The Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade talks about home - ontological as well as geographical home - and in a lovely phrase, he calls home ‘the heart of the real’.
Home, he tells us, is the intersection of two lines - the vertical and the horizontal. The vertical plane has heaven, or the upper world, at one end, and the world of the dead at the other end. The horizontal plane is the traffic of the world, moving to and fro - our own traffic and that of teeming others.
Home was a place of order. A place where the order of things come together - the living and the dead - the spirits of the ancestors and the present inhabitants, and the gathering up and stiling of all the to-and-fro.
Leaving home can only happen because there is a home to leave. And the leaiving is never a geographical or spatial separation; it is an emotional separation - wanted or unwanted. Steady or ambivalent.
For the refugee, for the homeless, the lack of this crucial coordinate in the placing of the self has severe consequences. At best it must be managed, made up for in some way. At worst, a displaced person, literally does not know which way is up, because there is no true north. No compass point. Home is much more than shelter; home is our centre of gravity.
A nomadic people learn to take their homes with them - and their familiar objects are spread out or re-erected from place to place. When we move house, we take with us the invisible concept of home - but it is a powerful concept. Mental health and emotional continuity do not require us to stay in the same house or the same place, but they do require a sturdy sturcutre on the inside - and that structure is built in part by what has happened on the outside. The inside and the outside of our lives are each the shell where we learn to live.