Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why We Belong to Things

It is interesting to consider the human tendency to join something greater than oneself. Rebellion is celebrated in this world, and isolation often exalted, but yet most people show a strong desire to belong to something larger than themselves. Why is this? Why are those who pay such strong lip service to the beneficence of loneliness and chaos those who also join movements and causes?

It seems that there is written on the human heart a desire to join with other people. In fact, the natural order of life is programmed so that it is almost impossible not to join with others. There are the sad cases of those who are abandoned at birth and so on, but the vast majority of humanity finds itself belonging right from the get-go. We have no choice. With great pain, we are birthed, and soon after find the arms of our mother and father. We are taken home and raised up, nurtured in a community that prefigures the society we will one day enter. When old enough, we enter school, and there we belong to many things: a particular class, a grade, a group of people, the school itself. We also develop informal associations as we join with friends of like mind to play, talk, and interact. Even those who isolate themselves connect themselves with others who isolate themselves. If one thing is clear about human nature, it is that it is driven to associate.

We see this tendency become especially pronounced in older years. As we move away from school and its association, we adopt interest in sports teams, ethnic identity, and even our workplace, finding in such things our essential being. Many find their self-definition in a religious community. But whether they worship Buddha or Peyton Manning, human beings find something larger with which to connect themselves. Perhaps the ultimate act of defiance, then, is to take oneself out of all communities. More could be said about that, but tomorrow, we'll examine why it is that humans find it so natural to associate. If, that is, you choose to so associate yourself.


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