Belonging (unfinished)

I have always wanted to belong.  I’ve given different words to the desire– home, rootedness, community– but they all describe the same thing: a desire to feel on the inside of something, connected to something close-knit, loved and accepted into a common circle.

I fail at belonging.

I have experienced belonging in many different contexts and communities, but only flashes of it– I have failed at true belonging, which requires one to “be long” in a given community.  And yet I still want to belong, probably more than anything else.

I tell myself that, but it is not really true.  The truth is that it is not hard to belong.  If I really wanted to belong somewhere, anywhere, I would.  Any one of the collection of places where I have glimpsed flashes of belonging, I could have stayed and truly belonged, if only I would take it fully upon myself.  All it takes to belong, I have realized, is to subscribe fully to all the details of a given community, to take on a community/ place/ culture/ group as one’s own, to be more fully present there than anywhere else.  The reason I have not belonged anywhere is because I am not really searching for belonging.  I am searching for belonging and truth.

The primitive part of me, which evolved over millions of years from ancestors that lived in complex social groups and created ritual and religion to make sense of the world and their place in it, that part cries out to belong in a well-defined community, in which truth is not so important as the meaning we make of it.  The other part of me, the part which evolved over the past 25 years into a rational INTP, thinks that belonging is not even a meaningful goal for me.  That my station is not in the places of belonging themselves but in the spaces between them.  That I’m destined to be without a home, peripatetic, wandering not with my feet but with my allegiances and attentions, always searching.  That perhaps my real goal is not to find the place where I belong, but to know all the places where I don’t belong, and to love all of them, gathering up all the strands of beauty along the way.

Always, I have been searching for truth.  When I was a Christian, and even afterwards, I thought that there would be one big Truth, and when I found it, there would be a gathering place, and there I would belong.  This is why I have not belonged anywhere– because I have not been willing to take the truth of any one place and hold it above all other truths, leaving the rest behind or rendering them less important.

There is not one big Truth but lots of little truths, and they are scattered across the landscape of belonging.  Each place of belonging has its truth, and each has its falsehood, and some truths skitter like tumbleweed in the places where none gather, where there is nothing to belong to.  And that is where I belong.

***

(October 2010)

Belonging has always been a major theme for me.  I never quite got around to finishing this piece, and now I never will, because I no longer have the same perspective about belonging that I did at the time.

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