Author Bill Kauffman was recently invited to Emory University in Atlanta by a fledgling student group known as the Young Americans for Liberty. The group had organized an event on the theme of "the importance of traditional American values in the 21st century."
Kauffman, it turned out, fit that bill quite well.
From an article in the Emory Wheel:
“I always felt an intense homesickness no matter where I was,” Kauffman said. “I knew that where I was from mattered.”
Kauffman said that those who are immobile and choose to remain in a specific region are overlooked in modern society.
“Love’s truest, greatest expression as I’ve come to believe is immobility,” he said.
Kauffman gives vent to the rootlessness of American politicians, such as President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, and he speaks of the divide between "televised America" and the rest of us. But all is not lost, he says.
Despite the problems that have arisen due to the lack of connection between Americans and their hometowns, Kauffman said he believes the situation can be fixed.
“Our country is lost, adrift, but there are sign posts pointing us home,” he said. “We have to rediscover the places in which we live. It is our task to find the sacred in the everyday.”
There's an especially poignant bell struck here... for me, at least. With little seeming compunction, Kauffman digs trenches—between the nomadic and the sedentary, "the televised" and "the rest of us" (which latter are also equated with the sedentary), and the various subdivisions of the rooted and the rootless—and he takes sides. At least since Cain and Abel, and especially during the Exodus, the nomadic and the sedentary have been set at odds with one another. Be it divine or secular, judgment pronounced on the nomad is often fueled by the prejudice and derision of the sedentary—witness the gypsies of Europe. A person or people are exiled as a means of protecting the homeland, as a preservation of the sanctity of the species, as it were. Yet the nomad is no such simple fiend. The Wandering Jew is both cast out and yet forever among us: at home in his homelessness. Nomadism, itself, is both a curse and the mark of blessedness in the Old Testament.
It's fascinating to hear Kauffman take up this ancient dialectic, which for sure is a prominent theme in his writings, if I'm allowed to comment on the little that I have so far read. Yet, it's also unsettling that the author is so decisive on adopting the directives of one to the exclusion of the other. I'm all for the shades of grey, myself. I see the extremes and opposites more as determiners of one another than exclusive entities. If I were to adopt Kauffman's language, I would have to call myself "rooted-rootless"—home is a plural: I have the one made by my family, several made by friends, even a few I notched out myself on the headboard of my own lonesome living in distant geographies...
But back to what's poignant here... despite Kauffman's own trench-digging, he is an incurable champion of the particular. Listen to what he says: "It is our task to find the sacred in the everyday." While I shy away from the language of the sacrosanct, I follow the same sort of maxim. It's why I call myself "a voracious pursuer of the idiosyncratic," which amounts to the same thing: a belief that the individual things, if they can be found—like so much else in this world of ours, they, too, have become rare and endangered—will speak the most to us about ourselves and the general things we only purport to understand.
So... really, all this to ask: Where do you fall? Are you an inveterate caster of deep and permanent roots? Are you a nomad? Do you feel like me: a "rooted-rootless" believer in the pluralism of home? Do you distrust one side or the other? What of the everyday? Is it sacred or does it just get in the way?