The Other I

May 22, 2017

We need a buzz

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:52 pm

I’ve just read what for me is a fascinating idea about us and about all of life.

The anthropologist Dr. Barbara King of the College of William and Mary in Virginia hypothesizes that our need to belong is even deeper than our need to survive.  She describes research among young primates who, given the choice between making use of a wire structure providing them with life-giving milk, and cuddling up to a warm furry “teddy bear”-type construction, will choose the latter, even to the point of starvation.

Image result for beehiveThis need to belong, she believes, is the evolutionary source of all religion.  It would explain why we sometimes cling to our religious identity in the face of overwhelmingly contradictory evidence.  We will die for this right to belong.   And as both history and contemporary events unfortunately demonstrate, we will not only die for it.  We will kill for it.  We are born with a need to belong, and to be deprived of this essential need leaves us devastated, disoriented, even destroyed.

Darwin’s theory seems to suggest that survival is our greatest need – that ultimately survival is our bottom line.  But if Dr. King is right, it’s not quite that simple.  It might be, rather, that those species whose individuals need to belong have a much greater chance of long-term survival than those species where individuals are determined to save their own genes and those of their offspring at the cost of all else.

Interesting that many of the great religions of the world have emphasized our oneness with the universe of life.  They did not flourish with an “Us versus Them” theology that today has come to characterize so much of both Christianity and Islam, and is ripping nations apart in identity crises around the world.

On a personal note, I see in my own family how important this struggle to belong became for my younger sibs after my mother died and my father remarried.  The younger ones have all struggled with a sense of belonging.  Even into adulthood, they have struggled with temper tantrums in a way none of us older ones did, and have had more struggles with their adult relationships.

Image result for beehiveThe Romans held up the honeybee as one of the most admirable of all living organisms.  They work as a group for the good of the whole, not simply for their own individual well-being whatever happens to every other bee.  Not only that, but the work of the bee actually adds values to the plants it pollinates and from which it extracts its own life-sustaining nutrients.

In her book, Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive,  Dr. Marilyn Hamilton.    talks about our need to change the way we live, realizing that we are all in this together.  We need to value the multiple intelligences of our diverse species and protect eco-systems so that the whole of life can thrive. Hamilton is working with city planners to change the nature of life in our cities from one in which we so often take whatever we want, and throw our waste away in a destructive disregard that is actually killing the life-giving sources on which we ourselves actually depend.

We need to grow beyond our adolescence and realize that we are not a privileged superior species that can do whatever we want.  We need each other, and if we don’t realize that we all belong here, we will all perish.  And it is we, that species who thinks we are so superior, so smart, who will be responsible.







  1. Fascinating stuff.

    Hannah Arendt writes about this same subject in her The Origins of Totalitarianism — the millions of persons displaced by WWI, the marginalized who didn’t care if today the leader said “white” and the next morning it was “black.” Belonging to something was what made them feel they had an identity. And it was indeed them against the Other, everyone else.

    It was such a strong phenomenon that communists in the USSR willingly went to their deaths unprotesting, though innocent, because the goal of the party — the realization of historical necessity — made their show trials and deaths worthwhile, not an injustice.

    But you’ve put a new spin on it, an even wider view than Arendt does (for obvious reasons). Certainly anyone who spends too much time alone knows what not feeling connected can do to you psychologically.


    Comment by Thomas J. Hubschman — May 22, 2017 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for telling me of Hannah Arendt’s thinking on this subject. It’s been so long ago that I have read her that I don’t even remember if I’ve even read her thoughts on this question. I do keep think about how central this need to belong is, though. Insufficiently emphasized, I suspect, in my own field of psychology. And by philosophers and theologians too.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Terry Sissons — May 23, 2017 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: