Some readers may recognize the title of this blog post as an important phrase for me, a phrase that encapsulated my study abroad experience in 2017. It is a phrase I keep returning to for meaning and significance, so much so that I made an initial blog post and Spotify playlist dedicated to untangling what exactly I mean by “There’s a lot going on here.”
After a time, I realized the phrase actually contains two distinct word symbols. The first was explored in my first blog and can be understood in the initial words of the phrase, “There’s a lot going on…” I explored questions like, “What is it exactly that is going on?” and “Why is it a lot, why does it feel overwhelming sometimes?” (See There’s a Lot Going On Here)
For the second part of this phrase, I want to hone in on the word “here.” Where is here? What are these spaces and places we find ourselves in as we deal with a lot that’s going on? Is there a best space to operate within, and if so is that home? What, in fact, is home? After all, home seems to be the goal of “here,” right? We all want to go from “here” to “home.” But the question remains – what is here, and what is home? This blog will attempt to frame some of the questions and key ideas I explore in my playlist, as I try to understand what is here and what is home.
What do I mean by there’s a lot going on here? Here can be partially understood as a word symbol for the physical and mental spaces we encounter. It could be the notion of “Jesusland” described in Ben Folds’ same-titled song. I look around at the Midwest and I see Jesusland as here. Here could be the dire situations of individuals and people of color described in John Mark McMillan and Propaganda’s “No Country.” I look around at America and I see a lot of “No Country” here.
The word symbol of here is less an actual place than the description of an awareness of location that blossoms through external input from physical places. Here is the locating of the psyche produced from external social, political, and geographical stimuli. In other words, here is the profound moment when one can place themselves in their environment. Whether or not they belong in that environment is part of the effort behind getting home.
Here is sometimes home, and here is sometimes not home. In my own view, the value of recognizing wherever or whatever here might be is valuable insofar as it gets one closer to home, to shalom, to peace. For Bruce Springsteen, home is Atlantic City – the place where one can escape the perils found here.
So the question becomes, how does one get home? How does one find the way from here to home? What does that feel like, to go from here to home? Is home even a physical place, static and unchanging? I don’t think I have too many answers for these questions, but I try to explore it all in my playlist.
To illustrate my point on the importance of distinguishing between here and home, I’ll examine my study abroad experience.
So much of my learning resulted from being in a different physical environment than the environment of home. The city of Vienna was not only physically different than Yukon, Oklahoma (duh); it was also socially different, and religiously too. In fact, it was different in just about every way one could imagine.
While in Vienna, I did not know my location, that is to say, I could not place myself in such an environment. It’s hard to put into words what effect this inability to locate myself had, but it allowed me to hold loosely onto everything and explore a new world fully and completely.
It was not until I returned home to Yukon, that I realized Vienna had been a unique here. And in that moment I also realized that one cannot truly return home after having been here. The movement is always forward. We can only visit these “homes” once, and rarely do we realize home for what it is until we leave.
This conundrum is captured in Tyson Motsenbocker’s song “Can’t Come Home Again.”
As a final note, here and home are tied to physical locations, but I have also found that here and home can be tied to people and relationships. Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zero’s song “Home” illustrates my point precisely. “Home is whenever I’m with you.” For me, returning home was only meaningful in so far as I saw my family and friends again. The question must be raised again – is home then a physical place, or something else?
I hope all of this gives language to describe these rather intangible experiences we all have of leaving and returning, of coming and going, and of finding home in different places again and again and again.
Hope you enjoy the playlist! Turn off shuffle and listen straight through.
Email me your thoughts, or comment below! Would love to here about times when you have been here and times when you made it home, and also the feeling of going from here to home or vice versa.