Skip to main content

Feeling home is about locking doors

I don't do dinners - it would scare my last remaining friends away. I learned that it is only me who strongly believes in my cooking-skills (but hey, I think it's great food!).
How lucky I felt to be invited to a lovely get-together involving professionally prepared food recently. The host carefully arranged his guests at a number of tables, making sure that nobody sat close to anybody they knew. As he is really great with people it worked wonderfully and nobody froze in desperate silence with a featherbrained smile on her face.
Clamped between a huge greek-embassy-woman and a romantically active bundle consisting of an artist and her Argentinian Tango-wife I stared straight ahead and so got to listen to an architect I would have never met otherwise. He was as passionate about his job as the girls were about 'Tango' in its amazingly varied physical representations. It was clear that he was not interested in making money by simply arranging concrete around people.
He cared about the concept of 'feeling home' in a very general way. Central to 'home', he said, is the certainty of having protected spaces. When you build a house you build walls not only to support the roof, but to create quiet corners and private spots. A cellar, a workshop in the basement, some hidden reading-space in the attic, the safe-haven behind the fridge (for your cat, not you, silly!). That is why some of the amazing modern lofts look breathtakingly good on paper but you would never want to move in (and if you do, you get a speed-divorce).
In a house the protected spaces are marked by walls made of solid matter. But in a home there are additional lines and boundaries non-verbally negotiated between the residents. In an understanding environment they are lines of respect (my sofa, your armchair, her sunny spot in the living-room, his pile of newspapers on the floor...); in a hostile environment they are lines of fear. Some of those lines and boundaries can change frequently while others are rock steady. The better the social sensing of the partners the smoother and more natural the adaptation to the flow of the lines, their acceptance and allowed transgressions.
It is the sensing and quiet accepting of borders and closed or even locked spaces that is the big sign of trust and understanding that makes your house your home.
As if to prove the point this eery couple that kept an eye on one-another the whole evening, walked by, smiling their rehearsed smiles. Earlier they had proudly proclaimed that they were so close they even share one email-address. The architect would shiver at this screaming sign of mistrust.
I just stopped short of asking them if they had glas-walls around the loo. Maybe no. But I am sure there is no key.
They have no home.


Popular posts from this blog

Academics should be blogging? No.

"blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now" The London School of Economics and Political Science states in one of their, yes, Blogs . It is wrong. The arguments just seem so right: "faster communication of scientific results", "rapid interaction with colleagues" "responsibility to give back results to the public". All nice, all cuddly and warm, all good. But wrong. It might be true for scientoid babble. But this is not how science works.  Scientists usually follow scientific methods to obtain results. They devise, for example, experiments to measure a quantity while keeping the boundary-conditions in a defined range. They do discuss their aims, problems, techniques, preliminary results with colleagues - they talk about deviations and errors, successes and failures. But they don't do that wikipedia-style by asking anybody for an opinion . Scientific discussion needs a set

My guinea pig wants beer!

Rather involuntary train rides (especially long ones, going to boring places for a boring event) are good for updates on some thoughts lingering in the lower levels of the brain-at-ease. My latest trip (from Berlin to Bonn) unearthed the never-ending squabble about the elusive 'free will'. Neuroscientists make headlines proving with alacrity the absence of free will by experimenting with brain-signals that precede the apparent willful act - by as much as seven seconds! Measuring brain-activity way before the human guinea pig actually presses a button with whatever hand or finger he desires, they predict with breathtaking reproducibility the choice to be made. So what? Is that the end of free will? I am afraid that those neuroscientists would accept only non-predictability as a definite sign of free will. But non-predictability results from two possible scenarios: a) a random event (without a cause) b) an event triggered by something outside of the system (but caused).

No theory - no money!

A neuroscientist I was talking to recently complained that the Higgs-research,even the Neutrino-fluke at CERN is getting humungous funding while neuroscience is struggling for support at a much more modest level. This, despite the undisputed fact that understanding our brain, and ultimately ourselves, is the most exciting challenge around. Henry Markram of EPFL in Switzerland   is one of the guys aiming for big, big funding to simulate the complete brain. After founding the brain institute and developing methods to analyze and then reconstruct elements of the brain in a supercomputer he now applies for 1.5 Billion Euro in EU-funding for the 'flagship-projects' of Blue Brain -and many believe his project is simply too big to fail. Some call the project daring, others audacious. It is one of the so very few really expensive life-science endeavours. Why aren't there more like that around? Why do we seem to accept the bills for monstrous physics experiments more easily? Is