Location and Dislocation: Where Are You?

by Bob Schwartz

Half of a compass from Pompeii

you are here
you are there
here is there
there is here
here is nowhere and everywhere
there is nowhere and everywhere
here is not there

Dislocation is basic. It suggests more than being in one place and then another wholly intentionally and voluntarily. It may not be forced in the sense of dictated; it might be circumstantial or incidental. One thing somehow leads to another, one place somehow leads to another. What is this place? How did I get here? Where am I?

Religious and spiritual traditions spend much time on location and dislocation in many contexts. People are forced to move out and wander. People are judged and forced to go to good places and bad places after death. Or maybe the good place or bad place is right here, except we don’t know it. Or, to quote Neil Young, everybody knows this is nowhere. Or, this is somewhere and then nowhere and then somewhere.

We are not always prepared for dislocation, or for ultimate dislocation. The traditions confuse us, sometimes because they themselves are confused or misleading, sometimes because they want us to work on the matter of location and dislocation ourselves. If you think you know exactly where you are and where you’re going, think again. Or stop thinking. Find a compass, throw away a compass. Here you are.

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