“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
— Wallace Stegner (1909–1993)
Disparities in the world come amidst First World and Third World problems as they are juxtaposed. How can the rich Wall Street guy readily identify with a homeless person, and, not so much by way of material affluence, but by way of a sense of belonging in the world? How can even I, a working-to-middle-class male caucasian, even relate with that sense of overall abandonment?
Much more valuable than material affluence is a sense of place, a fit in the world, and an identity that is real and pungent with purpose and meaning. Belonging provides these.
Belonging is not just about connection with people.
It’s about how our world cares for us. Those who are not cared for by the world—think, refugees—will presumably have an abandoned and lonely sense for belonging. They more than just about anyone else will know the importance of home.
Those who miss out comprehend more than those who don’t. This is about belonging, or, in this case, not belonging.
When Belonging Means Well-Being
Belonging, in the present context, is a holistic concept. We know by the way we feel whether we belong or not. Even if others think we belong we may still feel we don’t. Belonging is a very personal idea. It’s often a feeling that’s been informed by unconscious thought borne of our attributions of whether we fit or not.
This gets to the very heart of our situations of well-being.
When we have well-being we honestly believe we belong. A tranquil mind is paired with a contented heart and there is peace in the soul. But how rare is that state?
Rare, perhaps, indeed.
Certainly the beginning of belonging is relational; how we get on and are accepted amongst our peer group, and, better still, amongst our supervisors—and, whether either of these groups, or their members, cares about us or not.
But wherever there is a disconnect between our true heart’s desire—our purpose in life—and our hope to get there, there is a disparity of belonging. Peace will be a difficult thing. More of us are disconnected in these ways than there are those who do feel connected to both their purpose and peer group.
Show Me the Significance in This!
Meeting strangers or even long lost friends can be an uncomfortable experience, until we realise there is almost without doubt a disconnect within them we can have empathy for. If a person has suffered (and how few haven’t!) we expect there is some sense for spiritual abandonment.
The beauty is, these disconnects, once found, are the very points of connection we make in creating meaning for belonging.
We only feel disconnected to other people when we observe them as something perfect. As soon as we see the homeless person in the Wall Street guy we notice his vulnerability, his hard shell melted, and our hard shells melt, also.
Weakness is alluring. We can feel comfortable around the imperfect.
Our points for connection in creating belonging come down to sharing our vulnerabilities. When we open our weaknesses to each other, and we see how dysfunctional we each are, we relax, and we become real people again. Belonging is about being ourselves in the company of our world. Then loneliness fades.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.