The Preface to “Finding Our Way Home”

A long time ago my mother taught me to read. She thought it was a good idea. So did I. I could lose myself in wonderful stories of other worlds. This world always seemed to be such a disappointment. I still read whenever I can find the time and peace to do so.

Many years ago I became interested in alternative lifestyles. I remember a time when we all thought the world was going to end in a nuclear winter, now everything is going to melt. I suspect every generation has it’s own apocalyptic vision. That said, it is evident that modern western culture cannot continue consuming the world’s resources, at the rate it is, indefinitely.

We have a choice. We can either continue as we are and wait for disaster to force our hand, or we can start trying to change things. One ripple at a time. It seems ridiculous not to. The way British society works at the moment doesn’t seem to be very healthy, or happy. Surely it makes sense to start to make a happier, healthier world if we can.

Not to try isn’t really an option, is it? Anyway, talk is cheap, and this is me, talking on paper (or not, if you’re looking at a screen to read this). I have endeavoured to reference ideas when I could remember where they came from. Some have been with me so long that I can’t remember if I made them up or I read them somewhere.

I have read pretty extensively over the years. In my 30’s and 40’s I studied, and then taught, sociology and psychology. I read a lot of “pop” psychology before that. I’ve also read a smattering of philosophy over and above what was necessary for my degree. I have an abiding interest in media and cultural studies.

But for a large proportion of my life I read science fiction, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Kim Stanley Robinson, Katharine Kerr, Anne McCaffrey, Douglas Adams, Iain M Banks, Ursula Le Guin, C J Cherryh, William Gibson, Elizabeth Moon, and many, many more.

In addition to the science fiction I read other fiction writers J R R Tolkein, H G Wells, Daphne Du Maurier, George Orwell, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I even read Proust! So many different ideas, so many different possibilities. The dismal and the uplifting, the hopeless and the hopeful, the difficult and the easy, I read and absorbed as much as I could.

In the meantime I was trying to cope and make sense of life as I was experiencing it. I got involved with running a smallholding, and bringing up my daughter, my normality was very different from most people’s. I read about self-sufficiency, wrote poetry, fed the chickens, discovered permaculture, milked the goats, tried to overcome my aversion to eating meat, learned to spin…

So, it’s not really surprising if I come at things from a slightly different angle from most people. I always have done. I did even before that period of my life. I can remember my college economics lecturer explaining to me once that when he gave our class the choice of two essay titles, the rest of the students would choose one, and I would choose the other.

I guess I might just have been born ornery. Anyway, my mother is still telling me about the way things are, and I’m still saying “but they shouldn’t be”. In these pages I’m explaining why I think they are, and how I think they could be. I really wish they could be…

What is Home?

On a personal level we all think we know what home is. But home means many things, and for some people it is not a happy place. I believe that home should be a safe place where you can be totally at ease and comfortable.

There is an obvious flaw in this belief. Home is often a place you share with other people, and no one can can always get on with their house mates (family, or otherwise). So, however lovely the people you share your home with are, there will be moments of tension.

But some people live in a state of almost constant tension because of their house mates. This is not a happy or healthy way to live. I, for one, think that most people should be able to have happy and healthy homes.

So, what can we do to help people whose homes are neither. Well, I suppose we could expose them to the idea of a happy and healthy home. But, if we do this, it is important to not judge or put pressure on people who may already feel bad about themselves.

This is an area I have problems with, I have a tendency to be judgemental, and I sometimes forget that my answers might work for me, but they may well not work for other people.

Before I go any further I want to talk about living alone. Living alone is not a bad thing when it is your choice, when it gives you time and space to do things that feed you emotionally, when you still have contact with friends (and strangers who may become friends).

Living alone is a form of torture when it is a choice made from fear or the belief that you are unlovable. No one is unlovable, it is a matter of finding the right person to love you, who you can love back. Coming home to a house that is always empty can be dreadfully lonely, or it can be a haven.

It can be a really useful learning experience to live alone. It is an opportunity to learn about ones own priorities without outside influence. It is an experience that many people would benefit from, even if they only did it briefly.

When living with other people something to bear in mind is that each person experiences their home differently. You might find your home environment happy, warm and nourishing. You cannot be sure that it is the same for your house mate/s.

One person’s delight is another person’s torture. For example: some people like to have loud music playing from the moment they wake up; others like to sit in silence as they come to (of course this could be the same person on a different day).

When someone else in your household does something that you cannot avoid being part of it can either be an inclusive experience, or, a bloody annoyance. This is a frequent experience for parents, it is normal for children to assume your inclusion without seeing a need to check in with you about it’s appropriateness or desirability. Parents can hope that over time their children will learn some sensitivity to other people’s moods and needs.

But many of us struggle with being sensitive right into our adult years, either because we have isolated ourselves as much as possible; or, because the people we have lived with have not been honest with us about their feelings (some times because they are not honest with themselves).

Living happily with other people is partly about choosing the right people to live with, and partly about developing both tolerance of, and sensitivity to, their moods and behaviours. Sensitivity to know when to approach (or not), and also, how to approach. Tolerance, to understand that their behaviour is for a reason, and that reason may have nothing to do with their current situation. And in the hope that they will be tolerant of us.

Wishing happy homes to everyone!