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
* Editorial note: This passage does not exist in the English edition.
Original article by Eugenia Stamboliev in Flusseriana