J’ai des amis à découvrir et beaucoup de choses à connaîtreAntoine de Saint-Exupéry Le Petit Prince
Yesterday as I drove down the highway, I noticed lots of butterflies dancing in the air on the sides of the roads, over fields and buildings and above the cars. I don’t know if it’s the warm summer rain that’s brought them out or if it’s just butterfly season here in the subtropics.
The butterflies reminded me of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s theory of floating ideas: how ideas are swirling around us, each looking for a conduit, a way onto the page of a writer or artist. We can have lots of ideas but unless we are open and work to move them forward, fearlessly without concern for the judgment of others, they will stay just that: ideas.
The Belonging Blog started out a simple idea that has fascinated me for decades. Then a year ago it took more concrete shape as a meandering question about my own belonging and an attempt to understand Australia. I didn’t know where it would go or if it would go at all.
Part of me wondered if, after living in four countries, belonging wasn’t possible anymore. Part of me had already decided I didn’t want to belong to that part of Western society where entitlement and materialism and exclusion are the norm. Belonging had become as elusive as trying to hold the powdered beauty of a dark-winged butterfly.
The thing is that belonging is not simply about me. Or you. Belonging has the expansive arms of a rainbow. In order to truly belong, we need to connect with something greater than ourselves. Some people will be drawn to landscape, others to music, the embrace of a mother, or the comfort of a stray dog. If we choose to look, the possibilities are spread before us like Babette’s Feast.
More people now than ever before are like me: moving and immigrating to other countries. Many, like me, have chosen to do so. Many have been forced. As this population of global migrants grows, it seems to me that now is the time to reach out in belonging to The Universal Other. That Other could be someone you meet in a chocolate shop or the grocery line, a refugee, or a neighbour you’ve never talked with.
So that’s what I’ll be doing this year. I’ll be reaching out and talking with people who are working to make a difference in their community, city or country. We’ll be chatting over Skype, over a cup of mint tea, across oceans and borders, religions and cultures about their personal belonging. Each person will focus on their own nuggets of belonging, those rare moments when everything feels aligned. We’ll look at how we are all similar even in our difference.
In the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing from a Syrian radio producer, a Canadian writer and a Swiss-Australian academic and writer, and an Australian artist among others. They come from all over and they gather here, together, to share their intimate moments of belonging.
I’ll also be rolling out a snazzy new website that’s easier for all of us to navigate. We’ll have the blog, interviews, book and movie reviews, and you’ll be able to follow my journey as I guide refugee and migrant children through creative writing and learn from them.
It’s all about belonging.
And for me, belonging is about giving and learning.
I’ve got friends to discover and many things to learn,
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince