I spent last week in San Juan, Puerto Rico visiting friends. It was a relaxing time on the island and I had a lot of time to think about things I normally think about but never “dwell on”. The details are really not important but the impact of my ruminations seem, at least to me, to be of utmost importance in this trek to understand what it means to live a good (holy) life.
Puerto Rico is tightly linked to my family’s past. My parents were both born on the island and growing up, the names of towns were often mentioned in the retelling of some story or another. As I drove on main highways, the names of places that I had heard about all my young adult life popped up (literally) to my left and to my right. I couldn’t help but think about my parents especially my mother now deceased 22 years. Speaking to my father throughout the week, I could hear the nostalgia in his voice as he remembered his homeland and, I imagine, his parents. And then it hit me: How incredibly important it is for a person to have a place to call home—to know from “whence I come”. I’ve often wondered about popular clichés such as “home is where you hang your hat” or “home is where the heart is”. I really do believe home is a lot deeper than the forced triteness of these pithy sayings.
The last night of my vacation on la isla del encanto, I met a young lawyer who works for the Puerto Rican parliament. She recently wrote an opinion about a bill that Puerto Rican politicians are trying to make the law of the land. As I understood her, the law would guarantee that children born in vitro or by way of a “surrogate” mother could never know the sperm and egg donors names. It would also make it impossible for a surrogate mother to change her mind during pregnancy once the contract for “rental” of her womb is signed. From what I understand the way to accomplish keeping children from identifying a parent is by completely destroying records so that none could be traced—ever. My new friend launched her arguments against both of these laws by highlighting the dignity of the person inherent in any concept of human rights (religious or secular).
I couldn’t help but think of the 90s Highlander episodes where immortal Duncan Macleod, after having been banished by his clan for sorcery (Macleod dies and comes back to life because he is “immortal” and can only be killed by having his head cut-off) learns that the man and woman who raised him were not his biological parents. His adoptive father tells him in a fit of rage to “be gone” because “you are not my son”. Macleod loses it and runs screaming after his horseback riding father, “Where do I come from?!?!” As blithe as my example might seem (making an analogy with sword swinging immortals), the look on Macleod’s face as he realizes he will be plagued for eternity with the mystery of his paternity, demonstrates the deep anguish of not knowing something as basic as who your parents are. Discovering “where he comes from” is a theme throughout the highlander series that I find fascinating.
Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where I come from, where is my home, etc. For lots of reasons (many which I do not understand), the years since being initiated into the Church have been fraught with painful circumstances that seem to want to make me give in to the temptation to look within instead of without. But when I look up around me (at reality—good and bad) I am constantly surrounded by physical reminders of who I am and to whom I belong.
It doesn’t get any better than that.