The Plight of the Homeless

In one of Douglas Adams’ very silly books, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the egocentric two-headed president of the universe, is condemned to undergo the ordeal of the Total Perspective Vortex.  It is an excruciating form of torture that exposes the criminal to a sense of the infinite size of the universe and his own small place in it.  The result is the annihilation of the self.  The device was designed by a scientist who got tired of his wife telling him to put things in perspective.  The nagging wife might just as well have been Adam Smith or William Godwin or any one of the liberal philosophers who insist that we look at ourselves as an impartial spectator or extraterrestrial would.

Liberals preach perspective, Epicureans advise indifference to friends and nation, and Buddhists long for Nirvana.  Today, it is principally Christians who insist on a sense of place.  Our universe is filled with special places: This earth, to which God deigned to send His Son; the land of Judea, where He was born; Galilee, which He regarded as home; the cities of the Greeks that gave us our civilization; and Rome, still the urbs aeterna, the seat of an empire of which our world, so full of itself and little else, is the merest afterthought.

When most of us think of place, however, it is not Rome or Bethlehem we have in mind but the place we came from.  But how many of us live in the town,...

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