Tree trunks set against distant canopies

Belonging & believing

Does society need us to believe in it? To believe that we’re valued, not just materially but also personally – that our lives are important and everything going on within them plays vital roles in sustaining or enriching the life of our community. This sense in which all that we do feeds into this vast, convoluted tapestry of our shared lives together; everything mattering and meaning something at the points it inevitably hits home.

Almost as if society might benefit from us believing our presence was valuable and made all the difference. That we weren’t replaceable, interchangeable masses so much as individuals making their own unique contributions through every little thing that we do. That those around us care deeply about our wellbeing, everyday experiences, and all we’re undertaking for the sake of the whole. That everything “counts”.

Equally, perhaps, “we” need to believe our lives hold meaning. That, despite no one seeing or noticing, all the details of our daily existence matter for how they make us feel and for the ways they serve to uphold the many threads that go into making up “society”. Invisible as those ties and connections may be, what are we doing if it’s not somehow helping our lives run more smoothly?

Community may be something seemingly arbitrary – something we’re born into without perhaps asking, while those around us perhaps never asked that we’re here – but isn’t that its very nature? That it’s something emerging from the sum of its parts; something essentially constructed and held together by the sense we have of belonging and the needs which arise from humans living together and sharing the load.

How is that relationship to work if we don’t believe we belong or believe our participation matters? If we’re thinking that no one cares, nobody notices and nothing we do ultimately makes a difference then what kinds of life will we lead? If we’re thinking “all this” is simply some twisted joke where we might give of our time, energy and intention but be treated only as invisible cogs in the machine then how would we feel?

Isn’t this a relationship that needs, in some way, to be warm? That we’d feel ourselves engaged in something meaningful and purposeful yet also heartfelt – all our disparate activities coming together in a crescendo to forge the appreciative embrace of people mutually providing all that’s needed as best we’re able. Each person playing their part, offering their all, and taking only what they truly require.

Often, though, it’s seeming strangely cold and transactional: as if we’re all arranged in detached independence fulfilling the obligations of some loosely defined contract while yelling at others to do the same. Each person perhaps mainly being valued on the basis of qualities that are so largely determined by circumstances quite beyond our control. As if we really were all just anonymous, replaceable entities.

What is the “right” picture to have in mind about our ties to one another and the value of our collective efforts?

Notes and References:

How would we like to live?
Lacking the human side of community?
Valuing people more
What does community mean?
Rich complexity of human being
Understanding what we’re all part of
Integrity and integration

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