People need to feel they belong…. Otherwise, who knows what will happen? This civilisation of ours, perhaps it’ll just collapse.
I no longer have the email itself, but its message isn’t forgotten. The sender – representing the Dark Mountain Project – paid me a backhanded insult, wishing me well in finding a sense of belonging elsewhere. I gathered he was implying, quite wrongly as it happens, that I didn’t have any friends to begin with. In any case, the point was that he wanted the last word, and it was his parting shot. Despite my continual support of the project, I found that when I dared to share my own perspective – that is, expressing my own voice – it proved to be too challenging. My experience was off-message and therefore unwelcome to those invested in building a successful enterprise around the image of one big happy hippie family.
That happy hippie DM family is like the cast of Friends, with the same small collection of names and faces cropping up over and over in every episode of book publication and event programming. What began, I believe, as an honest invitation to conversation seems now to have grown deeply scripted. Belonging is reduced to a piece of marketing bait.
Chris Corrigan has written about the process of invitation. An invitation, he says, is a process of several phases “starting with a flash of inspiration and carrying through all the way to stewarding the dissolution of intention long after an initiative has faded away.” The early stages of this process he calls “crossing the threshold of longing.” The longing – the intention to participate in the creation of something – is what propels and guides those who respond to the invitation.
And what is belonging, other than sharing that experience of intention with others – that is, to be with others in the act of longing. This is how we create. Tennesee Williams once observed that his writing was “nearly always about people trying to reach each other… because the only truly satisfying moments in life are those in which you are in contact… with some other human being.”
Corrigan ends his reflections with the advice: “Never let anyone arrive at a meeting alone. If the goal of good gatherings is to have people leave working together, then the goal of a good invitation process is to have people arrive so that no one shows up alone.” I confess that I am thrown back to the memory of one of the several Dark Mountain events that I attended: the first Uncivilisation festival in Llangollen. I arrived alone at the pre-festival camp – an act which took more courage than anyone there could realise – and I lingered at the margins throughout the week and ever after (I’ve described the experience before.)
The fourth and last Uncivilisation event takes place this weekend, and I’m not going. I am home, with my loved ones, and I am right where I belong. That backhanded wish for me has been fulfilled, and all is well.