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To Dwell / Dwelling

“People think of Heimat [homeland, home country, native country, spiritual home] as being a relatively permanent place; a home, as temporary and interchangeable. Actually, the opposite is true: one can exchange Heimats – or have none at all – but one must always live somewhere, regardless of where.” (The Freedom of the Migrant, 2003, p. 12)

For Vilém Flusser, the act of dwelling, or the occupation of a dwelling, is a human need, offering protection from the noisy world. Humans are creatures that have dwellings but not necessarily homes. The concepts of “dwelling” and “having a home” are thus not the same.

Flusser sometimes looks upon the condition of dwelling as essential for attaining self-consciousness. Drawing on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, he sees the dynamic of unhappy consciousness as a prerequisite for the world, for the ability to draw any distinction between private and public: “At root, this is the foundation of Hegelian dialectics: When I go out of the house to conquer the world – from the private into the public – then I lose myself in the world. And when I return home from the world to privatize the public, to find myself, then I lose the world.” (Interview with Christian M. Doermer, Nachlese mit Vilém und Edith Flusser, 2004; translated from the German)

Only in realizing the act of dwelling are humans able to become conscious of the difference between a dwelling or habitation (Wohnung) and the nonhabitual (das Ungewöhnliche) and so, ultimately, to comprehend their own boundaries. This external dialectic is followed by an internal one, a dialectic between habit (Gewohnheit) and the unaccustomed (das Ungewohnte), which gives rise to familiarity. “‘Dwelling’ has to do with habit and the habitual, with an atmosphere in which one trusts one’s surroundings and thus pays them no attention.” (Von der Freiheit des Migranten, 1994, p. 45; translated from the German)* The result of this habituation or familiarity is an everyday prettiness that creates beauty out of the merely habitual and, conversely, ugliness out of the unaccustomed.

In this principle, according to Flusser, lies the fatal misunderstanding behind the emergence of patriotism. Patriotism is essentially a “diseased aesthetic” (The Freedom of the Migrant, p. 14) that inames the love of homeland by representing accustomed impressions as beautiful. So the beauty thus ascribed to the homeland is confused with the prettiness resulting from habituation, and love of homeland becomes, rather, love of dwelling. And the patriot is someone numbed by habituation, whose aesthetic error, unfortunately, often escalates and leads to ethical catastrophes.

* Editorial note: This passage does not exist in the English edition.

Original article by Eugenia Stamboliev in Flusseriana

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dwell_dwelling.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by