Habitation vs. Occupation

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Wayfaring, I believe, is the most fundamental mode by which living beings, both human and non-human, inhabit the earth. By habitation I do not mean taking one’s place in a world that has been prepared in advance for the populations that arrive to reside there. The inhabitant is rather one who participates from within in the very process of the world’s continual coming into being and who, in laying a trail of life, contributes to its weave and texture.

Tim Ingold – “Lines: a Brief History”

In his book, Tim Ingold points out a contrast I have not considered before, that between habitation and occupation.
I talk a lot about inhabiting a space, its processes, its functions, and its formal outcomes, but it never occurred to me that habitation might not be the only way to dwell. Ingold talks about occupation as having a structured system of dwellings prepared in advance for future tenants to occupy, as another form by which the line that “goes out for a walk” differs from that which connects two destinations with no interest in the space between. Or simply, the difference between organic, motion-created lines and the straight line (with which Hundertwasser was also thoroughly displeased, calling it “unnatural”).
I disagree with Ingold’s all-encompassing duality between the wayfaring line and the connecting line, since I can think of connecting lines that in fact are part of wayfaring, i.e. the brain’s neural system. To be precise, and more to the point, the new information I encountered in his book created a connection in my brain (experienced as a straight line) that enabled me to understand (and not just add information) that there is a difference between habitation and occupation that I myself experienced. This revelation gave a name to my living in rentals, thus expanding my understanding of the subject. If wayfaring is following a path as I discover it, step by step, then new understanding is just another step on my way. And to be sure, Ingold doesn’t just talk about physical lines drawn on maps or on the back of an envelope, he discusses mental (or experiential) lines as well, though he makes no effort in separating them into their own categories, which leaves room for more research. I haven’t yet read his later book on lines, so I might be biting my fingertips for this later on.
I agree, however, that wayfaring is the process by which habitation creates an intersecting web of lines (pathways) that are the body’s way of relating to the space around it. A night-time respite in the loft, followed by a trip to the bathroom, steps towards the towel, steps into the kitchen, around the armchair and the spinning wheel, a little dance in place in front of the stove, a back and forth with the fridge, then towards the stairs where I eat breakfast. After breakfast, a pacing in the kitchen, straightening up, thinking of the day’s tasks, replacing them with more pressing or more enjoyable endeavors, then off to do the first thing on the list, whether in the woodshop or the studio. The morning and evening have attached routines that vary to a small degree, negotiating the terrain in and outside the home made house. Mid-day is always a mystery, with wayfaring lines that stretch to nearby towns sometimes, yet always come back.
In contrast, occupying a space that was owned by someone else, regulated by someone else’s expectations, simply made me feel like I had to tiptoe from bedroom to kitchen, make as little noise as possible and leave no traces. Then out the door, where I felt more comfortable, less constrained than indoors, where I could take my time and make my own choices, travel by paths that I could modify at any time and arrive at destinations with having experienced the way there.
I don’t mean to say that this duality is absolute. There are always complications and excrescences to the rule because these are experiential webs, and experience varies wildly with awareness or lack thereof. I’m sure there are people who feel thoroughly at home in dwellings they rent, as I’m sure that they’ve consciously or otherwise tried to customize their rented space in ways that brought back memories of spaces with which they felt more kinship, like a childhood home.

Sometimes, one chooses to inhabit the memory of a home instead of their actual dwelling. In this case, do the lines they follow each day along their place belong to the memory or to the space? Or is the memory a dimension that exists within the body’s relationship to space (perhaps the memory is the body’s entire relationship to its space). In that case, are wayfaring lines the only connection between actual space and mental space? And what does it mean if wayfaring lines connect? Are they both organic and straight? Or is the organic nature their form, and their function, straight?

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