…our longing to be and Goodnight Moon…

“Feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavor and human creation.” — Albert Einstein

In my last blog, I identified two meanings for the word “belong” – 1.  to be part of something, and 2. to have a feeling of ownership.  Today, I want to add a third meaning:  “a longing to be.” 

You might be wondering: “Why is this third meaning important?”  If we are part of something and if we have a feeling ownership, what’s added by this “longing to be”?  

Peter Block (who writes about belonging) added this third meaning  because it illustrates how trust happens.  

He writes that belonging “is our capacity to be present and discover our authenticity and whole selves.” Trust happens because our “longing to be” realizes our belonging.  We become part of something and take ownership in some larger vision which then motivates and energizes us.  We sense the rightness of our “longing” because we discover ourselves in it. 

Yesterday, I read an article in the Boston Globe.  It was about the prevalence of critics who attack anything — even the most banal objects.  In this case “the object” was the book, “Goodnight Moon,” a childhood classic about saying “goodnight” to all the objects in a particular child’s bedroom.

And I couldn’t help but feel sad. 

Here was a classic about how children exercise their imaginative belonging, and, for some, the story created anger and distrust.  To these critics, there was something “false” about what the book was doing.  They rejected the imaginative state of belonging which runs throughout.

“Goodnight bears | Goodnight chairs | Goodnight kittens | And goodnight mittens.”  Children count themselves “in” because they learn to imaginatively recognize and “picture” the world around them.  Trust happens because they come to realize their belonging in the world – even when it’s imaginatively constructed. 

And I’m not surprised. 

Critics always assume that  “joining” is less important than “opposing” — especially if one is opposing a popular position.  How else can independence be asserted? 

Critics often complain that opinions offer nothing of substance anyway.   “We make it up.”  We project an identification, or we project an opposition to an identification.  And either way, whatever our opinion adds is arbitrary.  It has nothing to do with the object. … it makes no difference … it’s irrelevant …

Or is it?  … Can trust “happen” without it?

For just a moment, put aside your emotions. Try and be completely neutral.

Now look around.  Look at each object.   You didn’t make the chair, or the bear, or the kittens or the mittens.  You didn’t make any of these things.  But you can count yourself in.  You can put yourself – inside – the neutral image you create.  You can still be that child who discovers his belonging — by accepting the longing to be part of something, the longing to be part of a greater whole and to imaginatively believe that the “whole” is so much larger than anything you might create. 

Even neutrality depends on imagination. Even neutrality requires participation and belonging, and the willingness to be engaged by a larger vision — even neutrality is imaginatively constructed.

Albert Einstein wrote that “Feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavor and human creation.”  What he didn’t say is that being part of something and taking ownership offers us a picture of ourselves – a glimpse of our “longing to be.” And that without that… trust simply cannot happen. 

Thanks for listening!


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