Protection vs. filtering

I am sitting in an awesome guesthouse in Tainan, which is actually an apartment rented by a friend of mine. I sit on the sofa and look out through the big open front entrance. I see the playground of a nearby school, with some girls prepping up for morning exercises. The cool autumn wind brings in fresh smell of tropical flowers. Everything is in harmony (except for occasional fighter planes taking off from a nearby military base).

I am inside a house, yet I am connected to the world through the openings, the smell, the sight. I am in harmony with my surrounding environment. At night when I am sleeping in my bedroom, even though the doors and curtains are closed, I am still in harmony with my environment: my skin.

It isn’t about having more windows, comfortable furniture, light-colored interior that makes me comfortable, although the apartment has everything. It is about the feeling that I am gently in touch—with myself, my world, my reality.

When I am out in the air, I have fewer choices to interact with the world. It might be violent, joyful, dull, sad, peaceful, but no matter what, it is the world that decides how to interact with me, and I am mostly in the position of a reactor. In extreme cases, I need to murmur the mantra by Victor Frankl: I have the freedom to choose my attitude in any circumstances.

Our home shields us from the raw, brutal nature outside. No matter what is going on outside, we feel safe and insured inside. Protection: that is what we want in our house.

But are we taking the protection too far, too seriously, and turning it into custody? We use three different locks on the door, put up security bars outside the window, add barb wire on top of the fence. Now, take the “housing” context out of the previous sentence and imagine what type of building it describes. Prison, yes.

As social animals, our life does not “shut down” when we return to our house. We continue our interaction and socialization inside our small confinement, and even when there is nobody around us, we still have our own self to interact (and that is crucial). If we live inside a pseudo-prison, whose original purpose is punishment through isolation, we eventually choke ourselves.

I think a better way to consider the function of our house is Filtering, instead of Protection. A good house makes us feel comfortable inside yet allows us to be in touch with just the right amount of the external world, so we can enjoy the best of both worlds. A good house does not lock ourselves up in a tiny space, offering us a pitiful solace that nobody will harm us anymore.

The world is, by nature (pun intended), neutral. It does not have intentions in any sense. The world just exists. We do not need to consider our house as our “protection,” which is a term used against an existence with harmful intentions.

Our house as a filter: giving us what we need (rest, peace of mind, warmth, intimacy) yet inviting the flow to create a harmony. It might just be a slight shift of perspective, but it might be an important one. At the very least we can start removing the bars covering the window. That makes a window…a window, finally.