought is equal. In effect, one starts to believe that this business of buying a house is a completely defining moment. In turn, without fully realizing it, you begin to think that this house must be "everything"—as if a house was something more important than the people who will live within its four walls. We imagine ourselves as somehow having to live out the rest of our lives in these sample rooms that open before us. This strange "future superstition" is the same thing we do to ourselves when choosing a college, or a fork in the woods—even a career. We believe that these temporary gestures are everything. How does that begin and when? I can’t blame this on my elementary school teachers. I can’t blame this singular numbness on my college philosophy professor. In the end I’m forced to conclude that like so many other things this high minded seriousness derives just as Freud said all things derive—from our awareness of mortality.
When you leave home for the first time you think you might never make it back again. (This is in our collective unconscious or DNA, whatever you want to call it.) This is a good sensation to have because it can promote self awareness and due diligence. But just because something is useful that doesn’t make it true. We go to a college and it does or does not define our subsequent lives and careers. We take a job early and find ourselves in an entirely different occupation much later.
And now because we are in our middle age and we have seen some good friends pass away and we are "empty nesters", well, we’re tempted to imagine that this house is the last one, that these are the last rooms. We will have to pass through a profound stage of life in this room or this one. The subconscious you see is a terrible thing. It makes us all too serious.
I realized late this afternoon that this isn’t our "last" house. There is no such thing. A house just contains the loving-kindness of the people inside its walls. Love transcends décor or a neighborhood. Of course. How did I let the shape of a bathroom or a lighting fixture convince me that ordinary rooms matter overmuch.
Connie and I will find a good house and it won’t be our last and it won’t contain our love.
I know that if the dogs could type they would agree.