What does that mean?
As David Whyte discovers in his extraordinary book ‘Crossing the Unknown Sea’, we feel the gravitational pull towards the centre of our being the more we begin to live following the truth of who we are.
We are living in a time when our sense of who we are and the bigger, truly existential question, of where do we belong, to what and whom, grows more urgent.
Does belonging depend upon the colour of our skin, our religion born into and/or chosen, our class, status, income bracket? Does it ripple out from the families we create and choose? Our vocation, careers, work? How we invest our time? Where we place our attention, a laser beam of luxury, freedom and privilege where we can pick at, like a buffet, and serve ourselves plates of what feels familiar, comforting and safe.
Is it enough to say we belong to the human race anymore? And then look away, busy ourselves with matters closer to home, half blinded by the understandable helplessness that strikes another human. Another life. Another world.
What does it mean to belong?
By simply being born, and that’s a whole other story or stories, we are part of a conversation of belonging to life each other and the world. By who we are. By the words that we speak. By the actions we take. The course we traverse willingly or with great grudge. By the work that we do. By the art, words, and expression that we offer. It’s all a part of the great living conversation. The conversation of belonging.
When we do not add to this conversation, for fear of the repercussions, we live a life crouched down, a life squinted and misshapen. We cower away, not desiring to rock the boat, the ocean liner, that carries us on the greater voyage of belonging, destination unknown. The boat marked ‘in this together’.
As we hide our faces, our hands covering us like that oh so innocent game we played as kids, you know the one, I cant see you so you cant see me, we peep out from between the gaps in our fingers, digits acting as prison bars, caged by our own reluctance to face our rage. At the injustices. At the horrific. At the heartbreak. At that which we struggle to comprehend. At the innate fear that lives as a seed, a nuclear bomb seed, threatening a time bomb of outburst, of pent up, pushed back, and pulled down, proclamations.
What we don’t say turns to atoms of destruction. What we don’t allow ourselves to feel, all of that bruised hurt, the pain of this unfathomable and, often, unfair life, we disown. Either swallowed down like slow releasing capsules of cyanide, rotting us and destroying us over time, or fired outwards, launched like military missiles, fucking up anything that happens to be in its way.
I believe that violence is self hatred turned outwards. For all of our limpid clinging affirmations of self love, there lies the great shadow. The shadow of self hatred.
We all carry this. Tucked away in the nooks and crannies. Leaking out its venom in small indecipherable ways day by day, mostly undetected. Maybe you only have a homeopathic amount left, so much excavated by the journey back to truth, back to the gravitas of sitting in the centre of your belonging. True belonging. The centre of your own gravity.
But most of us are still learning how. How to hold this self hatred, like a child, someone’s child, or your own.
And many of us have no idea that we carry it, a virus so insidious that it can only destroy, us mercy to its master.
I dont know what the answer is.
Maybe there’s a place to voice the self hatred that we carry in the pockets of our muscle, weighing us down, our faces like the twits. To have the courage to own where hatred boils in boils, pimped over time and ignorance, privilege and power, pimples ready to be squeezed to release.
To stand naked and bear truth. The good the bad and the ugly. And to do so so we witness each other. Hear each other. Standing in our own shit and not hurling it like a petrol bomb towards another. Standing in the realness and honesty of being human.
Maybe true belonging is our ability to do this. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.
We all carry the capacity to hurt each other. It’s how we’re made. It does not excuse any behaviour to knowingly and cruelly do so. But maybe if we could bear our capacity for cruelty, for hatred, for violence, for unkindness, we can find our way back to belonging. Back to the paradox and truth of being human. It may be that we’ve lost the art of remembering that. That we are all born into the great conversation of belonging. And that each and every one of our voices matter.
Use your voice. Speak your truth. Make your art. Express who you are. Drop the hiding. Take the risk. Bow to your shadow. Rock the boat. Belong to your centre of gravity. Be part of the conversation. Stand naked. Find your way back, to life, to the world, to each other.