I found this image on Tumblr the other week and really liked what it said. “Belong to where you are.”
But since then, it has started to bug me. What does this even mean? Obviously it is cueing into a very base human need to belong, but it is also being very specific to whom and where we are to belong. Should we always belong where we are? Or should we only be where we belong? Is belonging even a conscious choice?
This simple statement is a rabbit hole in disguise. A rabbit hole I did not find the bottom of, but just decided to put it to rest. There is no way to know the intention of such a statement especially when scrawled up on a wall. Perhaps there was no intention but to cause questions (which is kind of cheap if you ask me). But in the end, I do not think we can always belong where we are; sometimes that is just a simple impossibility. I most definitely think that we should not only be where we belong. There is just too much richness and growth to go where we don’t belong; not to mention that sometimes it is just plain fun. Lastly, the question of belonging being a choice hung me up the most. The truth is that there are lots of choices surrounding belonging. We can choose to be a part of a group or not; but the group can also choose if you are accepted or not. There are choices being made all over the place. They just may not always be your choice. It really just comes back to basic ideas of community. We choose to be a part of a community and the community chooses to allow us. All of this is usually quite unspoken and can be rather cryptic. I believe we should belong where we are, if given the choice. If a substantial part of our living is lived in a particular location or with a particular group then we should do what we can to belong.
But ultimately I feel that the big question is, “What is belonging?”or “How do you belong?” I can not even pretend to have the answers to these questions but, as you might have guessed, I do have some thoughts.
Belonging springs from needs and the fulfillment of those needs. To belong to a community is to simultaneously have our needs fulfilled while fulfilling the needs of others. But this is just the starting point. The difference in a community and a market is that a community shares more than just needs. We can belong to markets and this idea of needs and fulfillment would be settled, but I think this statement is speaking directly to the idea of community. Is belonging to a market something we should aspire to? Or something to encourage others toward? Is it something worth scribbling up on a wall for all to see? I don’t think so. In our world of technology and global enterprise it has become quite possible to have our need fulfilled and fulfill the needs of other without “belonging”. This is why there is so much talk of being connected but alone (see more here). What we want; what we miss is community. We need prolonged personal interaction and relationship. I don’t think these interactions and relationships have to be in person or in the same geographical region necessarily. Technology has opened new possibilities for this (though this comes with its own set of issues). I know, I know, how postmodern of me, but relationships are relationships and to some degree whether they are face to face or face to screen, we can know and be known through technology (but of course there is always the issue of trust and believing what you are seeing).
This idea of belonging to and building up communities is something that is on our minds a lot. As individuals and as a company, we see our communities, our people, our relationships critical to what we do. We are not just talking about people to buy our stuff, that is just a market. We need people to keep us alive, motivated, and excited about what there is to come. Left on our own we easily slip into a death spiral of naval gazing and self-congratulatory projects. Our community, our belonging keeps us grounded in real lives; the lives of those to whom we belong and belong to us. If that is not motivation and inspiration I don’t know what is. We create in concrete because of people and those people’s needs and wants.
Anyway, we want to belong; belong to a community not a market. Markets come and go. They are always being redefined according to cash flow and efficiency. We do not want to be seen as a market and we do not want to see people as markets. So when it is all said and done, all we have left is belonging to one another and trying to figure out what that really looks like.
Photo Credit: Ant1_G via Compfight cc