I’ve been on a soul search for home, family, friendship, kindness, and all those things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning — albeit not on purpose. As I was quenching my sorrow in Steinbeck’s genius, I stumbled across the story of his own journey and reflection upon some of these same issues (in his “Travels with Charley”). Returning back to his hometown, he writes:
“My return caused only confusion and uneasiness. Although they could not say it, my old friends wanted me gone so that I could take my proper place in the pattern of remembrance — and I wanted to go for the same reason… You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”
His prose is spot-on and beautiful and gives me goose bumps. But I also tend to disagree. And this is not another where-is-home post. It is about everything else wonderful and not so wonderful in life that we often question, seek, and pursue. I now know home is not a place, but a feeling. Or a person. Or a certain feeling only a certain person urges in you. Who just by being part of your life makes everything better and easier. And that person, being well, can contain all the happy moments in your life with their presence. And it is so numbing when they are away, or in pain, and all the love in the world is not enough to help them through their troubles…
But human beings can sometimes do great things out of love and they can perform tremendous acts of kindness. When Gwyneth Paltrow’s father died on her birthday, Chris Martin wrote “Fix you” for her and it is a truly beautiful song. Pipi Longstocking (if I remember correctly from my primary school classes) was created after Astrid Lindgren was making up the storied about the adventures of the little girl with red hair to entertain her sick daughter. Mendelsohn’s sister was also talented at composing music (some accounts say even more talented than he was) but allowed her brother to present some of her compositions as his own (ok, here the fact that it was unthinkable for women at the time to compose music might have mattered as well). Or Wagner, of all people, composed as a present for his wife on her 33rd birthday a symphony and then with the help of an orchestra woke her up in the morning playing the work he created. Joe DiMaggio’s love for Marilyn Monroe outlived their brief marriage and according to some stories I’ve read in the media, he continued sending red roses to her grave 3 times a week for the next 20 years. Keanu Reeves became a popular meme with his sad, sitting-on-a-bench-eating-a-sandwich photo. Then details about his personal life emerged and it became widely known that he has been through profound personal losses (his father walked out when he was an infant, his best friend died in his early 20’s, his child was stillborn, and then his very depressed fiance died in a car accident) and at the same time, he has been known for being unbelievably altruistic, generous, kind, and down-to-earth. Sort of a modern day quiet hero.
And much greater acts of kindness surround us. Perhaps some of them we are able to perform ourselves. Perhaps others we can witness and feel awe and inspiration, a strive to be better human beings, to cultivate our souls and try to engulf into a bubble of goodness others as well. And when our dearest people suffer, we can only love them more — in any way that they need us to — so that they find the strength to embrace and battle their demons. And when they are in their best and around us, we can love them with all that we have and be grateful they ever happened to us.