This is the fifteenth blog post in the series Sixteen Psychological Reflections on COVID-19 by Robert Romanyshyn
What images does this word conjure up in all of us?
What memories, desires, hopes and feelings arise from the depths of the soul with the very speaking of the word?
Home is at the heart of these blogs because each in its own way has considered how Covid-19 is awakening this archetypal image, which is perhaps the first, oldest and deepest root of our ties to the world and which sets the rhythms of our existence as a journey between birth and death. Home is the image that holds together the place from where one starts and the place to which one returns. It is also an image that tints this journey with the mood of melancholy, of loss and even for some a sense of nostalgia, a word that means homesickness.
Perhaps, all sickness is just that—Homesickness! Through a friend of mine from long ago, Dianne Connelly, acupuncturist and healer, I actually had a profound experience of the transpersonal nature of this homesickness, which transformed my life. Her book, All Sickness is Homesickness is testimony to the archetypal depths of this possibility.
Poets also seem to draw on this image and its moods, or at least some do so. It is there in the figure and stories of Orpheus, the eponymous poet, whose name is the very name of poetry itself. Orpheus is the link between humanity and the Gods, and his presence awakens us to that powerful sense of homecoming as a return to the sacred.
One finds this same sentiment in Wordsworth. In Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood, he writes:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home;
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
In addition to Wordsworth, this sense of the sacred as something that is transcendent and frames our passage from birth to death is also present in the romantic poets in general. One finds it, for example, in Keats’s Ode On Melancholy where he advises us to ‘glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,’ thereby turning us to Beauty and its unexpected epiphanies as faces of the sacred and as a force that awakens us to the transcendent forms of the archetypes.
And less we forget, the image of home, its moods and its rhythms threads its way throughout Rilke’s Duino Elegies. In the very First Elegy, he laments how we, who struggle here between the serene Beauty of the Angel and the security of the Animal within its prescribed habits, ‘…don’t feel securely at home/within our interpreted world.’ This lament is enriched in the Eighth Elegy with an enduring image:
‘Who’s turned us round like this, so that we always
do what we may, retain the attitude
of someone who’s departing? Just as he
on the last hill, that shows him all his valley
for the last time, will turn and stop and linger,
we live our lives, for ever taking leave.’
On the way, always on the way, Home is that enduring image that is present in its absence and in its absence remains a presence, like the horizon which always draws us on. We are, as it were, wanderers, vagabonds if you will, who feel the powerful magnetism of the image of Home in those moments when we become aware that we are not at home. Indeed, this was my experience in the Antarctic in 2009 where at the ends of the Earth so far from home I began to find my Home.
Today might be such a moment.
Blog 16 explores this possibility within the context of these two questions:
In the age of the pandemic are we more and more homeless?
Is there at the heart of our homelessness a homesickness, a sickness of the spirit left adrift in the digital wilderness of our increasingly constructed technological world?
Enjoy all the essays in the series Sixteen Psychological Reflections on COVID-19.
You might also enjoy Robert Romanyshyn’s course Reflections on Ecology and Soul. In this course, Robert takes us on a journey into the depths of the soul of the world and into those places where nature, psyche, technology, and humans meet.
Robert D. Romanyshyn is an Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, an Affiliate Member of The Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, and a Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. He is also a Core Faculty Member at Jung Platform.More Posts by Robert Romanyshyn
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Thank you, Roberto, for this stimulating and deeply perceptive essay on Homesickness in the Time of COVID-19 — it provokes my hyper-vigilance to contemplate the psychological effects of anxiety, anger and depression as we follow the CDC guidelines which tell us to “Stay at home. Avoid travel” — it seems to lead from homesick to sick of home –our ‘home” becomes a little old shack that set right back about twenty-five feet from the railroad track — we yearn to socialize in our hometown, our home away from home, our home on the range, our home where the buffalo roam, our swing-low sweet chariot to carry us home — our flags wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave — it is with great anticipation that I eagerly look forward the Blog 16, and the questions about the spiritual “heart of our homelessness” — thank you, Roberto —
A very fine homecoming last Thursday evening. And then, the next day, Sandy and I drove home from Port Aransas and we see our home, our furnishings, books, our 21 year old cat, with new eyes. The beauty of the journey is always the homecoming, as you suggest here. Mike, so glad to see your face at the gathering as well.
Your use of more poems in this blog sends a thought my way, that your own journey is approaching a finer poetic level of understanding both the visibles and the invisibles. As Mike suggests, and as your blog intimates, the arrival of the savior in the form of a vaccine created in record time, is allowing us to visit homes again, to meet with friends in restaurants and to ease out of the zoombie world that has grown fatiguing for all of us.
I also sense that Joe Biden and Camila Harris are also bringing us home after the alienation suffered under the former, and not quite ever–President. Our conflict now is to protect with fury the right to vote, which is perhaps another way of coming home, to who we are and represent as a people.
A very provocative series of insights, Robert. Number 16 will bring me home in your journey through 16 blogs.