Hugs, Hearts, and Souls: the Absoluteness of Home – KJ Hannah Greenberg [Essay]

Hugs, Hearts, and Souls: the Absoluteness of Home

Riches impart social survival, social freedom, and social power. Despite the actuality that wealth enables: the purchase of minions, the buying of friends, and the veneer of private fulfillment, no amount of capital can make us feel: intrinsically at ease, vitally incorporated, or personally realized. More exactly, there is no material replacement for “home.”

Meaning, there are no sound substitutes, stand-ins, alternatives, or surrogates for those spacetime nodes, which all of us, excluding persons with serious mental illness, profoundly and undeniably appreciate as integrating our best interests. There are good reasons why prevailing existential studies detail how the enthusiasm and energy, which we invest in the interconnections of the spans and locations of our lives, are unlike other occurrences of the same. 

“Home” is quintessential. Our civilization ascribes fault to being “homeless” and merit to being a “homebody.” Modern media praise the Danish abstraction of “hygge,”[1] at the same time as traditional sources elevate the Yiddish notion of “heimish.”[2] Besides, our computers bring us to “homepages” and our Word documents utilize “home” tabs.

This paramount interchange, “home,” is characterized by physical, emotional, and spiritual qualities. Specifically, our “homes” provide us with places of dwelling, with feelings of belonging, and with the ability to achieve our full potential. Accordingly, our “homes” stand for our “identities” and our “identities,” together with the actions that we undertake to define and to nurture them, give rise to our “homes.”[3]


The Physical: Our People

Dolphins have pods. Hedgehogs have hibernacula. All the same, human “homes” are not merely habitations; they are simultaneously comparative ideas.

In ordinary states of affairs, our “homes” match the observable backdrops in which we find ourselves. Psychologist Abraham Maslow writes that we have a hierarchy of fundamental needs; each of us requires: physiological welfare, safety, intimate relationships, approval, i.e. external loci of validation, and self-completion, i.e. internal loci of validation, [4] and each of us typically meets those needs sequentially.

Psychologist Erik Erikson and educator Joan Erikson explain that our burgeoning set of prerequisites for “home” change as we move forward from babyhood, to toddlerhood, to preschool, to grade school, to adolescence, and then to emerging adulthood. Our preconditions for making choices toward a wholesome and fulfilling life expand to encompass closeness with, along with approbation from, others. We advance from “trust” to “autonomy,” to “initiative,” to industry,” to “identity,” and then to “intimacy.” Babies need swaddling. In contrast, young adults crave congress. Moreover, full-fledged adults and seniors need “generativity” and “ego integrity,” too.[5]

Hence, we regard our initial “homes” as wombs.[6] Although fertility interventions have added the petri dish and test tube to incubation’s possibilities, in-vitro fertilization still entails implanting embryos in a mother’s or surrogate’s uterus (clear of speculative fiction portrayals, such as found in The Wachowskis’ The Matrix, [7] mechanical brooders exist for unborn lambs,[8] but not for people.)

Following birth, we cry out for sleep and nourishment. To gain sustenance, we must have the protection afforded us by older, stronger individuals such as parents or other primary carers. Our “homes” become the situations in which we acquire the “social and emotional skills, which influence [our] mental health and well-being [They become our] families, caregivers, peers, and early childhood staff.”[9] These providers are biological, adoptive, or salaried.

As older children, our “homes” become the alliances that cultivate our interests. After School clubs, athletic teams, and art camps trump our siblings, stuffed toys, and board games as our most important juvenile nexuses.

Later, when we are exploring our identities, we look to higher education, the armed services, or the work force to serve as our centers. In those settings, the persons putting down roots alongside us become our “homes.” 

Thereafter, when we are well developed, we depict our “homes” as the climes in which we discover sanctuary for our conjugal relationships. Sadly, for some of us, as established adults, our “homes” do not evolve beyond “shelter,” regardless of whether we are living in huts or in penthouses.

The final form of our physical “homes” is unlike the previous ones as it is inferred, not tacit. Our last corporeal “homes” are constituted by those of our dear ones who come under our fields of influence. At life’s end, the softness of parents’ hugs, the sweetness of partners’ kisses, and the weight of domiciles’ bricks and mortar get dismissed in light of our emphasis on our impact on others. During that span, “home” becomes grandchildren and students.

As we pass through life, our somatic referents for “home” morph. We evolve from viewing “home” as an organ of conception, to “home” as  a dependable lap, to “home” as a  treehouse, to “home” as a fraternity house, and, finally, to “home” as our successors. “Home” is hugs.


