Attachment to place

Forgive me for personalising this post so much, but I find myself in a life situation that truly reflects the focus of our forthcoming book ‘Happiness and Domestic Life‘ already on sale, and one that speaks to the focus of our next Experts Meeting ‘The Home and Displaced People‘ that we will be holding in Washington in September at the Catholic University of America.
As once again, for work-related reasons, I am moving to another country.
For the past five and a half years I have been writing and working from Brussels. A very cosmopolitan city whose population is difficult to calculate as the turnover of people is extremely high and the MEPs of the 27 countries that make up the European Union come and go from Monday to Friday.
And although during these five years I have welcomed and said goodbye to many people, I never imagined the attachment I would feel for this place and for this country which despite being very different from mine, has become my home. It’s hard to leave and say goodbye, it’s hard to turn the page, and it’s hard to pack up and pick up everything I’ve lived through. It is a great physical, mental and emotional effort. These are weeks of instability and uncertainty.
At the age of 18, I left my hometown of Logroño to study and I never went back to live there again. It was my home place, which my parents tried hard to make sure met all the requirements of a home. A place for the growth and development of a person: stable, warm, friendly and happy. It is that HOME with a capital H because it is the one that will always serve as a reference point for me and because it is the one I still call “My home”. To differentiate it from the different homes that I have created and built throughout my life, I sometimes specify “my parents’ home”. But when you come and go so much and you have to create, cherish and then say goodbye to homes so many times, that first home becomes even stronger.
Well, as I said, after different homes in Spain, our stay in the UK and Belgium, we are going back to Spain. The feeling is enormously contradictory, I feel sorrow and joy at the same time. I feel that I am leaving here in Brussels a root that had germinated and was growing strongly and I feel that, once again, I have to sow again. It is a never-ending story, but one that always brings good things, despite the difficulty of the situation.
And my experience is one that is shared by many people who, wanting to improve in our professional lives and grow in our personal lives, have freely decided to take this step and assume these risks that in one way or another bring enormous instability. But it is a free decision. I can’t imagine what it means for all those who leave because of war, hunger, or obligation. Often running, leaving family members behind, separating from their children, parents, grandparents… Uprooting dramas that affect the person so fundamentally.

And now that I have to start again, and reading the book that you will soon be able to hold in your hands, the question is key: what must a home be like to be happy? what relationship exists between the home and the happiness of the person and their development? to what extent does the home form part of a larger community on whose wellbeing it also depends?

I leave you with these questions for reflection. If you have a home, value it and care for it. If you are in a delicate or difficult home situation, I give you hope because the key lies in the simplicity of daily care.

Profitability…

This weekend, I witnessed a conversation at a family meal that got me thinking. There was a discussion about the cost-effectiveness of social science research. It is obvious that when a university institution, for example, invests funds in research into a type of cancer, it is likely to eventually produce results that are of interest both to science and to the advancement of the patient’s cure. But what happens when you invest money, personnel and time in research, for example, social relations in the neighbourhood, the era of disinformation, the evolution of house design or social tribes and their influence on art? Some people think that this type of analysis is not profitable and its conclusions look good in books and encyclopaedias, even as study material for future research, but they do not contribute real, quantifiable value to society.

The problem is how to value profitability, or rather, why value things only in terms of economic profitability. If we were to think only in terms of money, efficiency, results, there would be many aspects and even people that would seem useless to us and that we would discard because they are not profitable for society. But this vision would do a disservice to the already self-interested and utilitarian society we are building.

Without Anthropology we would not know man, without Philosophy we would not have asked ourselves the why of things, without Sociology we would not understand how human beings relate to each other, without Art we would not value creativity or the abstract aspects of life.

A youth centre is not profitable, each minor costs society about £100 a day, £36,500 a year, but the community makes every effort to ensure that the young people who have ended up there are able to obtain sufficient tools to integrate into society and be good men in the future. And I can think of many other examples like this one. We cannot think in terms of profitability when what is at stake is the person.

It is very sad that we are only able to pay attention when life is measured in figures. Institutions such as ours devote enormous efforts to defend and foster the well-being in homes without which the individual would not achieve the balance necessary to survive in this world that demands so much profitability.