Belonging and Becoming

We are a city of joiners. From the Exchange Club to the Democratic Club, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Time Bank, from the Moms Club to the PTA to the Sister City Committee, we love to be part of a group.  That is human nature; in Culver City we just really exemplify it well. 

 It’s a part of identity. We are who we connect with. Birds of a feather. 

But people don’t always stay in the same group. People learn, people change, people grow. Did you know that Robert Kennedy – former Attorney General, former Presidential candidate – that Robert Kennedy – worked for Senator Joseph McCarthy? Yep, that Senator Joseph McCarthy. Kennedy was the assistant counsel to McCarthy’s senate committee in 1953. From persecuting alleged Communists to supporting a union for farmer workers is a pretty big shift in perspective.

Two powerful needs for human beings; belonging, and becoming. They may feel like poles pulling apart, but they do truly compliment each other. 

Humans are social creatures. We need to be part of a family, a clan, a tribe. Sometimes, our tribe does not like it when we change. But those outliers, those independent thinkers – they are the ones who lead the tribe forward. 

If all we needed was belonging, we would have the same human culture we had in the Bronze Age. But because we are designed to evolve, to reach, to change, humanity can ascend. 

I’ve been intrigued lately with the evidence that the plague in Europe, known as the Black Death, was what took that culture from the ‘dark ages’ into the renaissance. By making the status quo impossible to carry on, people moved onto utterly different standards, and humanity was radically changed. 

It feels as if that is the moment we are in now. 

We are in need of real cultural growth. Regressive social standards are showing themselves to be wildly inadequate to meeting either the individual need or the common good. The argument of “we have always done it that way,” or, even more American “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” just does not hold water anymore. Understanding how ‘broke’ it is, and what we gain by changing, is where we can triumph. 

When Galileo first began promoting the Copernican theory of a solar-centric universe, some powerful men in the Catholic Church decided this had to be stopped, and they created the Edict of 1616, making it a punishable offense to promote this theory. Outside of Italy, the rest of Europe, which was well into the Protestant Reformation, continued to study and investigate the science and astronomy that proved the earth orbited, and not the sun. 

You can stop progress. But you can’t stop it everywhere. You can’t stop it forever.

People who feel afraid refuse to change. People who are scared try as hard as they can to keep everything the way it is, or even better, drag things back to the way it was. Which is, y’know, an impossibility.

The fear of communism in the United States in the 20th Century was much like the fear of science in 17th century Italy. Ideas that threaten the status quo threaten the group, and even more so, threaten the individual status in the group. 

When the group is more important, the individual has to repress those creative urges that might rock the boat. Getting kicked out of your clan can be fatal. It’s a heartbreaker.  

But staying safe and playing small can also be fatal. It might not be your physical self that dies, but your dreams, your heart, your spirit. 

The story about Galileo is very well known. To those who love science, it’s a sad moment. The story about Kennedy is not so well known. To those who love politics, it might be highly instructive. What opened his eyes up to becoming someone so different than he had been? 

Where are you putting your energy, and spending your time? Belonging, or becoming? 

Judith Martin-Straw 





The Actors' Gang

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