The Psychological: Our Associations with Our People

Second, our “homes” are the internal milieus in which we find ourselves. Just as maturity can transform straw or wood into the whereabouts for peer gatherings, instances of living together, or intergenerational legacies, personal progress can transform building materials into “families,” “clans,” “tribes,” and “nations.”[10] Unlike the wombs, hugs, and kisses, which are part of the fleshly facet of “home,” “home’s” psychological component emphasizes the intentions we negotiate with our principal contacts.

Most of us comprehend that “home” is “family,” as explicated by: couplehood, parent/child attachments, and sibling relationships. [11] Indeed, our deepest affinities are rooted in our involvements with our families.[12]

As we grow, our interactions with our colleagues displace our interactions with our household members in our expressions of “home.” Our formative years’ “buildout,” that is to say, the task of separating ourselves from our relatives, pushes us to create bonds with secondary cohorts.

One level of these outliers is “clans,” namely, extended families. Deliberate how, on the Indian Subcontinent, “caste membership provides a sense of belonging to a recognized group from whom support can be expected in a variety of situations”[13] to the extent that, for centuries, people married only within those guidelines. Evaluate, too, how cousins help us uncover jobs, how in-laws teach us about topics that were taboo in our childhoods, and how we suffer when close friends die. Truly, our closest supporters are our “homes.”

“Tribe” is another inner marker we use for “home.” “Tribes” can be fan clubs, employers, or civic establishments. To belong to a “tribe” is to share language and values. Contemporary “tribes” include: deadheads, i.e. followers of the Grateful Dead, [14] online communities,[15] corporations, labor unions, political organizations, and business concerns In the past, for instance, Japanese youth “entering a large corporation such as Fujitsu immediately after graduating from university at age 22, often still hope[d] to retire from that same company.”[16] Via our communions with our confrères, we work toward self-completion, toward reinforcing our “homes.”

The least personal, most overarching, echelon, within which we secure our “homes,” is “nation.” A “nation” is: “the land of our ancestors,”  “our motherland” or “any population linked to our motherland.” Whether “nations” are settled, stolen, reoccupied, globally accepted, or globally scorned, “there are no other properties in the world which holds as much significance, history and holiness”[17] to us as our “nations.” Pigeonholing ourselves within “nations” is another way in which we strengthen our sense of “home.”

Contemplate how, notwithstanding Russia’s changeover from Kievan Rus’ to the Tsardom of Russia, to The Russian Empire, to The Soviet Union, and then to the Russian Federation, [18] Ukrainians embrace “The Motherland.”[19] Analogously, think about how England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales comprise “The United Kingdom,” though denizens of Northern Ireland deem themselves “Irish,” [20] while citizens of the Commonwealth Realm, the Crown Dependencies, and the British Overseas Territories, whose cultures and geographies are dissimilar to those of their British Isles counterparts, deem themselves “British.”[21] When it comes to seeing our “homes” as “nations,” governments and land masses are not always the delineating considerations.

Not only do there exist multiple collective groups that define our “homes,” but we must associate with our “families,” “clans,” “tribes,” and “nations,” too. If we fail to base ourselves within these communal units, we deteriorate. “Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality.”[22]

Fortunately, given predictable and consistent companionship, we can fashion conceptual “homes.” “The more assimilated we [become] within our communities, the less likely we are to experience colds, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, depression, and premature death.”[23] Namely, the interpersonal component of “home” is not only many-tiered, but is also crucial for our well-being. “Home” is definitely where our hearts are.


The Spiritual: Our Superhuman Associations

Third, our “homes” are the supernal circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our spiritual frames for “home” exist at this trice as much as they exist in the world to come. Whether we position ourselves at incipient, at eschatological, or at other cruxes of life, our “homes” are residences for our essences. 

At present, our “homes” are our bodies, which are encased in edifices and relationships, which then are encased in supernatural understandings. These constructs are demarcated by religion and by other configurations of mindedness. Per “home’s” seat in religion, sociologist Steward Harrison Oppong explains that particular byproducts of  “social circumstances [enable people to] manifest their sense of unity and belonging as a result of group membership through participation in rituals, ceremonies, belief systems or orientations and [behavior] towards symbols and objects perceived to be sacred and treated with sense of awe and wonder.” [24] Theology is one way, in this moment, in which humanity builds sublime “homes.”

