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Australian-born Lithuanian Kristina Dryža is recognised as one of the world’s top female futurists and is also an archetypal consultant and author. Kristina has always been fascinated by patterns for feels we are patterned beings in a patterned universe. She writes and speaks about the patterning of seasonal, tidal, lunar and circadian rhythms and their influence on creativity, innovation and leadership. She also explores archetypes and mythology to perceive the patterns in the collective unconscious and their expression within our psyches, society and media.

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Graphic Novels

Photo by Dainius Dirgėla

 

By Kristina Dryža

 

INTRODUCTION

In 2002 I wrote an article for Tiltas (the British-Lithuanian Society journal) on ‘Why being Lithuanian is so important to me.’ So while in 2020 I could flesh out the initial rough sketch outline, and fill it in with further cultural insights from eighteen years of living, I feel that in light of what’s happening in the world today with COVID-19, that the notion of belonging needs to be explored from a more holistic perspective. Not solely of belonging to a family, a nation, a religion or gender identity, but investigating how we belong to the planet, to our artistic longings, ancestral connections, social norms, and to our very own soul.

The common identity to a nationality gives people a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. But we’re now asked to find something bigger than the nation to belong to – our common humanity. COVID-19 is pointing us all in the same direction – evolution. We’re invited to question if we want to belong to the past; to return to pre-virus normal, a normal that many agree is broken. Or do we belong to the future? Imagining our world anew. Do we evolve or repeat?

PLANETARY BELONGING

Belonging to a body of Lithuanians (or any nationality), makes us aware that we live not only for our own sake, but also for the nourishment and unity of the whole community – the social body – and indeed, the body of earth.

At this time we’re being called to belong to terra firma and to be guardians of the planet. With our presence, and physical participation with the land, we nurture the connection between people and place. We so often forget that the planet is this great living creature (imagine that standing on the earth is like standing on a whale).

The force of gravity means we belong to the earth. Plants, with their force of growth, equally belong to the earth. And so when we view nature as an enchanted world – trees, soil, sand, seas, rivers, rocks and the clouds as being wondrously alive – it assists us in feeling at home in our environment. We have a place of belonging. We’re not distant, alienated observers, but instead participants in earth’s unfolding journey. Our individual destiny is tied to the planet’s destiny, and this relationship can bring great meaning to our lives. It does though mean being awake to our surroundings, as we feel the earth as something living, breathing and very much alive.

Two lines from the poem A Blessing by the philosopher John O’Donohue have always resonated with me. “May the frames of your belonging be large enough for the dreams of your soul.” All too often our frames are analogous to the blinkers that racehorses wear to give them tunnel vision. We become rigid and dogmatic when we lose our sense of peripheral vision and have no situational awareness. And we become vulnerable to narrowing attention when our stress levels rise. So can we, in these challenging and stressful times, merge with our surroundings? Can we find wholeness in participation with our milieu? For that is the sacred land we seek.

The other line from the poem, “May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging,” reminds me that we also belong to the invisible world, as much as we do the visible one; the immaterial, not only the material; and that the unformed and unmanifest also have a claim over us, just as the formed and manifest do.

ARTISTIC BELONGING

As artists, many of us feel a deep belonging to the invisible world, as well as identifying with the archetype of the orphan child (whether as a child we were literally orphaned or not). It’s the feeling of being different, like there’s something wrong with us, that we’re always on the outside looking in. We don’t experience a feeling of true belonging, as we didn’t feel safe, or welcome enough, to be ourselves when we were younger. Rather, in general terms, we found it hard to fit in, felt alienated from the rest of our family, and isolated and removed from society. The proverbial square peg trying to fit into round holes.

For many artists, feeling like an outsider, an interloper, a fringe dweller (insert your own version here), involves feeling unseen, unheard, being misunderstood and misrepresented. This can tear and rip at the heart. Deeply. Being an outcast threatens our survival. When we speak out we take the risk of not belonging. Not playing by the rules of power means we can also perish by them.

The cost of going against the group is to risk being outside of it. Conformity is such a powerful force. In the past we may have experienced the hostility of a group turning on us, been shunned, or experienced extreme loneliness, abandonment and exile. These experiences though prompt us to seek greater independence and to take responsibility for our creative lives.

When we mature into a state of self-awareness of our inner orphan, we finally give ourselves permission to accept ourselves, regardless of what others may say or think. We know in our bones that differences make us who we are. By seeking contact with a higher consciousness, and universal and humanitarian causes, we feel like there’s somewhere we can belong.

All of this is to say that in the post-COVID-19 world (and right now in the midst of it), the world will need to call on those of us with the orphan child and artist archetypes. We are of such benefit to humanity in this time as by participating in the fringes of society, we’ve had plenty of time (and practice) standing back, introverting, observing the bigger picture, and witnessing how things interconnect. We can perceive where, and how, to connect ourselves to the whole, and bring our medicine, which the tribe now so desperately needs.

But what is our medicine? It’s the ability to ‘go inside’ literally and figuratively. We can turn inward, to bring outward, a new co-created vision and narrative for humanity. In these unprecedented times, the “call to adventure,” in mythologist Joseph Campbell’s language, is the call to create, to make new life. Artists are guides to the inner world. The source of artistry and creativity is our inner world, our inner life, our inner light. Right now, as artists, the call is for us to unite our collaborative spirit to help midwife this emerging new world that we sense. And to hold the arising visions, and to nurture them as tenderly as we would a newborn, as our collective longings are birthed into the light of day.

As artists we’re very familiar with paradox. So for what I just wrote about being tender, can we also hold our feet to the fire? One of my favourite song lyrics is from Battle Born by The Killers: “You never shine / If you never burn.” So can we burn for our art? And how can we assist others to belong to the universal creative flame? An invisible, metaphoric fire that comes so close to practically incinerating us, so as to burn off the dross, so that we may emerge out of the ashes like the mythical phoenix bird.  

As artists we have a sensitive impressionability, which can respond to dreams, the psyche of others, liminal time and spaces. Our psychic sensitivity is often so acute, and our interactions with the collective unconscious make us more receptive to insights and inspirations of the emerging future. We can also feel at home in the empty spaces, instead of uncomfortably trying to fill them. We know how to find security in the midst of uncertainty, and so it’s high time for us to act as the guides, which humanity now needs us to be.

ANCESTRAL BELONGING

I can’t mention belonging, without also speaking about exclusion. We often feel unworthy of belonging as we weren’t embraced by our family of origin and it causes feelings of bitterness, isolation, alienation and disconnection. We can’t run from this because our place of belonging initially comes from our family. When there’s wounds of severed belonging in our ancestral roots, there’s a part of us that may ‘play small,’ all in the name of securing a place of belonging, until we realise home isn’t always a physical place. In our burgeoning maturity we learn to find belonging in our bodies, in the stars – other ‘homes.’  

But as a child, if we didn’t belong, we’d be dead. The first force in life is to survive in a group. We need to be in the clan to be fed milk and to have our needs taken care of. Parents make the frame to help children feel safe in a group. But this doesn’t happen in all families. The child though does feel connected when it has identical feelings to the parents, and the psychotherapist Bert Hellinger called this “blind love.”

Even as an adult, living the carbon-copy fate of our ancestors, gives us a feeling of belonging. Our roots build the foundation of life for us. When our past is integrated within us, we can feel the strength and courage of the many who walked before us, and behind us, as we step into our future. But can we allow ourselves to have a dissimilar life from those in our ancestral line? With unlike feelings and divergent thoughts? Can we act in a contrary way and still belong? Wisdom develops when we allow ourselves to be different to what’s gone before us.

SOCIAL BELONGING

To choose differently we must sit in the ‘not knowing’ for wisdom to visit us. To be ‘Nobody’ like the Homeric hero Odysseus on Poseidon’s waters in order to become ‘Everybody.’ In belonging nowhere, we belong everywhere. 

For many of us, this time of crisis has shown that we’ve reached the limit with the price of belonging to certain groups that don’t nourish us on a soul level. Usually it’s the adult version of whatever the ‘cool clique,’ or whoever the ‘cool kids’ were, for you as a child. The cost of compromise and sacrifice is just too high. We feel barren, hollow and empty from the constant efforting to be included and COVID-19 has shown us that it’s just not worth the price anymore.

It’s time to be exactly as we are, and gracefully refuse the false pay off, to belong to what no longer serves us. We get okay being ‘Nobody’ if that’s what it takes for the fresh, the new, and the as yet unimagined, to reach us. We find the boldness to exist in the unknown, the portal between the disintegrating world, and the new world yet to be built. 

Often when we seek belonging, what we’re really after is validation. For example, while fashion brands offer an identity, they provide a shadow sense of belonging. On a material level, clothes help keep us warm and shelter us from the elements, while fashion operates on a symbolic level communicating both group belonging and individuality. That’s why when we get rid of an item in our wardrobe, it’s because it no longer validates or communicates what we want it to, rather than it failing us on a material level.    

So validation is a strange word indeed, which for me, brings up an image of car parking tickets being validated! And human beings are not cars! Nor are they half a person. So when I hear one half of a couple say they belong to the other half, I find it absurd. We’re not possessions to be passed around wanting to be owned. The greater fear, actually, is of not belonging to ourselves; to not be sovereign of oneself. So rather our challenge is to develop the qualities that belong to both the archetypal feminine and masculine, so we can belong to the whole.

Of course it’s only natural that we all long for connection and belonging; security and safety; to see and be seen; to witness and be witnessed. But I can’t write about our innermost needs for belonging, without mentioning vulnerability too. Our pain and anger are often substitute feelings covering up our longing to be close to another, or belonging to something greater than our individual selves. But we don’t want to degenerate into a passive waiting, or expectations of being taken care of by others, leading us to become dependent and clingy. Or always being the one begrudgingly offering support, the long-suffering martyr. Often what we actually want is to belong to a particular energetic vibration, such as bravery or hope, rather than despair or regret.

As we mature, we learn what it means to be responsible, not just for our ‘belongings,’ but for our emotions, actions and deeds too. But it’s interesting to explore if at this time of collective upheaval, we will hold our belongings tighter, fearful that they may be stolen or devalued? But what is it that we actually own? What really belongs to us? Is our breath even ours? Do we breathe? Or are we breathed?

As Richard Rudd wrote in the book The Gene Keys, “There is a mystery here that is carved into our English language and captured in the word belonging. We can only truly belong in the world when we can utterly be our longing.” So, what is it that we long for?

SOUL BELONGING

The etymology of desire – de sidere, from the stars – calls us in the direction of our deepest longing. The Latin root of the word points us to the longing to belong to the stars. And more specifically, to our star, to our luminosity, to our brilliance. Our star asks us if we can belong to love. And yes, this longing is frightening if we’ve been living an inauthentic life (away from our star) suppressing the impulses of our own heart, our own true nature.

This time also begs each of us to reflect on our own unique sense of belonging. Is it to the earth? The sky? Or to the stars who belong to the far reaches of the cosmos? Do we feel ourselves to be more matter or spirit? If we feel we’re more the latter, can we authentically belong to this cosmic connection? Can we cultivate the sense of the universal belonging to the individual? Which means we must also belong to the universal cosmos in response. And in this tethered connection, can we bring a sense of purpose and accountability? For the soul has a great need for psychic depths. It demands a connection to the underworld. And not just a passage, but also a belonging.

If we’re in the land of Hades, the god of the underworld, we’re in the realm of hidden wealth. We want a security that goes beyond financial practicalities. We want to feel emotionally secure, secure in our soul. The conditioned sense of self is full of feelings of inferiority (especially when it’s not as productive as its pre-COVID-19 self!), as it’s getting nowhere fast and going nowhere quickly. Faith though can give us an inner sense of connectedness, a feeling of belonging together in ‘the great pause.’

For the most precious resource we have for coping in an uncertain world is each other. So how will we rebuild a sense of neighbourhood and community and satisfy our desire for connections with others during these unsettling times? Depth of interest in a topic can surprisingly overcome the fact that people have no shared physical history. For example, online shared interests can become the basis of common values as we re-create communal connections that simulate the village life we either had, or ideologically longed for.

But it’s not belonging as a means to an end that we’re solely interested in. Rather, we also long to be. Being is our longing. How can we just be? Yes, just be. A challenge for some of us when our inner critic is imploring us to be our best COVID-19 selves, to maximise the moment, to live the best version of our quarantine lives, while also experiencing virtual FOMO, that’s every bit as real as it is in the physical world.  

CONCLUSION

As artists, many of us try to give voice and belonging today, to what didn’t have a voice and belonging yesterday. And this is what we’re doing with COVID-19 as we question the narrative of separation. Humanity separated from nature. Me separate from you. We’re being invited to belong to the callings of our heart, not solely the reasonings of our intellect. Or our passport.

Belonging is more like a homecoming. But to who, or what, do we return home to? Robert S. Avens describes Hermes, the divine messenger, in the paper Heidegger and Archetypal Psychology in this way, “… Hermes, the psychopomp, the primordial mediator and messenger who, in Karl Kerenyi’s words, always stands in ‘a middle between being and non-being,’ who is ‘at home while wandering, at home on the road itself.’ Hermes is hodios (belonging to the journey), constantly in motion.” Humanity is now being asked to be like Hermes and return, and belong, to the journey.

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