The BBC have run a couple of articles recently about the problem of being a long term expat. I can identify with much of what is written - not feeling 'at home' anywhere; finding it better not to talk about one's past or where one has been as it is taken as pretentious or rouses envy; not being able to talk about things embedded in the culture of one's own country as one was not there; having picked up 'international' attitudes; having language and phraseology that is slightly out of kilter - enough to make you odd but not so much as to put you in the distinct category of 'foreign'; a (sometimes welcome) sense of living in the past. Several of the people interviewed said that they found it easier simply to treat their 'home' country as if it were just another 'foreign posting'. One pointed out that “You don't [reintegrate]. You realise that by having lived in so many different cultures, your personality and way of thinking has changed, and trying to adapt to what you were before you left is a mistake that will disregard the personal growth you have done.”

This is all very close to my personal experience. Furthermore, in my case it began very young. By the time I was ten I had spent half my life outside the UK in what was at that time a multicultural colonial community in the Middle East. Although Cyprus was a British colony at the time, there were not a lot of British civilians there and my parents had friends who were Greek, Armenian, Turkish, American, and other nationalities. My mother's best friend was Lebanese. I went to an Irish Catholic school where we had Greek Orthodox holidays and when mother took me down the street to go to the market we passed the Sufi tekke on the way.

I have spent most of my life travelling and being in one place for over a year now has been an unfamiliar experience. Every few days I get 'itchy feet', but I also greatly appreciate what this year plus has given me. However, it is still true that I am not 'in my home country' being in an isolated spot in France. This Christmas and New Year I will visit UK. 'Visit' seems like the right word.

Of course, I can reflect upon all this as a Buddhist. As a Buddhist one strives to give up attachment to identity. One is a 'refugee' even when one is in one's home land. Buddha's disciples wandered. They were errant spiritual knights travelling the world rescuing lost souls from demons and dragons - and rescuing the demons and dragons at the same time, if possible. Maybe that is why this has been a good religion for me. It is not difficult for me to think of the Buddha Land as my true home. Experiences that I had as a child already told me that that was where I really came from and belonged.

Nonetheless, one cannot completely gloss over the fact of being an oddity in this world. It gives me something special to offer and some special difficulties to endure. There is a certain kind of loneliness that it not altogether unpleasant - a kind of bitter-sweetness - as if all the pain of life that other people experience in unexpected devastating lumps were spread out more thinly so as to be eternally present but not debilitating. It adds edge to pleasure, wonder, surprise. You can find it described in masterly fashion in the poetry of Saigyo.

So, I am at home everywhere and nowhere. I cultivate the sense that every day is a new land, even if I have been in the same place for a while. The weather, the moon, the light, the smell of the air... the Buddha was right to talk about impermanence.

Views: 40

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of David Brazier at La Ville au Roi (Eleusis) to add comments!

Join David Brazier at La Ville au Roi (Eleusis)


ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

Sagesse féline...

Posted by Tamuly Annette on September 29, 2019 at 12:00 1 Comment

En l'absence de Darmavidya, j'ai - en ma qualité de voisine et d'amie - le privilège de m'occuper (un peu) de Tara, la petite chatte. C'est un bonheur  de la voir me faire la fête chaque fois que je me rends à Eleusis: elle s'étire, se roule sur le dos au soleil ou saute sur mes genoux. J'ignore si elle a profité de l'enseignement du maître des lieux, mais j'ai comme l'impression qu'elle me donne une belle leçon de sagesse: elle…



Posted by David Brazier on August 20, 2019 at 21:38 2 Comments

At the moment I am feeling very sad for the state of the planet. As I write the great forests are being consumed by fire, both the tropical forest in Brazil and the tundra forest in Russia. The great forests are the lungs of the earth. I myself have lung problems. When there are parts of the lungs that don’t work anymore one can run out of energy. It can strike suddenly. We will probably not do anything serious about climate change or wildlife extinction…



Posted by David Brazier on June 26, 2019 at 18:04 10 Comments

My medical condition continues to be a mystery. It is clear that I do not have any of the big nasty things - brain tumour, cracked skull, stroke, etc - as these have been ruled out by MRI investigation. Nonetheless I continue to have persistent, continuous head pain that varies in intensity and I become exhausted by the least effort so that I am functioning like an invalid incapable of doing very much. There is always a possibility that the whole syndrome is a…



Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on June 2, 2019 at 1:02 4 Comments

“Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the saviour, or that the Bible contains the truth. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark Valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us… Continue

© 2019   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service