Home, the place “from which we go forth lessoned and disciplined, and ready for life”? What planet did Kathleen Norris live on, talking about lessons and discipline as prerequisites for living?
But amazingly, it wasn’t so long ago that Norris’s idea reigned in this country. She was, in fact, the most famous woman writer of the first half of the 20th century, the highest paid and among the most prolific, with 93 novels to her credit, many of them best-selling.
It seems strange that most Americans have never heard of her. Perhaps that’s because her fiction promoted Christian service, the sanctity of marriage, and the overriding importance of motherhood as an occupation – ideas that seem pathetically yesterday in the brave new world we occupy today.
Modern thought-leaders take a distinctly different approach to the subject of home.
Consider, for instance, the warm-and-fuzzy wisdom of Mother Theresa: “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do but how much love we put in that action.”
Or the expect-little-of-me-and-I-won’t-disappoint-you view of Maya Angelou: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Or the king-of-the-castle approach of the Dalai Lama: “Home is where you feel at home and are treated well.”
Kathleen Norris may seem passé in our oh-so-sophisticated world, but she remains a favorite author of many elderly women today. And wonder of wonders, they agree with her views!
So if you’d like to have a great conversation with a woman over 80, try asking her for her thoughts on what role home should play in our lives, especially when we're young.
She might express something along the lines of “The home is the chief school of human virtues,” as 19th century American writer William Ellery Channing put it.
She might simply echo Kathleen Thompson Norris.
And if you let her tell you how and why and what we lose by ignoring this age-old wisdom, she might leave you with an entirely different view of home – one that we would do well to recapture if we want our nation to survive.