“…his empire is an intangible one, for his domination and enjoyment of it are things of the spirit.”

Today is the kind of Sunday where I share with you all my recent favorites. I have been on some kind of emotional funk these days (what else is new); my apologies for my callused palms and bruised heart.

I came across this quote while reading The Stranger in the Forest by Eric Hansen – I am reading this book excruciatingly slowly – last Saturday, while on my way back from a conference on Southeast Asia in Berkeley. The whole hour I sat in the Caltrain, the surroundings blurred right past my vision because these words sunk under my skin, heavy on my conscience. These days my limited perspectives, even now, simultaneously pains and shames me. I should stop feeling apologetic over my young and naïve mind, I know that, but the visions of my youth that keeps coming back to me and the things I used to believe… I have a long way to go with personal growth.

These days the idea of home haunts me somewhat as well. Maybe it’s because I’m four months away from being home for good. While most days this feels like the best idea ever, other days it feels like the biggest mistake I am about to make. More than anything, the concept and physicality of home escapes me. All my life, I’ve felt so much of an in-between, constantly existing in the gray, middling areas of my culture, religion, identity, country… always an in-between, dichotomy of a girl.

What if I never left the boundaries of my home – the limits within my mind?

To have a home, a family, a property or a public function, to have a definite means of livelihood and to be a useful cog in the social machine, all these things seem necessary, even indispensable, to the vast majority of men, including intellectuals, and including even those who think of themselves as wholly liberated. And yet such things are only a different form of slavery that comes of contact with others, especially regulated and continued contact. I have always listened with admiration, if not envy, to the declarations of citizens who tell how they have lived for twenty or thirty years in the same section of town, or even the same house, and who have never been out of their native city. 

Not to feel the torturing need to know and see for oneself what is there, beyond the mysterious blue wall of the horizon, not to find the arrangements of life monotonous and depressing, to look at the white road leading off into the unknown distance without feeling the imperious necessity of giving in to it and following it obediently across mountains and valleys! The cowardly belief that a man must stay in one place is too reminiscent of the unquestioning resignation of animals, beasts of burden stupefied by servitude and yet always willing to accept the slipping on of the harness.

There are limits to every domain, and laws to govern every organized power. But the vagrant owns the whole vast earth that ends only at the nonexistent horizon, and his empire is an intangible one, for his domination and enjoyment of it are things of the spirit.

— Isabelle Eberhardt, The Oblivion Seekers

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