Belong

This t-shirt was designed by one of my nephews, either Dorian Bybee or Ben Leffers (I think).
This t-shirt was designed by me.

This is chapter four in the evolving book, Living Consciousness.

Love = feelings of belonging and loyalty to the group.

Fear = the possibility of being cast out or shunned by the group. Fear is present in the background of consciousness if we have either expressed disloyalty to the group, or observed another member of the group being cast out.

In this facet of consciousness, we are concerned with the well being of our family, our group, our country, our religion, because they are ours. The family/clan/gang/ club/team/political party contains the people who matter. Everyone else is an outsider, (maybe even) a non-person, and a potential threat. This inward focus of group members serves to isolate us. The deeper the entrenchment is, the larger the separation from outsiders, human beings who don’t belong to the group. This makes different points of view, new ideas, ways of thinking, and discoveries unavailable to us. Groups living in this facet of consciousness create very powerful feelings of belonging among members, and use symbols and rituals to help establish that. In this facet of consciousness, our life and loyalty belongs to the group.

Sacred words and symbols can invoke this meme in us—they give us a feeling of pride and belonging.  When we sing the national anthem in a stadium filled with the voices of people singing, feelings of belonging can be so great that tears spring to our eyes.  In church, when everyone is singing the familiar hymn, “Amazing Grace,” we might experience that deep sense of belonging. And just imagine the explosion of pride and feelings of belonging for Cub fans during the 7th inning at Wrigley Field, when fans participated in the ritual of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” the night the Cubs won the Series in 2016.  I wasn’t there, but I know the win Cubs fans witnessed caused tears to stream down the faces of all who were present.

It helps me to think of this facet of consciousness as describing all of the following:

  • It is a stage of human development, beginning in childhood that we continuously go through, in every aspect of life, throughout our lives, and because of that, it is also
  • A stage in which an aspect of ourselves can either participate or be stuck, while the dominant part of us lives at a different stage of consciousness;
  • And can be the dominant stage of consciousness expressed by a group, while individual members may be functioning at another stage.
  • And can be used by leaders to call us to express our highest nature in committing acts of care or kindness, or be used to manipulate us into doing unthinkable harm.

Childhood feelings of belonging to my family of origin meant that we eight siblings defended each other fiercely in any situation. It didn’t matter who was right or wrong, we defended our own. When one of my little brothers had his bag of candy stolen while we were trick-or-treating on Halloween night, his older siblings ran after the thief. My older sister caught the little bugger and returned our brother’s bag of candy to him. This kind of loyalty also meant that we never disclosed to anyone the violent behavior that erupted from my dad, as he succumbed to a mental breakdown, no matter how severe his behavior was.

A good example of this kind of fierce loyalty to one’s own group/tribe/family can be seen in the individual Clans of the Scottish Highlanders. A few years ago, I attended the Highland Games in Scotland and witnessed some of this fierce loyalty.  Before the Queen arrived, the announcer requested emphatically over the loud speaker that attendees stand when the Queen entered her private viewing box, and that they sing “God Save the Queen” with robust enthusiasm. Not everyone stood when Queen Elizabeth entered, and the song was sung by most, if somewhat tepidly. I was told that it is the Queen’s favorite yearly event, so I suppose she’s used to that cool reception. The Scottish People are loyal to their own, and it looks like they still resent having an English Monarchy. After she arrived, a thousand or more Clansmen marched into the arena, all dressed and grouped in their individual Clan tartans. Most Clan members were carrying bagpipes, and playing a tune that was both mournful and voluminous—think of it–nearly a thousand bagpipes, playing the same tune! There was, however, one Clan from the Scottish Highlands, Clan MacDonald, in which individual members all carried spears that were twelve feet long and looked extraordinarily fierce as they marched past the Queen’s private viewing box!

When we are primarily expressing life from within another facet of consciousness, most of us will dip into the healthy aspects of Belong to strengthen feelings of belonging and connection with others. Using what we learned in this facet of consciousness, we create family rituals that endure. Examples from my family of origin are that we hold hands and say a prayer of thanks together before Thanksgiving dinner. We also gather together at the family cottage for the July 4th weekend to play together—that’s between 30 and 50 people, all cooking, swimming and playing games with each other. For many years, on Memorial Day weekend, we met at one of my sister’s homes in Southern Indiana for an annual family bike race that was plotted out carefully by my brother-in-law. We had t-shirts made to commemorate the race, designed by artistically inclined family members—one for each year.  I loved the tradition and still have all of my t-shirts. When I wear one of them, it evokes feelings of belonging and love for my family.

We can find tons of healthy examples of this Belong facet of consciousness being expressed by groups of people in our culture. On any given Sunday, we will find people, who very likely live from within a more expanded facet of consciousness, participating in the Sunday morning ritual at church. On Sunday afternoons, we can find huge numbers of people watching favorite teams play in stadiums or on television. We are supplicants together and we are fans together. One of my good friends has the ritual of watching the Packers games together as a family (emphasis on their being together). When one family member wasn’t going to arrive home from a trip until the game had already been played, the family recorded the game and all swore not to watch any part of it until their daughter arrived home that evening. Then they sat down together to cheer their team on and dispute the Ref’s calls!

Watching the Olympic games invokes feelings of pride and belonging. Some of us may even feel a sense of pride and belonging to humanity itself—an experience that weaves us together into one community, striving for physical and mental excellence. Some of those Olympic events create such enormous feelings of belonging that they never leave us. One such event for me was the 800-meter race at the 1972 Summer Olympics when I watched Dave Wottle, who was running in last place, overtake each competitor, one after another to win the gold medal. It was one of the most exciting events I’ve ever watched. I found it on YouTube so I could watch it again. I cried the first time I watched that race and when I saw it again, it still made me cry. 

When leaders call us to express our highest nature in committing acts of care, kindness, or service, this is one of the facets of consciousness they are invoking. On January 20, 1961, in his Inaugural Address, John F. Kennedy said, “…my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” That is the part of his Address that I have always remembered, even though I was just a little kid at the time. It was meaningful to me and evoked feelings of pride and belonging. I didn’t remember the sentence that followed, but I think it’s worth noting here. President Kennedy also said, “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued an Executive Order to establish the Peace Corps as a new agency within the Department of State. Young people from all over the United States followed a call to serve their country in the Peace Corps, and young people continue to do so today.

When leaders reach into and use the unhealthy aspects of this Belong facet of consciousness in us, it can dissolve basic human decency. History provides a record of human beings who have been manipulated into committing unthinkable harm. This is the dynamic that has led to ethnic cleansing and racial violence all over the world, and it continues to do so today. It is the dynamic Hitler used when he set about creating a “pure race” of German people by killing Jewish people and others. At times in United States history, leaders have ennobled the racist KKK and White Supremacy groups. Japanese Kamikaze pilots represented this facet of consciousness during WWII, as did the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11/2001.

One Action to Take Today to Explore Consciousness:

Think about your feelings of belonging and loyalty and what groups these feelings happen within. Do you alter yourself in any way to match the group’s expectations of you? Are you loyal first to yourself and is that reflected in your expression of who you are? What does it feel like in the body to belong to the group? What does it feel like in the body to belong to yourself? Notice if there is a difference.


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