Nevertheless, not all of us give credence to investigations of the divine. The Pew Research Center claims that only 84% of the global population is religious, and of that number, only 55% of us are monotheists (the rest of “devout” humankind consists of reincarnationists, folk religionists, and “the unaffiliated.”[25]

Other ways, here and now,  in which we determine our recherché “homes,” involve: virtual environments, manipulated ethers, and “communication” with extraterrestrial planes.[26] Increasing numbers of us animate ourselves via interactive, computer-generated events in which we hit upon “salvation” by dint of vicariously: driving luxury cars,[27] flying in wingsuits,[28] or living fully simulated lives.[29]  Atmospheric architecture, as typified by the Blur Building,[30] similarly, in this world,  provides us with alternative incorporeal identities. Additionally, some of us maintain that while we are here, our transcendental “homes” are interstellar.[31] Whether we are traditionalists, who station our “homes” in religion, or whether we are modernists, who station our “homes” in manmade or alien-generated hubs, we see ourselves, in this day and age, as possessed of “homes” with mystical features.  

What is more, beyond polytheism and science fiction’s challenges to monotheism, we contend with natural and social scientists’ agnostic and atheistic protests against nonphysical “homes.” In certain experts’ esteem, “the subjective and the objective never meet. . . . Rather, they are two different approaches to . . . Dasein.[32] For such persons, “[a]nthropological knowledge is relative. There is no longer a guaranteed referential scheme.”[33] Basically, some extolled persons posit that we cannot grasp the true quality of our rarefied “homes.”

Aside from our contemporaneous, nonmaterial “homes’” traits and their relative capacity to be placed within the scope of our perceptions, there remains the issue of those “homes” of ours that exist in other spheres. Such “homes” are often regarded as complex and possibly unknowable. Some of us argue that no degree of conviction, whether we turn to hoodoo, witchery, mysticism, theurgy, Kabbalah, interactive computer-generated experiences, or little green men, can reveal the nature of the next territory’s “homes.” Even if asserting that deliverance will come through “the drama of history, and the minor role that each of us has played in it,”[34] we insist that this element of our “homes” will not be disclosed until we pass from the mortal coil.

This ambiguity about our “homes” in the hereafter upsets us. In The Unspeakable: Discourse, Dialogue, and Rhetoric in the Postmodern World, linguistic anthropologist Stephen A. Tyler elaborates how, within our scrutiny of the moral acts stemming from our representational accounts of “our longing for a reality made inaccessible by the very means of its accessibility [we take umbrage to the extent], that we remember the occult and flee from the logos to seek in kinesis that which we were denied in mimesis.”[35] In short, by reassuring ourselves about the state of our afterworld “homes,” we seek (but often neglect to encounter) correction and emphasis. We are once more kids in arms who want our parents to tell us, or teens, who want our peers to show us that all is good now, and that all will be good, later, even when all available sensate information fails to help us discern those insubstantial domains.

No matter the processes we use to envision “home” as an unlimited principle, mainly, we cling to the valuation that there is a place for us at this juncture as well as yonder. Many of us espouse that “home” is attendant to both phases. “Home” is souls.

Human beings’ formulation of “home” continues to transfigure since we continue to transfigure. We might never be turtles, creatures that carry their residences on their backs, or toughies, people who crawl into dead animal carcasses to stay alive in extreme conditions.[36] Equally, we might never be named to homecoming courts, or become so successful as to have a significant bearing on younger generations. Furthermore, we might never be able to conjure unearthly coordinates in any plane of existence. 

No matter those facts, “home” remains our bastion. There can be no proxy for “home” since there can be no proxies for dwelling, for belonging, or for completing ourselves. “Home” is, was, and always will be our hugs, our hearts, and our souls. 


By KJ Hannah Greenberg

  • KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, she’s been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature, has had more than thirty books published, and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
  • KJ Hannah Greenberg captures the world in words and images. Her latest photography portfolio is 20/20: KJ Hannah Greenberg Eye on Israel. Her newest poetry collection is Rudiments (Seashell Books, 2020). Her most recent fiction collection is Walnut Street



1.Anna Altman, “The Year of Hygge, the Danish Obsession with Getting Cozy,” The New Yorker, Dec. 18, 2018 (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


2. Staff, “What Does [‘Heimish[’] Mean?” n.d. (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


3. Greta Gaard, The Nature of Home: Taking Root in a Place (Tuscon, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 2007).


4. Kendra Cherry, “The Five Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” verywellmind [sic], Nov. 11, 2018 (accessed Jan. 7, 2019).


