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 "The longer we journey on the road to inner healing and wholeness, the more the sense of belonging grows and deepens. The sense is not just one of belonging to others and to a community. It is a sense of belonging to the universe, to the earth, to the air, to the water, to everything that lives, to all humanity. " – Jean Vanier, Community and Growth The elements have a twofold relationship with belonging: as physical realities and as symbols. When their physical reality is debased, they lose their symbolic power. It may also be that the loss of their symbolic power has allowed us to neglect them physically. Indeed, the two aspects are as closely intertwined in the elements as body and soul are in us. For example, the equitable distribution of water in Spain’s Valencia region bolsters people’s sense of belonging, both to the region and to the country as a whole; thus, the water is respected for its symbolic as well as its physical value. We could find similar examples for each of the other three elements.


Fire, like the sun from which it comes, creates life by giving it energy, by greening the earth and ensuring the circulation of water and air. But if any of the other elements is missing or degraded, the same fire that gave life will destroy it, transforming what was once an oasis into a desert. This is equally true on the symbolic level. We need the cooling presence of water and earth to...


The earth can also unite or divide, promoting equality or inequality depending on how it is shared. How we treat the earth is also important. Whether we respect humus as the living element of the soil or regard it merely as mechanical support for plants, will determine the direction of our economic and social life.  


Air, water, fire, earth. Take away any one and life cannot exist. If just one is polluted, all of life suffers – and not only physical life. Take air, for example. Polluted air is not just about fumes: it is also a dark reflection of hubris and imbalance in our social and spiritual lives. And it furthers the imbalance by increasing our isolation, for when the skies are black with smog, who...


Even more than air, water can unite – or divide us. We are reminded of its potential for division by the word “rival,” which comes from “riverain”: the resident of a riverside. The fountain is an example of water that unites, bringing people together around its flowing streams. But bodies of water also divide country from country – and, increasingly, country from city. Because having...





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Jacques Dufresne's

The editor of L'Encyclopédie de L'Agora and well known newspaper chronicler and philosopher, analyses actuality through the looking glass of Belonging.
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