You Shall Have Homes, N.C. Wyeth (1928)
The ache to belong in friendship and community can be so pervasive that it colours everything we do. We, the many who have been orphaned from our ancestors’ soil and the teachings of their stewarding ways, have but this meagre scratch to start with.
Distant now from the generations of escaping and forgetting, this yearning to belong blinks in and out of our quiet moments like a faint, but constant signal muffled by the fog of modernity. We have hundreds of virtual friends but know nothing of what they grieve, how they suffer or what arouses their love.
Author & Soul Activist Francis Weller says there is a part of us that expected, when we emerged from our mother’s womb, to find 40 pairs of eyes anticipating our arrival. Indeed, we are missing those 40 pairs of eyes throughout our lives. It isn’t so much that something important is missing from us, but that we are missing from something important.
This deep longing for community may drive us to join established groups, but so often this means blunting our true and growing size in order to fit in. We soon come to realise that to live in a diminished state is no better than being adrift.
So what can we feed these hungry ghosts? Where can we go to find our people? Who will finally recognize our beauty and call us Necessary? Filled with these questions, life can become, as Llama Surya Das describes, like a dinner party at which everyone is silently asking, “What about me!?”
Painting by Max Ginsburg
But what if we aren’t meant to do away with our longing at all? What if we are meant, as the poet John O’Donohue puts it, to let our absences enlarge our lives. What if the longing itself is the calling homeward? Just as grief shows us what we love most, we can follow our longing into the meaningful life we so crave.
A wise teacher once told me that the greatest spiritual practice he knows is to discover what you are most missing in your life – and then give that thing away. In other words, take your meagre scratch of a life, which knows too little about everything big, and make of it an offering.
Where you long for the friend who calls only to find out if you’re well, be that caller for another. Where you long for eloquent prayers to be made of everyday things, let your own clumsy words bless your meals out loud. Where you wish for ritual under the moons, be the one who holds the heartbeat of gathering. Where you ache to be recognized, allow yourself to be seen. Where you long to be known, sit next to someone and listen for the apertures into what they love. Where you wish you felt necessary, give those gifts away.
Rather than a disappointed wanting to belong, this is the practice to Be The Longing. Maybe it will take a lifetime, or maybe only the young ones who come up around you will feel the benefits, or maybe it will sneak up on you in a sudden moment, as you sit feasting with your loved ones, that you belong to this beauty you’ve made of your life.