5. Margaret Anderson, “Erik Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development,” SUNY Cortland, n.d. (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


6. Dursan Akaslan and Sezai Taşkin, “An Analogy between Womb and Home for Supporting the Aspects of Smart Cities,” IEEE Xplore, June 20, 2016 (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


7. Stephanie M. Buklin, “Artificial Wombs and the Control of Reproductive Technology,” Clarkesworld Magazine, Sep. 2017 (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


8. Emily A. Partridge “An Extra-Uterine System to Physiologically Support the Extreme Premature Lamb,” Nature Communications, Apr. 25, 2017 (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


9. “Growing Together in Relationships,” Kids Matter: Australian Early Health Initiative,  Australian Government Department of Health, Nov. 2018 (accessed Jan. 7, 2019).


10. “Kinship Module. Sector 2: Nations, Clans and Family Groups,” The University of Sydney, n.d. (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


11. Vern L. Bengston, “Beyond the Nuclear Family: The Increasing Importance of Multigenerational Bonds,” Journal of Marriage and Family (Minneapolis, MN: National Council on Family, March 2004) 1-16 


12.  Roger Jones, “The Family Dynamics We Grew Up with Shape How We Work,” Harvard Business Review, Jul. 19, 2016 (accessed Jan. 10, 2019).


13. “Indian Society and Ways of Living: Organization of Social Life in India,”, 2018 (accessed Jan. 10, 2019).


14. James Tortorici, “Deadheads Still Going Strong: My Experience with the Grateful Dead,” The Oval Table-Rollins College Blogs, Nov. 30, 2016 (accessed Jan. 10, 2019).


15. BBC Radio4, “What Do Modern Tribes Look Like?” The Digital Human, n.d. (accessed Jan. 10, 2019).


16. “The Company in Japanese Business Culture,” Venture Japan, n.d. (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


17. “Why Only Israel Can be the Jewish Homeland,” United with Israel, Feb 3, 2011 (accessed Jan. 8, 2019).


18. “A Brief History of Russia,” The UCSF Russia Survival Guide, The University of California, San Francisco, n.d. (accessed Jan. 11, 2019).


19. “Rodina-Mat: Mother Motherland,” Atlas Obscura, 2019 (accessed Jan. 10, 2019).


20. C.G. P. Grey, “The Difference between [sic] the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained,” CGP Grey, Jan 30, 201l (accessed Jan. 9, 2019).


21. Ibid.


22. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, “Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analysis,” Perspectives on Psychological Science (Washington, DC, : Association for Psychological Science, Mar. 11, 2015) 227.


23.  Robert D. Putman, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000) 326.


24. Steward Harrison Oppong, “Religion and Identity,” American International Journal of Contemporary Research, PDF file, June 2013, (accessed Jan. 12, 2019) 4.


25. Richard Lee Bruce, “Brief Summary of World Religion Statistics,” Richard Lee Bruce,  2018 (accessed Jan. 10, 2019). These words are meant to provide a description, not a prescription–the author is a proud believer in G-d.


26. Cynthia Davidson, ed., Anything (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001).


27. “Lexus VR Experience,” “Portfolio,” Rewind, 2019 (accessed Jan. 7, 2019).


28. WEARVR: the Virtual Realty App Store, 2019, (accessed Jan. 7, 2019).


29. “The Sims,” Electronic Arts Inc., 2019, (accessed Jan. 7, 2019).


30. Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, “Blur Building,” Archiweb, 2008, (accessed Jan. 7, 2019).


31. “Top 10 Alternative Religions,” Thinkhouse, Aug. 29, 2017, (accessed Jan. 13, 2019).


32. Eero Tarasti, Existential Semiotics (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana UP, 2000) 5.


33. Christoph Wulf, Educational Science: Hermeneutics, Empirical Research, and Critical Theory, European Studies in Education 18 (Berlin: Waxmann, 2003) 144.


34. “A Brief History of the Afterlife,” History Extra: BBC History Magazine and BBC World Histories Magazine, Oct. 23, 2018, (accessed Jan. 9, 2019).


35. Stephen A. Tyler, The Unspeakable: Discourse, Dialogue, and Rhetoric in the Postmodern World (Rhetoric of Human Sciences) (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. 1987) 165.


36. “Man vs. Wild–Bear [Grylls] Meets Camel,” Discovery Channel, Nov. 14, 2007, (accessed Jan. 9, 2019).





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