11 Chapters
Medium 9781523095056

3 Why Do We See the World the Way We Do?

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If you’re treated a certain way you become a certain kind of person. If certain things are described to you as being real they’re real for you whether they’re real or not.

— JAMES BALDWIN

I have established how important belonging is to human beings. One of the most important ways that we form these connections is through a common morality, a common set of values. How we see ourselves and determine what is important to us and the groups to which we belong is a fundamental part of our orientation to life. Questions of moral choice, such as how we decide between right and wrong and how we make some of life’s hardest decisions, are undoubtedly some of the most intricate, multifaceted problems we are likely to come across, and they are deeply rooted in our relationships to the groups to which we belong. Our morality plays such an important role in connecting us to others that it is important for us to look at how our morality shapes the world we see.

Let’s consider one of the most famous thought experiments in human ethics, the Trolley Dilemma.1 You see a trolley car coming down the track at a high rate of speed. When you look down the track in the direction the trolley is heading, you see five workers whom you have no way of warning about the oncoming trolley. Assume that they will be killed if the trolley is not diverted. However, you are standing in front of a lever that you can pull to turn the trolley onto a different set of tracks on which there is only one worker. Is it acceptable for you to pull the lever and redirect the trolley onto the track where the one worker is standing, knowing that this worker will consequently be killed?

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9 Bridges to Bonding: Eight Pathways for Building Belonging

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do. It always seems impossible until it’s done.

— NELSON MANDELA

It is easy to feel resigned about the separation that we are experiencing. It seems like it continues to worsen every day. The reality is, as we discovered in looking at the neuroscience and social science behind our behavior, that we will always separate people into “us” and “them.” But that doesn’t mean we are doomed to have those differences cripple our ability to function as a collective. In fact, when we realize that it is our natural state to figure out who we are by realizing that we are not somebody else, it can liberate us from the folly of trying to have everybody act and feel the same. It can allow us to shift our focus from trying to convince or “fix” each other to trying to understand each other and find ways to coexist.

It begins with our own personal work. We each have something to say about our own attitudes and behaviors. However, we also have a remarkable ability to work together in our institutions: workplaces, schools, places of worship, and other places where we come together. Belonging is, by its very nature, more than just an individual process. The institutions we are a part of give us an opportunity to create healthy bridging that can build and sustain a sense of connection.

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7 When Worlds Collide

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

People inside of belonging systems are very threatened by those who are not within that group. They are threatened by anyone who has found their citizenship in places they cannot control.

— RICHARD ROHR

Let’s return for a moment to the opening scenario in Chapter 1. Joan, Barry, and Fatima each had their “home” community in which they felt very comfortable: Joan, among other political conservatives as well as her religious community, Barry among other folks who were either gay or felt completely comfortable with his sexual orientation, and Fatima, her religious community. Within each of those communities there is a certain sense of normative values and behavior, “rules” if you will, that all make sense, within the construct of that community. There is a sense of belonging. And yet, when the individuals from these different communities come together, something else happens. All of a sudden, their “otherness” seems to predominate. We live in a world of “us versus them.”

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1 Wired for Belonging: The Innate Desire to Belong

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The essential dilemma of my life is between my deep desire to belong and my suspicion of belonging.

— JHUMPA LAHIRI

The annual holiday party at Munchester Industries is a raucous event. The company has about seven hundred employees, and for the holiday gala they all gather with their families in tow. The party has a huge buffet, an open bar, people dancing to the sounds of a DJ’s music, and a clown making balloon animals for the children. People are gathered in small clusters, either at tables or standing around chatting. On the surface this looks like any number of company parties we have all seen before. However, this year the party has a different tone, coming just six weeks after the 2016 presidential election. The room is abuzz with conversations about politics, mostly people celebrating or commiserating with their friends. Waiting for drinks, three employees stand together in awkward silence, their countenance seemingly different from most of the people around them, suggesting politeness but not much more. A tall, blond-haired white woman, with two children at her side, shifts from foot to foot, her eyes looking around the room, almost as if she wants to escape. A shorter, darker-skinned woman stands quietly by the side. The third person, a tall white man, appears friendly, even gregarious, alternating between trying to make conversation with the two women and making side comments to a shorter, brown-skinned man who stands behind him. Who are these people? What’s going on?

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5 The Social Brain

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Much of the same machinery, the same brain regions and computational processing that are used in a social context to attribute awareness to someone else, are also used on a continuous basis to construct your own awareness and attribute it to yourself.

— MICHAEL S. A. GRAZIANO

Have you ever found yourself talking to an inanimate object? Perhaps getting angry at your car, or encouraging it through snow, almost like the Little Engine that Could? Anybody who has children has likely seen them treat their stuffed animals as if they were alive, or, even more dramatically, create an imaginary friend out of thin air. Why would we talk to inanimate objects or imaginary ones as if they were alive?

In the 2000 movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee who ends up stranded on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific after a plane crash. The film gained widespread critical acclaim and was heralded as a gripping survival story, a tribute to the resourcefulness and resilience of the human spirit. Perhaps most important, however, was that it also provided a poignant glimpse into the depths of our desire to connect.

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