To Long and Belong


Is longing a part of belonging? Etymologically this seems very questionable, yet it is worth contemplating whether there is a connection between the two sentiments.

When you are away from the place you belong you will often be beset by longing, be homesick. So longing is a litmus test for belonging. And since you are not homesick when you are home it would seem that actual belonging excludes longing. Contentment might, in a sense, be the anti-thesis of longing. Supporting evidence of this might be a popular perspective on sex, namely that it is the act, not the gratification, that is the true attraction. That is the Trump syndrome – as he has explained in more detail than anybody wanted.

The result of sex is said to be the little death. Scale up this perspective and you have life as sex writ large and death as the ultimate ’satisfaction’. The joy of expectation is then the greatest joy, and satisfaction ultimately unappealing or disappointing. This I find a most unsettling and displeasing perspective! Is all joy truly just the pursuit of chimeras? When you belong you no longer long? Surely life is much more than just a path to death!

The issue becomes one of what satisfaction means. Perhaps it is impossible to strive for something you already possess. But surely it is not impossible to enjoy intensely that which we possess, even if we often forget to do so. I do not believe for a moment that enjoyment and striving are complete synonyms. Striving is an essential part of the human condition, but that does not mean that the only locus of pleasure is the chasing of pleasure. The joy of expectation is not the greatest joy. It might be a great joy, but not the greatest. Der Weg ist nicht das Ziel. The path is not the destination. What is true is that the path is part of the destination; that satisfaction embraces the effort to get there – celebrates the joy of expectation whilst having arrived! And, importantly, satisfaction integrates in the present both the joy of the past and joy to come. Satisfaction celebrates achievement, and past and future joy of expectation. Happiness is a mid-point!

Also belonging  involves path and destination; thus if you are really good at belonging you celebrate in one go the path that took you there, being there, and a future that will take you to ever deeper belonging. The path will take you to a continuum of destinations, all longed for and all reached! Belonging is a constant dialogue with longing.

Our day and age are awash in the ephemeral and our emotional investment profiles tend to be short term. Yet, the wise investor knows that the true reward is in the long term, and that nothing compares to true belonging! It is no coincidence that Warren Buffett, the most famous of long term investors, has lived in Omaha almost all his life!

True belonging needs the ephemeral, but the ephemeral has only value within a structure of belonging – when it is seed in beloved soil!



Much more on this in my book and in my blog posts ‘The Time of Tradition! ’ and ‘The Rounded Life’.

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