I don’t often visit my Facebook page, but as I browsed through a list of people I possibly know, people connected to people I have met at various times in my life, I was struck by the connective tissue of life and relationships, and the choices that we make. Thematically dogged by solitude, I have never been successful at untangling my seeming inability to weave my own colorful strand of self into the fabric of community, co-creation, and life. While I know that I am part of it all, I never have been able to fully embrace a sense of belonging. This is the great sorrow of my life. My longing to be embraced, accepted as myself, to be a vibrant member of a community in which I make significant contributions…remains an elusive goal. Nonetheless, I am devoted to love, to growing in love…no matter what the circumstances of my life may bring or may be.
We often find outsiders to be hostile, resentful, angry at the group for the “rejection” that disallows the floating individual from feeling or being fully welcomed into the group. Since today the collective national dialogue is revolving around acts of violence committed by outsiders defined as remote individuals afflicted with possible personality disorders, it is interesting to consider the nature of social fabric and what it means to be an outsider. Personally and from my own experience, I know for a fact that to be an outsider does not make a person an enemy of the group. We are all in charge of our personal ships, of our own emotions, and of our relationship to self and the world. Each and every day, I bring love to my interactions with others, whether it be at my place of work, at the grocery store, behind the wheel of my car. For it is my deepest belief that love is something we own and possess within our own hearts, and that no one can either give it to us or take it away.
So what is it that causes certain individuals to shy away from not only belonging and being recognized by the group, but also from their own love? Is it possible that some children are born without the divine spark of light and love that is the birthright of most of us as human beings? I have mentioned in a previous post a book called “The Sociopath Next Door”, by Martha Stout. To reiterate, the author claims that about one in 24 individuals in any given culture or group possess personality characteristics that tend towards the sociopathic. Certain cultures emphasize the collective value over the importance of the individual, and in these cultures, the sociopath sublimates his own narcissistic tendancies and conforms to collective life. The safety and well-being of the group in this case predominates over personal freedoms of expression. There are many different styles to the sociopath, and many of these individuals tend to be loved, tend to be charming. So it may be concluded that part and parcel of our social fabric and communities are many people who are incapable of love and empathy. These are not the killers we have come to dread, exploding with previously unseen anger and deadly hatred onto groups of innocent and unsuspecting individuals. Many sociopaths are successful business people and politicians, for example. These are professions where a lack of sincerity, good acting skills, or a lack of empathy are beneficial to professional success. Psychic Sylvia Browne claims that evil individuals exist, and that murderers are not always among the evil. As the evil are not always murderers or people that we may suspect as capable of harm.
While most of us are born with the spark of light and love so visible in the eyes and faces of young children, as they softly glow with velvety joy, some people come into the world as forces of destruction, devoid of light and love. Do parents know when they bring in such a child? The movie “We Need To Talk About Kevin”, based on the book of the same name by Lionel Shriver, is a heart-rending and highly disturbing story about a family torn apart by such a being. A loving family is helpless in the face of raising this child, who is constantly oppositional, angry, and manipulative. Yet the family continuously strives to bring the child into the fold, to weave him into the fabric of the family and of his community. They eventually fail, and the family and community are torn apart in bath of blood and terror and destruction. It is a terrible tragedy for everyone when love does not triumph, when love is unable to heal, when an outsider child brings darkness and destruction to the group. Eventually, since the majority of us contain at the very least, a hint of light and love, the group will rally around the tragedy and lean on each other to heal.
In the case of the outsider who is not violent, vindictive, or manipulative, how can healing take place? How can the social fabric expand to accept all of us who are somehow different, somehow not previously defined as acceptable, lovable, usable as members of society? This is the dilemma of human freedom, of the artist, of the need we each carry to be individuals as well as members of a group or community. It is hard to be human all alone. It is also hard to be part of a group, with the harsh judgments and sacrifices that this can involve.
Growing up, I was not given the opportunity to be embraced as my self. If I wanted to remain a part of the group, I was required to sacrifice all of myself. And so this question of belonging and of embodying my true self remains essential to my identity, to the story of my life that I have constructed through my experiences.