“Ever since my childhood, the concept of comfort objects has been of great importance to me. My mother was from a traditional background and biased towards sons over daughters. That is perhaps why when she gave birth to a twin – one of each sex, it was me who spent most of the time in her arms during our infancy rather than my sister; at least after the first few months.
My sister would still cry in heavy tears for attention in all her baby innocence. And my mother though biased toward me was still a loving parent to her. Someone finally advised her to get her daughter a comfort object. Since stuff toys were too expensive for my mother to get one, she made one at home. Hardly an artisan, her invention was just a small pocket-sized pouch sewn on all ends with some cotton inside it. A sort of a mini pillow if you will, half size of a person’s palm.
It never occurred to my mom to patent this great invention of hers which at our home was called ‘Nayi’. In a gradual process, my mother was able to shift the attachment my sister had toward her toward this inanimate and ridiculous object. It was a wonder how my easily my sister would go to sleep after she was given her Nayi, lying on a side holding it in her two little hands near her nose … the name itself seems to be baby language variation for sleep, doesn’t it?
What my sister saw in this object is beyond me. But why do babies want their mother’s presence at all? Why do they cry at all when separated from their mother? It seems to me that they feel a sense of security, a sense of being ‘at home’ when they are with mother. And being separated from their mothers feels them a feeling on insecurity – a sort of anxiety overtakes them.
But those things are very visible to eyes. I know you are wondering how is this relevant or even worth talking. It is a common enough phenomenon. The thing, you see, that amuses me is how we, all of us humans, or at least almost all of us, manage somehow to live with this anxiety somehow. Or do we learn to just pretend to do it? It seems to me the root of all forms of existential crisis. A wish to go back, to home, to arms of your mother, back to being unborn even. Please no Oedipus allusions. I just wish to convey the idea that in your mother’s or caretaker’s arms were your first home, your first comfort object. And from the moment we are driven out of it, we start looking for a new one – ‘at home’ means a place or a company that gives one same sense of security.
They are fools who think that they look for meaning in life. I think that a ‘meaning’, even if you find one would do nothing to satisfy them. Because what they need is not something to be found in realms of reasoning but rather in realms of feelings. I think it was Goethe who said that you can not find by searching what you can only feel. What these admittedly very eloquent and intelligent philosophers do not understand is that what we all want to feel is ‘at home’ in this world and it won’t matter whether our existence was meaningful because we won’t feel distressed about it.
And it is not exactly happiness we want to feel. Happiness is too abstract and fickle a feeling, no one can be feeling happy all the time, 24 hours of days, 7 days a week, 30 days a month. Even if there was a reason for it, happiness over a particular reason has a way of reducing overtime.
It seems to me most forms of happiness are like being raised at height – and it is sense of rising higher, and not the height … the movement and not your position that gives you happiness – to grow wealthy may by itself make you happy, to be born wealthy won’t in itself give you happiness; and eventually you must come down closer to earth if not land on it – ask any drug addict about it; even when you have reached the peak; you already know that there is nothing to do anymore but fall back down again. It is the same with sadness which is being reduced to a low depth ….and it is the reduction and not the depth that makes you sad), and if given sufficient time we would of our own accord start feeling less sad in most terrible Circumstances. From the darkest depths of sorrow, we will naturally be finding our way back up – no matter how defeated we feel; if we only manage to wait long enough for the courage to find us.
Life is full of such highs and lows; more lively you are, the more you feel those things. It is only when we have that strong trust, that faith in source of happiness, only when we feel at home with it – and it is as much a sort of comfort from that feeling of homelessness we call excisional anguish as it is a source of happiness; only then it, the happiness, is different from a temporary elevation – as in that case, it is happiness born of position rather than movement.
Our mothers are our first home, our first comfort objects. What I wish to understand is how do people leave with that horror of the feeling of homelessness when they are away from her.
The way my sister did it or more correctly the way it was done for her was through her Nayi. She somehow learned to manage to shift her sense of being at home to that Nayi … Or rather, now she had two ‘homes’ I guess, for my mother too made her feel secure.
I remember she didn’t leave this Nayi alone till she was seven years old. She would even carry it to school when she started it. Even when she grew out of its need; she kept it as a treasure. What took place of Nayi? I don’t know. I guess the list of her homes – the things that gave her sense of security kept spreading to wider and while security she got from them grew so thin. That she was not much stressed by not having any such objects around if she was to lose them … Or rather, learned to make the whole world her home.
She is happily married wand has two children now. Tell me doctor, aren’t so many of your patients suffering because they failed in this long series of steps of learning to feel at home in this whole wide world? I for one am no different.”
Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan