23 September 2015
Dr. Juniper Ellis
The Past and Home
For the past three years I’ve periodically left the bosom of the lush and rolling greenery of northeastern Pennsylvania and driven between hills and across farm lands, over asphalt and past middle America to this place (i.e. Loyola) to glean what I can from incredibly educated, intellectually superior instructors. This, needless and cliche as it is to say, has evolved my perception of home to no small degree. But it’s done so in ways that are more confusing than informative, more frustrating than liberating. Due to my enrollment and presence here, at Loyola, a paradox has been created that is felt poignantly every time I fall back into the bosom of PA. I submit that this paradox isn’t because I’m a different person at Loyola than I am at home or that Loyola is even remotely some kind of home away from home in the typical comforting way but rather because the two places between which I split all of my conscious hours are agitatingly similar in some very basic and not so superficial ways. Very Catholic, very white, very conservative, both have been housed enough emotionally compelling experiences that any number of things in the two environments can conjure up any number of recollections that could strike yours affectionately at any moment with a certain force but both are comfortable, safe and complicated.
Thus, when I return to PA I feel the sensation of never having left mingle profoundly with the feeling of being re-acclimated to everything. What makes this notion more problematic is that in my physical absence I greatly romanticize the pastoral landscape I leave to come to Baltimore. I don’t idealize the people so much as the sensations associated with the place. Here’s the thing though, I don’t particularly like the emotions that either Loyola or my home actually incur. At best they conjure up some kind of warm,nostalgic stagnation. At worst it’s a damp, anxiety inducing impression of life passing me by. Consequently, not to get too angsty and pseudo existential here, I why I continue to come to Loyola rather than bring about a little diversity in order to perhaps save my sanity before graduation or, more radically, why don’t I leave both places for as long as I can. The answer must be that it’s easy and it’s simple to attend this school, that it’s safe, that I need not redefine myself in relation to an other that is foreign rather the other is the monster I’ve always known.
Still there are, inevitably, differences and these have pulled me halfway out my cocoon which ties into the readings, specifically the Salmon Rushdie piece because he addresses a question I’ll soon have to (at least one I’ll have to (finally) address in full). Namely: when I leave behind my home entirely and begin to spend my time in a place that doesn’t strike me as very similar is some essential ways how do I reconcile this change with my original home? How do I bridge the two, especially given my romanticization of the place from which I hail (the woods of Pennsylvania)? Particularly if it’s a place as divorced from my home as England is from India.
Rushdie it would seem, prior to writing Midnight Children, had disassociated himself from his home to such an extent that he saw it monochromatically and as something that needed to be reclaimed (Rushdie 9,10). His novel represents the reclamation process and it’s made possible because he embraced the fragmentation associated with memory believing that in its fractured nostalgia it was just as evocative as a perfectly recollected past. He allowed the banal to become enthralling, the innocuous to become symbolically immense, he allowed his recollections to take on a fallible life of their own so that he might come to terms with the thought that, as he says, “we are not gods but cracked lenses capable only of fractured perceptions” (Rushdie). For the money of yours truly he sums up this point most adequately when he states (almost as an aside that it “is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained” (17).
He sought the organic, spontaneous value that can be found in experiencing one’s home in relation to a bold, new place and I find difficulty in faulting this model but there appears to be the precious necessity of time in order to pick up the shattered glass with which to view the pass. To learn the language into which one is being translated, so to speak. As frustrating and difficult it is to swallow this caveat I can’t imagine any way to allow the imaginative truth to blossom.
In order to avoid the implication of any elephantine platitudes that could be construed from this conclusion i.e.* “The truth can set you free.” I don’t consider this deduction to be remotely liberating nor do I consider that the point. It’s all about trying to figure out what defines yours truly and how it defines yours truly but yours truly is ,inevitably, defined and locked tightly in my cage. And the key is thrown away. But I pray I can figure out what the bars look like. *And I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth