About a week ago I saw the film Green Book and like a gnat flying around my ears there is a burning question that has stayed with me. There is a scene in the film where the protagonist, Dr. Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), after getting into a situation with the cops is deeply frustrated with how he is saved by his driver, Tony Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen).
He exclaims: "WHERE DO I BELONG?!!"
We come to understand that he inhabits this place between two worlds. The white world of dominant, privileged culture and classical music where he performs and makes his living and the black world of his ancestors and the people suffering under Jim Crow laws.
BUT ... his question is not a black or white question. Nor is it a gay, straight or trans question or even a male or female question ... it is A UNIVERSAL QUESTION OF THE HUMAN CONDITION! Every one of us has found ourselves in situations where we felt we did not belong. Cultures have expressions for this. In Japan you don't want to be "the nail that stands out from the others (or else you'll be hammered down) and in France to not belong is to have "your ass between two chairs."
Humans, by our very nature, are tribal. We want to belong to a group. And belonging has comfort. It also has drawbacks. For myself, I have often felt that belonging felt like being on a RR track. The path was clear and set out before me, but very little room for deviation. The older I get the more I realize that I don't have to rely on tracks already laid. I can be the RR Company and lay my own track. The second path is much more uncomfortable, but it fulfills powerfully on the question "where do I belong" because the answer comes from a deeply connected spiritual place.
BUT .. and here again ... the question is not just where do I belong, but where to go? How do we answer these deep and profound questions of existence? The film had some answers for Dr. Shirley. For him it was the courage to challenge accepted norms of behaviour and break down stereotypes. However, the film offered no advice however on how to ask the questions and develop the courage to do that.
The message I received in meeting is simple but rings true: I BELONG WHERE I AM NOW.
Before we can assess where to go, who we are, what there is to do, and how to lay down new track -- we must start with the accepting the present and getting absolutely clear on what it is and what it is not. My sense about the feeling of belonging is that we are deeply disconnected from who we are right now. It is so easy to go on auto pilot traversing weeks and years in the same rut. If we can become grounded in what is, accept that, welcome that, and embrace that ... then maybe it is possible to take a leap from there to somewhere else. New trajectories can open once we start to awaken.
In the film, Tony gets connected to who he is in a deeply personal way. Through that connection he is able to develop compassion, but also the courage to confront his own racism. Every one of us has that same opportunity. All it takes is the willingness to BE and a willingness TO LOOK.
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