Belonging

May 8, 2019

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That’s how you belong—not by finally arriving, but by having longing for arrival quickened, by being willing to long after life by living. – t seems to me that as you get older, you might bear down upon your life and give it the quiet consideration it deserves. Do so, and you could catch glimpses of the shoreline that guides it and contains it and won’t let it go on forever. It’s mournful, and it’s trued. Many’s a time I’ve been asked in interviews whether, having seen so much of the deaths of others, I’m finally “good” with my death, all resigned and accepting, my desire for life left in the parking lots of demise, the keys left inside. As if that’s what I’d want, after all that.

I tell you this: from the glimpse of my death I’ve drawn down a great longing for life.

We have this word, belong. We use it to mean, “being part of.” But the old English prefix be- has the semantic consequence of intensifying as it goes. So belonging means something closer to “the deepening of longing.”

That’s how you belong—not by finally arriving, but by having longing for arrival quickened, by being willing to long after life by living. That’s how I belong, anyway. I find that being alive is habit forming. I’m deeply fond of the thing now, irremovably fond of it, properly wrinkled as we both have become.

So, catch a glimpse of the end of what you hold dear, even of your ability and your willingness to hold someone or something dear. Don’t blink. There are all the unbidden memories of things that were good and things that were otherwise and never made quite right now come, all of it is true and trustworthy now, the edges honed and mercifully sharp. Your life curls back towards you in some way just then. Great lengths of it are raised by the hone of your faithful witness to the full weight and the full wreckage of your allotment, what you did with what was entrusted to you. Your life finally, for a while, is something like you now, legible in the curl. The dispensation of age can settle upon you. The light of these older days of your allotment can pass through the curl of your memories undisturbing, undisturbed.

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