“I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong.”
– Hercules, from “Go the Distance,” Hercules
Who doesn’t love Disney? 🙂
Their version of the story of what may arguably be the single most famous of mythical heroes is absolutely not at all true to the myth itself, but they tell a story that I think most of us can relate to. Hercules, as a youth, is so strong that he’s little more than a freak of nature, and one that tends to be surrounded by disaster and property damage. In the absence of anyone who can help him learn to control his power, he’s left outcast and virtually alone. He might live with normal mortal humans, and his adoptive parents certainly care for him, but he doesn’t truly belong with them.
The entire movie is about the hero’s quest, which is not to defeat a great evil, but to find a place where he belongs.
To belong. It is a both a joy and a necessity for us as humans. We are social creatures. Even loners are not meant to be alone. As deep-seated as any other urge we have is the one we have to be among “our people.”
I see some of myself in Hercules. Mind you, we differ somewhat on the form we want our “belonging” to take. He wants a cheering crowd, which he gets both among the mortals of Greece and the gods of Olympus, but while I’ve sometimes imagined that, I’ve never really wanted it. I’m more comfortable out of the spotlight, thank you very much! 😉 But he does find an even better place not in front of a crowd or among the gods, but by the side of the woman he loves, and among close friends. Now that, I could go for!
It’s that quest, that search of a place to belong, which I think most of us can relate to. Maybe we don’t always realize it, but we do engage in that search. Sometimes – tragically far too often – that search can go terribly awry, as there are many dark corners in the world, just waiting to swallow up whoever wanders into them. Maybe our parents or our peers tell us what we’re supposed to want before we can find out what we want for ourselves. Maybe we’re offered a momentary release from a life that feels like a cage. Maybe, in our search, we’re just experimenting a little, and don’t realize the danger. Either way, had my life been just a little different, I fear I would be in a far different place than I am right now.
I remember growing up, I had a family who loved me, parents who raised me, peers and classmates who were generally nice, even if some of them weren’t, and I had friends, of course, some of whom I still count as such. I had a number of people around me who were kind and patient and bore me no ill will. Yet I can’t say I ever felt like I truly belonged among them. I was different. And while I learned to love my uniqueness, and I was not really so miserable, I still felt like the odd man out most of the time.
Then I got to college and, as it happened, I finally met my tribe, so to speak. 😉
C.S. Lewis is reputed to have said, “Friendship is born in that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’”
And that very much summarizes my integration into a circle of geeks and fans and weirdos and intellectuals and more. These were people who struck a chord in me, one that hadn’t ever really been struck before. I felt happier among them than I ever felt before, and I know they played a part in making me a better person than I was. For the first time, I was among people with whom I could be truly and absolutely comfortable, even when they challenged and expanded my views.
In short, I found “my people.” I found a place to belong.
I will always be grateful for that.