Where Do I Belong?
In a previous post (Belonging), I talked about our desire to belong. Many of us find our identity and sense of belonging through family, religion, race, and often – location…where we are born, where we live, or our family’s country of origin. Humans survived as part of a clan so our desire to be a part of something is inborn.
So what does Maya Angelou mean when she says, “You are only free when you realize you belong no place — every place”?
What Separates Us
The exact thing that gives us our identity and sense of belonging, is also what separates us from each other. When I say I’m American… that separates me from people from other countries. We are proud to be American or French or Russian. There are characteristics that comes with being born and raised in one country or another. No country is better, we’re just different. We say with pride that we are Italian, Chinese or Indian.
The problem is that when we own that identity completely, we see ourselves as different. We compare. My government is better, my sports team is better, our food is better, etc. A little of this is great. Pride in heritage is important. Too much “nationalism” ( a feeling of superiority over other countries) leads to huge problems.
Belonging No Place/Every Place
When Angelou says we belong ‘no place’ and ‘every place,’ I believe she means that we can choose to see ourselves first as citizens of the world, citizens of a particular country, second. By acknowledging, for example, our sameness in our…
- love for our family and friends
- desire for safety
- desire for the feeling that we are contributing to our own well-being
This way we look first at our connection (vs. our separation). Angelou wants us to look beyond those borders, traditions and habits. We don’t abandon them, we just see ourselves as part of the human race first.
Benefits of Belonging No Place/Every Place
It seems as though we are seeing more disasters, hurricanes, fires, floods. In catastrophic times, ‘borders’ fall away. The bigot accepts help from the minority. The “illegal” American risks her life to save others. The transgender soldier steps in bravely to assist those who would, under other circumstances, condemn them.
If we take a minute, every day, to identify ourselves as citizens of the world first, I believe we’d find the world a more welcoming and equitable place.
Image Credit: Motivational