TED Talk Tuesday – Pico Iyer: Where is home?

Thoughtful and philosophical, Pico Iyer challenges us to think of the relationship between movement and stillness. As an accomplished travel writer, Iyer has been to many different places and his constant movement has caused him to question the concept of home. With an ever evolving world the question of “where is home?” is poignant and timely.  In the end, Iyer reveals his understanding of home as being a place for stillness, quiet, calm, and self-discovery.

And for more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil than, you could say, with a piece of soul. If somebody suddenly asks me, “Where’s your home?” I think about my sweetheart or my closest friends or the songs that travel with me wherever I happen to be.

The number of people living in countries not their own now comes to 220 million, and that’s an almost unimaginable number, but it means that if you took the whole population of Canada and the whole population of Australia and then the whole population of Australia again and the whole population of Canada again and doubled that number, you would still have fewer people than belong to this great floating tribe. And the number of us who live outside the old nation-state categories is increasing so quickly, by 64 million just in the last 12 years, that soon there will be more of us than there are Americans. Already, we represent the fifth-largest nation on Earth. And in fact, in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, the average resident today is what used to be called a foreigner, somebody born in a very different country.

And I’ve always felt that the beauty of being surrounded by the foreign is that it slaps you awake. You can’t take anything for granted. Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love,because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on.” Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world. The real voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust famously said, consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes. And of course, once you have new eyes, even the old sights, even your home become something different.

And I began to think that really, movement was only as good as the sense of stillness that you could bring to it to put it into perspective.

And I began to think that something in me had really been crying out for stillness, but of course I couldn’t hear it because I was running around so much. I was like some crazy guy who puts on a blindfold and then complains that he can’t see a thing. And I thought back to that wonderful phrase I had learned as a boy from Seneca, in which he says, “That man is poor not who has little but who hankers after more.”

And, of course, I’m not suggesting that anybody here go into a monastery. That’s not the point. But I do think it’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go. And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about and find a home.

Movement is a fantastic privilege, and it allows us to do so much that our grandparentscould never have dreamed of doing. But movement, ultimately, only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to. And home, in the end, is of course not just the place where you sleep. It’s the place where you stand.



3 thoughts on “TED Talk Tuesday – Pico Iyer: Where is home?

  1. minerva

    Wonderful share!♥
    The dear sir’s one of my fave (travel) writers since my undergrad days – I still do love how his writing is always so full of heart and compassion for others even when he encounters the new and leads readers gently by the hand through the places, peoples and worldviews he comes across.
    Thank you so much for sharing your light and do take care, too. 🙂

      1. minerva

        Thank you for your thoughtful words, too. 🙂
        You’re absolutely right. Pico Iyer’s inspiring essays and writing have long kept the love of travelling with heart alive in me, even as I may not be (physically) travelling as much as ’tis old humble heart would love to.

        Do take good care and stay awesome.

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