Many of us have a grand scheme in mind – some great plan for life with an ideal outcome that involves our friends and family. Many times I have heard someone say something like this:
I want to be successful so I can take care of the people around me. If I make a lot of money, someday I’d love to build a big house where everyone can come and be safe, someplace where they all can feel at home.
Indeed, this is an admirable sentiment if truly motivated by pure and altruistic intentions. Working to provide for the ones you love is noble, good, and worthy of pursuit. How sweet life would be if we all made this our goal! But please allow me to point out a nagging problem I’ve noticed.
Let’s pretend for a moment that this is your plan. You work hard (or win the lottery). You build a big house. You put a nice grill and a pool in the backyard. You invite all your friends and family over for a party. You welcome everyone to your house and say, “Please! Make yourself at home!” Everyone feels quite welcomed and kicks back a little more than usual. They feel comfortable in your own version of Neverland Ranch. Everyone has a great time. They are happy, but you are even happier. You’ve succeeded in creating your own paradise where all your friends and family are enjoying life in your house. The problem? You are the only one at home.
♫ Little Pink Houses For You And Me ♫
No matter how wonderfully warm you are, how inviting you make your home, how many soft throws and pillows fill the sofas, or how serene or exciting the party may be, everyone knows that this is your house and eventually they must go back to theirs.
In a related way, have you ever tried connecting a new friend with an old friend only to discover that though you love both of these people dearly, you realize they have almost no connection with each other? Think about your network of friends and family – the people you know from elementary through high school, college, and beyond. In your mind, put them altogether in one room. Imagine that all the people you are connected with on Facebook at your house at the most wonderful party you could ever host – everyone you care about in one place. Wonderful right?
Could your friends be friends with each other?
The trouble here is that you are the common thread between these two people. They both have a relationship with you, but there is nothing tying these two people to each other. In time, these strangers may become friends (if you pick your friends with careful homogeneity and/or compatibility), but often they will continue to have little in common with each other except for you.
I think that at the root of this great urge to have an amazing house that we can share with others is really a desire to create a space for ourselves that we call home. As much as we would like for our house to also be a home for our friends and family, what we really create is a universe that revolves around ourselves. We go to great lengths to make our loved ones feel like welcome planets and moons in our solar system, but they are trying to do the same thing. This battle for centrality of family and social events can get ugly with home owners attempting to increase their gravity (read: control) by building larger or more attractive environments. Though in doing so, we unwittingly might be creating larger prisons for ourselves.
As I write this article, I understand that some may interpret it as piece of anti-materialist agenda. Far from it. I have no problem with people building nice houses and spaces in which to live, work, rest, and share with others. Nesting is a deeply entrenched biological tendency not only for humans, but throughout much of the rest of the animal kingdom. Great comfort, peace, love, and joy can be gained and given in the act of building and maintaining a home. In the crosshairs of my thoughts is the greater concept of home, what we believe it is, and how we eventually express it through our lives. To read more about what I think home is you can read this article I wrote. I’d would love to hear you thoughts on this.