Recently I was part of a conversation about where we live and whether we are meant to live in that particular place. I wondered how many of us are in the place where we want to be. I think I am still looking for that place, and the reaction I got from my friends convinced me that many of us are not entirely comfortable in the place we find ourselves living out our lives.
Someone pointed out that perhaps we are meant to be in a certain place at a certain point in our lives and then, for whatever reason, we move on. I agree with this. There was a time in my life when I felt I was where I was meant to be, but eventually I left, and I would not go back.
And on a larger scale there are whole populations of peoples who, confined to or exiled from a territory redrawn by the exigencies of war and occupation, long for a home that no longer exists.
In his novel The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham, reflecting on this feeling of displacement, says:
I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.
Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.
I have experienced this “sense of strangeness” and will, at some point, move on. So I must wait and wonder if, after I launch myself on my next journey, I will find myself in the place where I am meant to be.
I wonder if, when I am there, I will again feel that bracing sense of rightness.