A few months ago I met author Alain de Botton in Brisbane and asked him about belonging. Being a jet-lagged philosopher he wanted time to ponder this question and suggested I email him.
I had been saving this quote, this nugget of belonging, and now that I’ve come back to it anew, I see power in de Botton’s statement and also a candid vulnerability. His words, infused with warmth, relay how belonging isn’t linked to place but to certain people.
”The feeling of belonging – well, the honest truth is, I don’t have it yet. I am 44 years old and it’s something I’m missing. I don’t feel I belong in London, in the UK, but nor have I known other congenial homes,’’ de Botton said.
”I conclude that I’ll never belong in any huge sense, I’ll just have a few friends, and maybe that’s OK. So I belong wherever I and my pals find [our]selves together,’’ de Botton said.
Even here, nothing is permanent, nothing can be taken for granted.
Belonging, once tasted, becomes a fleeting moment on the palate of life that lingers only in the sublime sensation of memory.
(Brisbane March 2014 and via email. Alain de Botton’s latest book is The News: A User’s Manual, Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books.)