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A home, a space, and a thought are factors of dwelling. Everyone belongs to one place, and everyone needs a place to dwell. Dwelling is a philosophical concept which means to take shelter in (Heidegger); many books have included dwelling as a theme to show senses of home and belonging. Plato's Apology and Crito and James Welch's Fools Crow explain a sense of dwelling within several characters, such as Socrates, Yellow Kidney, Fools Crow, and Fast Horse. These characters are of different ages, and they have different personalities and cultural backgrounds, even though they own the same sense of dwelling. No matter who one is, where one is from, and in which century one is born, the meaning of dwelling rarely changes because it is a factor common to all human beings.
To me, dwelling is about self-reflection. It is a place where a person can live comfortably in order to escape from reality. Dwelling is a protective place where safety is guaranteed; one does not need to worry about being in a dangerous situation. Further, within dwelling, a person can reflect on the actions one has done, and examine them to see if one has done the right thing. Through self-reflection, one can also find out one's standpoint of life and this standpoint often varies between people. Lastly, dwelling is a space filled with unreality. One can act irrationally because no others are able to observe it. Plato's Apology and Crito and James Welch's Fools Crow can offer more about the sense of dwelling.
In Plato's Apology and Crito, Socrates refuses to admit the charge Meletus has accused him of. He is unwilling to escape and live a new life where he will be blamed for atheism (Plato 30-48). Although he is right in principle, Socrates has chosen to face death by escaping from reality. In Apology, Meletus claims that Socrates does not believe in the gods of the state, and he has created his own divinities (Plato 30). Although Socrates has used his intelligence in debating to prove that Meletus and his people are wrong, he has been scheduled for execution. In Crito, Socrates explains the reason why he does not want to escape. His unwillingness to escape may show that Socrates considers death as his dwelling because the majority in town believes that Socrates is a corruption to the people. Socrates wants to escape from real life to avoid more conflicts between him and the town people.
Moreover, Socrates feels more like a principled man if he does not repay evil with evil (Plato 57). After death, people will glorify him and he will be remembered. Socrates feels more comfortable in death than hiding around as a convicted man. Socrates starts a new idea about principle which still applies today, "If we are harmed, we should not harm in return, whatever most people think" (Plato 56). Socrates prefers not making trouble, even though he is harmed. He dwells in prison and endures the consequences of all his crimes. He self-reflects in a way that is different from others, as he teaches his listeners and himself a lesson while he talks. Unlike the characters in Fools Crow, Socrates' sense of dwelling is special; He does not consider home and family as his dwelling, but he rather considers death.
In James Welch's Fools Crow, Yellow Kidney's fingers were cut off by the Crow tribes. With this injury, he is frustrated and he can never face his family and tribe again. Being the leader of a tribe, Yellow Kidney is humiliated by his mutilation. He changes from a brave leader into a man who no longer laughs and no longer plays with his sons (Welch 132). Yellow Kidney decides to dwell in his own mind, to see himself as the most misfortunate man in the world. He cannot face his people as well as the reality. At that time, the pride of a leader is everything. It is the pride that allows him to lead his tribe. It is reasonable for Yellow Kidney to lose his pride due to losing all his fingers, making him unable to fight.
Despite the fact that Yellow Kidney loses his fingers, his sense of dwelling can only make him weak. When Yellow Kidney eventually realizes that he can still live his life without his fingers, he makes up his mind to return to his family (Welch 244). After losing track of his sense of dwelling, Yellow Kidney considers family as his forever dwelling. Welch shows Yellow Kidney's desire to return to his dwelling, "He wanted to watch his sons grow up, to help them become men. He knew that things would never be as good as they once were, but he did like to share the lodge with Heavy Shield Woman. They could live together, grow old together" (Welch 244). Although Yellow Kidney once escapes from the reality, he is desperate to dwell again because of his family. Further, the story of this leader explains that there is a time period for self-reflection; it is too late for him to react. Having a similar sense, Fools Crow is another character who considers family as his dwelling.
Fools Crow misses his family and the peace of Lone Eaters, the camp where he belongs, when he is away from home seeking for Fast Horse. He becomes mature and begins to think of family, especially after Red Paint tells him that they are going to have a child (Welch 236). Fools Crow grows from a young teenager to a brave man who carries all the responsibilities after he succeeds from the raid. His little family has become the place where he dwells. From his sense of family to his respect to Boss Ribs by finding his son, Fools Crow has developed his thoughtful mind. "He thought of the many times Boss Ribs had opened the Beaver Medicine, how the people came to him in despair and left with hope in their hearts, how the young ones learned the ways of the old rituals by observing him and his sacred helpers, how the unhealthy ones gained strength through the medicine. "I will look for him," said Fools Crow" (Welch 202). Fools Crow is able to recognize Boss Ribs' kind work. He decides to do Boss Ribs a favor because he cares about his people. Fools Crow not only sees family as his dwelling, but he also sees Lone Eaters, his home place, as his dwelling because of the peace there. He enjoys living in a quiet area where no trouble will be found. Unlike Yellow Kidney and Fools Crow who own a sense of dwelling, Fast Horse is a contrasting character in Fools Crow.
Fast Horse finds that Lone Eaters has nothing to offer him, and the world outside is more appealing. "The thought of hunting, of accumulating robes, of the constant search for meat seems pointless to him. There were easier ways of gaining wealth" (Welch 193). Fast Horse has a lot of excuses to show his firm decision on departure. Among the four characters, Fast Horse is the only one who is running away from his dwelling. He demanded freedom as well as fame. By fooling Yellow Kidney and making him mutilated, Fast Horse has lost his face in the town. It is his guilt and cowardice that lead him to leave his tribe. Moreover, Fast Horse has the ambition to seek for something new. His unwillingness to stay in one place makes him a different character in Fools Crow.
Most people find that dwelling is about hometown, family, and friends. However, some people, such as Fast Horse, have different opinion on dwelling. They do not prefer dwelling, or they are forced to leave their dwelling. They are like nomads. By the stories of the four main characters, it is known that the sense of dwelling rarely changes through centuries; Socrates was born in 469BC in Greece (Hooker). The story of Fools Crow takes place in 1870 in America (Welch). I was born in China in 1990. About 2500 years ago, Socrates already felt a sense of dwelling in prison. These facts show that the sense of dwelling is universal without time period. In addition, dwelling can never disappear because everyone needs a place to settle down. Nobody can travel around all the time. In my opinion, those without dwellings have worse and shorter lives than those who have dwellings. If one has the option to pick a place for dwelling, where would that place be?
- Anderson, Albert A. Plato's Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. Minneapolis: Agora Publications, Incorporated, 2005.
- Heidegger, Martin. "Building Dwelling Thinking." Building Dwelling Thinking. 25 Sept. 2008. Athenaeum Library of Philosophy. <http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com /heidegger7a.htm>.
- Hooker, Richard. "Socrates." Greek Philosophy. 23 Sept. 2008. Washington State University. 1996 <http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/greece/socrates.htm>.
- Welch, James. Fools Crow. New York: Penguin Books, Limited, 1987.