Belonging

Since the beginning of history humans have craved the need to belong. Living in groups settings such as family, friends and peers for all of our lives, it is no wonder that we desire this sense of community to such a large extent that many of us sink into depression and insanity without it. People spend their entire lives struggling to find somewhere to belong to. Religion, culture, gender, race, these are all groups that contribute to our personal make up. Of course, as human beings we are individuals above all, but much of our identity comes from the different groups to which we belong. The search for a sense of belonging can be both a dangerous and fulfilling journey. Many times, a need for belonging can lead to societal burdens such as alcoholism, xenophobia, drug addiction and mental afflictions such as depression (1). But, it can also lead to happiness like in the case of the book club Reading Lolita in Tehran.


The book club in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran works as a place where the women in the memoir can feel a sense of belonging. Even though Nafisi states in her memoir that “they [the women] would never have chosen to be friends” (2) but despite this the women view the book club as an escape from society or, in other words, a small community in which they truly belong. Regardless of their different personalities, these women have much in common in that they are Iranian women feeling a sense of oppression while living in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 1990s. It is this commonality that they share that brings them together to form this community that is the book club.


Belonging to a group such as family is a mode of which we can avoid feeling afraid of oneself and being afraid of being lost in oneself. Like all negative feelings, loneliness is a feeling most want to escape, and it is the escaping of loneliness that is the sense of belonging. Ultimately, the sense of belonging and the search for belonging is something that comes from the very core of what we are as human beings.



In the Warner Brother's movie, Quest for Camelot, the male lead - Garrett - lives in a forest on his own which is the place he most belongs. Garrett, who was blinded at an early age was excluded from the rest of society and lived in the forest for most of his life. In the song embedded above, Garrett sings about how the forest is "his place" and how he is the only one who belongs (I Stand Alone). Though he feels that he belongs in the forest, he really doesn't because he is not actually happy being left out from the rest of society as we find out later in the "I Stand Alone - Reprise".



In the reprise, Garrett acknowledges that he views himself as separate from the rest of Camelot's society when he says "You don't understand. In Camelot she'll only see me through their eyes. Not a knight, not a man, not anything" (I Stand Alone Reprise). He is unhappy on his own and so the happiness he felt earlier was a false happiness he used along with a false sense of belonging to escape his fears of society. Garrett's journey is a perfect example of a person's need and search for belonging and what happens when a person is without that sense.


Community Psychology: “http://www.wright-house.com/psychology/sense-of-community.html

Reading Lolita In Tehran: Nafisi, Azar. (2003). Reading Lolita In Tehran. New York, USA: Random House, Inc.

Quest for Camelot. Dir Frederik Du Chau. Waner Brothers, 1998. Youtube Video.