"We curved through the bright mile or two of the strip, past the antique shops with famous screen names on them, past the windows full of point lace and ancient pewter, past the gleaming new night clubs with famous chefs and equally famous gambling rooms, run by polished graduates of the purple Gang, past the Georgian-Colonial vogue, now old hat, past the handsome modernistic buildings in which Hollywood flesh-peddlers never stop talking money, past a drive-in lunch which somehow didn't belong, even though the girls wore white silk blouses and drum majorettes' shakos and nothing below the hips but glazed kid Hessian boots. Past all this and down a wide smooth curve of the bridle path of Beverly Hills and lights to the south, all colors of the spectrum and crystal clear in an evening without fog, past the shadowed mansions up on the hills to the north, past Beverly Hills altogether and up into the twisting foothill boulevard and the sudden cool dusk and drift of wind from the sea."
In this passage, a trip down a street relates to a miniature adventure story from the harsh, real world of Sunset Boulevard to the romantic world of the shore next to an ocean.
Boundary lines within cities are marked by streets. This fact has given rise to "street gangs" which guard their street-bounded territory and will kill members of other gangs for simply crossing a particular street into their territory.
Streets within cities have given rise to certain groups of people. There are the "women of the streets" and there are the "street persons", now known as "homeless" persons. The fact is, the street can never be a home because it is not a destination but rather a connecting line between destinations.
There is obviously a close relationship between the symbolism of house and home. Both symbolize the ultimate manifestations of private place in a world of public places. However, home is more of an idea, an idea of nostalgia linked closely with the early time of life, while house serves as a continually embodiment of this idea throughout an individual life. We will first look at the idea of the house and then at the idea of the home.
The symbolism of the house is associated with enclosed and protected space similar to the mother's womb. In fact it is the first place in each person's life. As an enclosed space it serves to shelter and protect from the outside world. In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes about the house noting "if I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace." He elaborates on his ideas saying:
"Now my aim is clear: I must show that the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind. The binding principle in the integration is the daydream. Past, present and future give the house different dynamisms, which often interfere, at times opposing, at others, stimulating one another. In the life of man, the house thrusts aside contingencies, its councils of continuity are unceasing. Without it, man would be a dispersed being. It maintains him through the storms of the heavens and through those of life. It is a body and soul. It is the human being's first world."
In this sense, each house symbolizes that place of our earliest years and the nurturing cradle of those years. Bachelard observes that before man is cast into the world he "is laid in the cradle of the house. And always, in our daydreams, the house is a large cradle ... Life begins well, it begins enclosed, protected, all warm in the bosom of the house."
A house or home can also be viewed as simply a place where we can express a private and unguarded self in an increasingly public world. As sociologists might observe, the home provides a "backstage" and "private" set to our "public" performances in the workplace. Like the home of the original womb, they allow the private self to develop by escaping from the public world. In Place, Modernity and the Consumer's World Robert David Sack emphasizes this point. "Home does not have to be any particular place or physical structure," he notes but is rather "a place where we are at ease and can let our guard down. As the public realm has become more difficult to share, we literally do find ourselves more at home in the private realm." The ideal, notes Sack, is a home "as a haven from a heartless world, where the self can develop." As Sack observes, in our increasingly consumer society the home serves as the primary repository of "commodities used to define ourselves and separate our private world from the public world."
In this sense, houses symbolize the lives of their inhabitants. Illustrations of this relationship in stories is a common symbol. One well-known illustration is the James Joyce story "A Painful Case" from Dubliners. The house that James Duffy lives in reflects the psychology and personality of its inhabitant:
"He lived in an old sombre house and from his windows he could look into the disused distillery or upwards along the shallow river on which Dublin is built. The lofty walls of his uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He had himself bought every article of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an iron washstand, four cane chairs, a clothes-rack, a coal-scuttle, a fender and irons and a square table on which lay a double desk. A bookcase had been made in an alcove by means of shelves of white wood. The bed was clothed with white bed-clothes and a black and scarlet rug covered the foot. A little hand-mirror hung above the washstand and during the day a white-shaded lamp stood as the sole ornament on the mantelpiece."
The house is "old" and "sombre" and his window looks out on a "disused" distillery. His room is filled only with the bare necessities of life and the objects in it have hard surfaces such as the iron bedstead and washstand and a dry practicality about them. The colors black and white suggest both a death and a sterility at the same time. Joyce writes that "Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder."
The house can also represent different layers of the psyche and the inside/outside and vertical dimensions of space symbolism associated with symbolism of the psyche. Ania Teillard in Il Simolisimo dei Sogni discusses this psychic symbolism. Houses often appear in dreams and the different parts of them have different meanings for the individual. The outside of the house signifies the outward appearance of man, his personality or his mask. The various floors are related to the vertical and spatial symbols. The roof and upper floors corresponds to the head and mind, as well as the conscious exercise of self-control. Similarily, the basement corresponds to the unconsciousness and the instincts. The kitchen, since it is where foodstuff is transformed, sometimes signifies the place or the moment of psychic transmutation in the alchemical sense. The stairs are the link between the various planes of the psyche, but their particular significance depends upon whether they are seen as ascending or descending.
