Everything belongs. No one needs to be punished, scapegoated, or excluded. We cannot directly fight or separate ourselves from evil or untruth. Evil becomes apparent when exposed to the Truth.
Oneness is even an easy thing to profess, until we realize that it must include not only the people we like and agree with, not only those to whom we are sympathetic, but also those whom we view as abhorrent (whatever side of a political position we may hold). We don’t get to choose who we are one with—it’s everybody.
Exclusion operates by the same rule of mutuality as welcome, for it harms both the excluded and the excluder.
—Cole Arthur Riley
Human existence is neither perfectly consistent, nor is it incoherent chaos. Instead, life has a cruciform pattern. All of life is a “coincidence of opposites,” a collision of cross-purposes; we are all filled with contradictions needing to be reconciled.
Francis of Assisi, like Jesus, refused to exclude things from the garden of grace; there is no exclusionary instinct in either of them—except toward exclusion itself!
It seems that simply allowing ourselves to be here, to recognize the sacrament and the grace of the present moment, is enough to allow God’s loving gaze to happen. What we are doing in the allowing is returning the gaze. That’s it. We are completing the circuit and saying it’s okay.
Belonging to Every Moment
At the age of thirty-four, Buddhist author Sebene Selassie was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The experience offered her the freedom to find love, joy, and belonging in every moment.
Belonging is an expression of life. I would have done anything to belong to the living. Also, everything is relevant when we talk about belonging. The challenge with belonging in these times is “everything” includes a whole lot of things…. We live in a world where previously isolated languages, cultures, and beliefs have been melded into each other. Each of us has a multitude of influences, various identities, and countless experiences…. In any moment, we may feel like we belong to one thing and not another. I belong to this community, to which others don’t. I belong to this statement, definitely not that one. I belong in this space way over here. Or perhaps I belong nowhere. The truth: we all belong to it all. Also to death….
I don’t wish cancer on anyone else, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience. That doesn’t mean it was easy: I wasn’t always open to what was happening while it was happening. But the challenges I faced—the challenges you face, the challenges we face collectively at this time, any place in the world, … any challenge in life (even cancer)—all are invitations to belonging. And belonging is our true nature.
Belonging is our capacity to feel joy, freedom, and love in any moment. As the late Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck [1917–2011] said: Joy is exactly what’s happening, minus our opinion of it. She made a distinction between joy and happiness—Happiness has an opposite: unhappiness.  Joy is not about happy or unhappy, liking or disliking. Joy is accepting each moment for what it is without contention. We belong to any moment simply by meeting it with joy. This is freedom. Love is the ultimate expression of joy and freedom. Joy, freedom, and love could be considered synonyms for each other, and for belonging.
 Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen, ed. Steve Smith (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), 233, 232.
Sebene Selassie, You Belong: A Call for Connection (New York: HarperOne, 2020), 2, 3–4.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Izzy Spitz, Everything at Once, digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Wings, digital oil pastel. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Everything belongs: our messes and dreams, our hues of green and yellow, our curves and lines.