The Original Heresy: Homesickness, Civilization, and Transcendental Religion (part 1)

The Great Homesickness

“You, the great homesickness I could never shake off …”

— Rilke

I have a confession to make. It’s something I don’t talk about much, especially in the company of other Pagans. For a long time, I did not feel at home here … I mean … on this earth. For much of my life, I had this feeling that my real home was elsewhere.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to start talking about aliens. What I’m talking about is a feeling of disconnection, a feeling that my real life was waiting for me somewhere else. I don’t think this feeling is uncommon, though it’s perhaps not so common to talk about it openly.

In fact, I think it’s very common to feel pulled in two directions: toward the here-and-now and toward … somewhere else. There is something in us which calls us to reach for the stars, to strive, to stretch, to go beyond—to, in the words of poet Galway Kinnell, ”come up against the ends of the earth, and climb over.” And there is also something in us which calls us back to earth, to plant our feet, to sink our roots into the ground.

And I suspect this dynamic has shaped a lot of human history.


Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post,, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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