Apart from the symbolism found in individual houses there is also a symbolism found in that phenomena of the late twentieth century, housing developments and planned communities. If an individual house symbolizes an individual life then a planned communities attempt to appropriate this symbolism on a public scale. As Sack observes in Place, Modernity and the Consumer's World, with the urchase of a new residence "we can acquire a completely designed neighborhood, which includes coordinated house styles, landscaping, recreational facilities, schools, shopping centers, and perhaps even security patrols." And, significantly, these new home places can be organized around stylistic, architectural and recreational themes. In Postmodern Geographies, Edward Soja talks about one of the primary planned communities in America, Mission Viejo in California noting about the new town of Mission Viejo that it is:
"...partially blocked out to recrate the places and people of Cervantes, Spain and other quixotic intimations of the Mediterranean. Simultaneously, its ordered environment specifically appeals to Olympian dreams. Stacked with the most modern facilities and trainers, Mission Viejo has attracted an elite of sport-minded parents and accommodating children. The prowess of determined local athletes was sufficient for Mission Viejo to have finished ahead of 133 of the 140 countries competing in the 1984 Olympic Games in the number of medals received."
Significantly, the community is adverised as "The California Promise" by its developer which is currently the Phillip Morris Company.
There is a great deal of subtle truth in the saying "A house is not a home." Home is an idea while a house is the manifestation of this idea. A house cannot be a home because there is only one true "home" in each individual's life just as there is only one time of childhood. Home symbolizes the nostalgia of original place, a place that one can never return to.
In The Poetics Of Space, Bachelard observes that each house one lives in throughout life has symbolic elements of the idea of home:
"For our house is the corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word. If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty."
Our "first universe" is a temporal rather than a physical place, associated with the place of our birth and the first enclosed space we lived in. But the idea of home is repeated throughout life when one establishes an inhabited space. As Bachelard notes:
"...all really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home ... the imagination functions in this direction whenever the human being has found the slightest shelter: we shall see the imagination build 'walls' of impalpable shadows, comfort itself with the illusion of protection or, just the contrary, tremble behind thick walls, mistrust the staunchest ramparts ... Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling those memories, we add to our store of dreams."
The nostalgia for the past and attempt to regain this past has given the idea of home the direction of searches or pilgrimmages throughout life. It has a similar symbolism of the Holy Grail Legend as something that was once lost and needs desperately to be regained. But like the Holy Grail, home remains an eternally elusive prey. Of course the search is a ultimately a futile one back into a past where the original home was.
The distance from "home" then is not always a matter of miles but is also a matter of time. The 1960s song "Homeward Bound" by Simon and Garfunkel is really about an attempt to return to this past time of innocence. The home they sing about is really America of the 1950s. This homeward search has been a persistent theme of much American literature of the twentieth century and some of our greatest authors like Thomas Wolfe in his novels You Can't Go Home and Look Homeward Angel.
But the search for home is not solely the province of novelists. In a sense, we are all exiles from this symbolic place of home because we are all exiles from a past time in our life. The novelist Czeslaw Milosz makes this point in his Introduction to the book Exiles by Josef Koudelka.
"However, distance may be measured not only in miles, but also in months, years, or dozens of years. Assuming this, we may consider the life of every human being as an unrelenting movement from childhood on, through the phases of youth, maturity, and old age."
This movement takes each of us farther away from our original home and the early part of our life this home was associated with. As Milosz remarks, "The past of every individual undergoes constant transformations in his or her memory, and more often than not it aquires the features of an irretrievable land made more and more strange by the flow of time." All humanity is therefore exiles from this original home. "What then is exile," Milosz asks, "if, in this sense, everybody shares this condition." We are all "exiles" from this original home, this original time in life.
Among basic cultural occupations, farming has a very special significance in that it is the cultural place which is closest to nature. In A Dictionay Of Symbols Cirlot remarks that this is so because farms are located outisde of cities within the natural world and its activites take place in the sacred world of seeds, buds, flowers and fruits. But apart from the place of farms the cycles of time on farms follow the cosmic order of the yearly calendar. These cyclic sequences of terrestrial events follow the patterns of celestial motions and express a correlation which is fundamental to astrobiological thought.
The farmer is therefore the guardian of agricultural rites, seeing out the 'old year' and seeing in the 'new'one. In spiritual terms, this means that the farmer appears as the catalyst of the forces of regeneration and salvation, forces which join every beginning to every end, forging links which bind time together, as well as the successive seasons and renascent vegetation. Mircea Eliade in his book Tratado de historia de las religiones makes the following observation:
"What Man saw in the grain, what he learnt in dealing with it, what he was taught by the example of seeds changing their form when they are in the ground, that was the decisive lesson ... One of the main roots of soteriological optimism was the belief of prehistoric, agriculture mysticism that the dead, like seeds underground, can expect to return to life in a different form."
In this sense, farming was essential not only for the development of primitive economy but also as a symbol for the emergence of a cosmic consciousness in man.