We are never ‘at home’: we are always outside ourselves. Fear, desire, hope, impel us towards the future, they rob us of feelings and concerns for what now is, in order to spend time over what will be – even when we ourselves shall be no more. (Montaigne)
What does being ‘at home’ mean? I take it as being comfortable in your own skin and in your current situation. This doesn’t mean that you have achieved whatever it is that you wanted in life or have become the best version of yourself but rather knowing that you’re a work in progress and with time, you’ll slowly inch towards what you want and who you want to be. But in the present, you aren’t avoiding your feelings and emotions.
Instead of this rationalization, we tend to dwell on fears, desires, and hopes as Montaigne suggested. Too often we spend our time living in a fantasy land where things are better and this helps us avoid our current situation. Or, we spend our time in some future hell where things are worst of and this adds to our fears and anxieties and also stunts our growth. Both these modes of beings rob us of the present, from being alive right now. By not being ‘at home’ with our emotions and feelings right now we are unable to unpack and understand the reason behind our emotions and feelings and how to improve our situation. Instead, avoidance is adopted in the form of living outside of ourselves. We fill the silence and stillness that we need with either pleasure or painful thoughts so that we don’t have to deal with our current reality. All this concern for what will be is a hindrance to progression.
Whoever would do what he has to do would see that the first thing he must learn is to know who he is and what is properly his. And whoever does know himself never considers external things to be his; above all other things he loves and cultivates himself’ he rejects excessive concerns as well as useless thoughts and resolutions. (Montaigne)
Fears, desires, hopes, and anxieties can all subside when we know who we are and what exactly do we want from life. Otherwise, we’re stuck either trying to please a version of ourselves which isn’t true by following trends or conforming to other peoples opinions or we live trying to live up to other peoples expectations (especially the expectations of our loved ones) and when these things fail to bring us peace and fulfillment we suffer from an even greater dose of anxiety and fear and are left just hoping for a better tomorrow. Even worse our mind doesn’t evolve further. It’s stuck in the old pattern and we think perhaps if we get the new thing we might be happier or that if we start a new relationship it might will the void. But it’s all just a cycle of hope, desire, anxiety, and fear and this cycle is broken when we come to ‘Know Thyself’.
This phrase, ‘Know Thyself’ has been present since the Ancient Greek time and probably before too. It was etched into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and it still relevant now as it was back in Ancient times. This makes one wonder how much we have evolved as humans or perhaps how little. Our core concerns for meaning, purpose, happiness are still the same as our ancient ancestors.
As Montaigne suggested, the person who cultivates themselves comes closer to finding peace and fulfillment. Only you know the answer to your own riddle. Each individual must figure him or herself out and by doing so, cultivate their physical, mental and spiritual self. In essence, cultivate their soul. What other people may see as useless and meaningless can still bring us peace and joy. Especially in our current age which is so materialistic. There may be some things or activities that might not have an effect on our financial situation but can bring our mind and spirit peace. Those things are especially valuable to cultivate. Hence why we have to spend time figuring ourselves out and not trying to fill our time with excessive concerns.
Some questions we should reflect on and try to answer for ourselves:
When am I at peace?
What will I need to do to feel fulfilled?
What makes me fulfilled?
When do I feel happy?
When do I feel ashamed or guilty?
What does a meaningful day look like?