The crowd continued to cheer for several minutes. Standing there waiting for them to finish was both embarrassing and heartwarming. Sally Field’s famous “You like me! You really like me!” came to mind.
And then I realized she never actually said those words. Her real words spoken after receiving her Oscar Award for Best Actress (for Places in the Heart, 1984) were similar, but carried a slightly different meaning: “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.” The paraphrase stuck in people’s minds, and the meaning it was given often was negative, attributing a hubris that Field neither felt nor intended.
Which gets me back to reality. Sure, the people were cheering, but, at least in part, because of their own need to belong. Once someone rises to applaud, those around him or her feel a pressure to do the same. Once a tipping point has been reached, any individual not rising to their feet is seen as being arrogant or ungrateful. So all rise.
We are a social species that thrives on belonging. We self-segregate into groups where we feel comfortably secure. Those groups could be based on race, nationality of origin, primary language, or other unchangeable traits. Or they could be based on a love of cooking, sports followings, alma mater, or historical time period. Our need to belong can at times appear to be desperate; some feeling they don’t belong drift into severe depression, or worse.
Looking back out over the crowd the clapping has slowed, some are sitting and others straggle to join them in the auditorium’s padded seats. They are ready.
Today’s topic: A sense of belonging.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book on Abraham Lincoln is due out in summer 2017.