On Belonging: A Call

On Belonging: A Call

Maxwell Ryan
Feb 4, 2005

The French philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote, "The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself."

Lest you think me too highbrow, I came across that quotation long ago on a bag of herbal tea, and I carried the tag end in my wallet for years, until I started to know what it means.

If design is fundamentally about problem-solving, isn't interior design about solving the problem of the self?

In giving attention to our private spaces, we learn more about who we are. White dove calms me, and the bitter orange of my bedroom walls rouses me to joy. Eating from Russel Wright dishes, I know, in a quiet way, that there is both humility and dignity in sharing a meal. I drink my cranberry-and-seltzer from World's Fair glasses: lost ages, endless parades. They're stored in my great-grandmother's Hoosier cabinet: some things, like love, last.

Through trial and error, on a budget, over time, as best we are able, we cobble together a place to call home, a safe base from which we gather the strength to go back into the world. We try to find a balance between having enough belongings to anchor us, not so many that we drown.

Have you found that balance? Tell us--in a poem, of course--about your perfect soup bowl; of the easy chair you love so much it seems almost to love you back; the stories behind each scar on your kitchen table; of your truce with an apartment's id (closets). It's love month, and we're calling for odes to shelter. Send your submissions to poetlaureate@apartmenttherapy.com, and the best poems will win a special as-yet-to-be-determined prize.

Need inspiration? Check out Pablo Neruda's odes to everyday things--"Ode to Broken Things" is a great place to start. And here's Gertrude Stein's take, from Tender Buttons:


        A table means does it not my dear it means a whole steadiness. Is it
		likely that a change.
    	A table means more than a glass even a looking glass is tall. A
		table means necessary places and a revision a revision of a little
		thing it means it does mean that there has been a stand, a stand where
		it did shake.

A final link, for Kate, who died this week: Nazim Hikmet's "On Living"

(Thanks, Debbie!) SGH

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