Belonging

Sunday, November 22, 2020

 1.        

On our walk this morning in Elm Grove Cemetery, I took this photo,

and later, as I looked carefully at it, everything seemed to fit in perfectly right where it was, and the word ‘belong’ came to mind. I saw a peaceful harmony among all the parts – pebbles, old leaves, a misshapen sign, the river with a few floating birds, and the far off trees and sky, all belonging together. Later, sitting with Delycia in the sunroom, that sense of belonging, of togetherness, was even more noticeable as we sat surrounded by assorted plants and blossoms and footstools and pencils and tables and tissues, all seeming like perfect partners with us. We all belonged there in the sunroom, together, a good-as-it-gets group. Nothing was unseemly or out of place, just as the battered sign and humdrum pebbles were not out of place beside the serene Mystic River and under the boundless sky. I guess the truth is – and I’ve felt this again and again over the years – that everything always belongs. This is a universe of belonging, of connection, of fellowship. I, and all of us, have friends literally everywhere, friends called people and stones and trees and even terrific storms, all working in partnership to keep everything moving with ease along fellowship’s trails. I’m afraid I don’t usually notice this confederation of friendship in life, but it’s there – the universal kinship among absolutely all of creation, a ‘belonging’ which rules the universe. 

2.

When I was teaching, I often heard teachers say to a student something like, “You have a mind of your own,” but I’ve gradually come to wonder if students, or any of us, actually do. Saying that students have a mind of their own implies that they “own” their thoughts, that they somehow created their thoughts by themselves and therefore have sole possession of them. It’s as if there are thousands of distinct physical things called “thoughts” in each student’s brain, all of which are rightfully the property of that student. More and more, that seems to me to be an inaccurate view of the way things actually are. We don’t own our thoughts any more than one part of the sky owns a breeze that’s passing through it. Thoughts constantly come to us, move around in our minds, mix with other thoughts that are passing through, and then they all eventually relocate to other people, usually through our own words, but sometimes through our actions or even gestures. Certainly remnants of each thought are left behind with us, but then parts of these remnants mix with newly entering thoughts and eventually move along to other minds. How, then, can we say that any of our thoughts are really “ours”. Have we actually created from scratch a single thought in our entire lives, or have all the thoughts simply drifted into and through us from far distant places? Perhaps our thoughts got their start long ago in persons we’ll never know, and, by odd, meandering paths, in due course made their way to my students and me in English class. If that’s true, then none of us actually  has a “mind of our own”. Our thoughts don’t belong to us, but rather we merely borrow them for awhile, sooner or later to send them on their way for others to enjoy.

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