The tide of belonging
11 December 2015
Isn’t it strange how one’s sense of identity and belonging takes shape – never at once and never fully formed? Neither is it an incremental progress, as we might think. It doesn’t come in equal installments, spread across time and space. Nor does it grow, like an onion with multiple layers, as in Gunter Grass’ famous metaphor. Instead, it seems to come in waves – ebb and flow without a clear timetable. The self as a pseudo-scientific mechanism of revolving doors, somewhat similar to Borges’ system of mirrors, ad infinitum.
There is metaphysical pain associated with such an irregular tide, and there are social implications too. In ancient times, the Greeks had something called a “resident alien” (metic) in Athens: someone who lived in the polis, even on a permanent basis, without ever becoming its citizen, and who could not own property there. Aristotle was a metic in Athens. In his ethics, he talks about moral virtues (of character) and intellectual virtues (of the intellect). Of these, he considers the latter supreme – especially wisdom, understood as contemplative reason. And yet, ethics to him is something related to character, which can be learnt and trained; children would start learning morality from a young age, in the hope that they can get better at it by the time they reach the age when it matters; so how can the supreme ethical virtue be an intellectual one? I wonder if Aristotle’s view of morality may have been influenced by his status as a metic. There is something uncertain in his views, a continuous to and fro between practice and contemplation – sophrosyne and theoria.
Sometimes, you can see something better from a distance.
I too find identity, belonging and how they take shape to be very strange (as well as interesting). The sense of belonging is surely a basic human need and it is something that we all crave and seek.
To me, the feeling of belonging is found when one finds other people that they have something in common with.
I have found myself thinking a lot about how one’s craving for the sense of belonging takes shape when one travels or moves abroad.
I’ve noticed that sharing a nationality seems to be something that truly brings people together.
Nowadays we live in a very globalized society. A lot of us can speak english and a big part of our culture is very international (people from all over the world listen to the same music, watch the same movies and read the same books).
One might think that this would reduce the weight of one’s national origin and to some degree I’m sure it does. But there still seems to be something special about sharing a nationality with someone.
It’s almost as if the moment you leave your home country, the significance of where you’re from increases drastically. One’s identity suddenly depends on one’s place of birth.
I fully agree that one’s sense of identity and belonging is never fully formed because I think how you perceive yourself depends on environment and community you live in so perceptions might be different concerning different environment and community, so if you travel for example your perceptions can change and you might realise that for the whole of your life you were a metic in your community
I agree with your statement about one’s sense of identity and belonging taking shape. Our identity, wants, desires, and hopes are constantly changing and evolving based on our experiences. Our identity is never fully formed because we are always learning from others and taking risks in life. When we challenge ourselves, we are forming a new sense of resilience and hope for the future. We are able to see exactly what we can handle when we are exposed to different challenges. Our identity and belonging is similar to an onion with multiple layers because depending on what chapter you’re currently on in life, comes with a thicker layer. With every layer, comes different obstacles to face. The challenges you face in college can be totally different then the ones you would face in your 30’s and that is how we are able to continuously grow and change.