Finding Tribe

Tribe is one of the most beautiful words in the English language to me, a word which conjures vivid colors, lush fabric, downy quilts, arms opening and closing in embrace of one another. It conjures steamy, inviting cooking smells and stacks and stacks of books, tea, coffee, soup, warmth warmth warmth.

coffee table book

For many people, I think ‘Tribe’ is strongly connected to Festival Folk, people who participate in Burning Man or Bonnaroo. I would like to think it’s because of the inclusive nature and mutual respect that those events are founded on, but unfortunately I think the idea has lost the backbone of those components, and rests more heavily on looking the right sort of trendy.

fashionable tribe

We’ve used Tribe from an anthropological standpoint to make notes and classifications through the safety of a biased cultural lens atop our White European Soapbox for centuries. We have systematically dismantled any group of “primitive” peoples to the point where finding true Tribe is rather exclusive, an oddity. The grandeur that once belonged to Tribes is now to be found mostly in story books; we no longer even have the opportunity to experience its mysteries via National Geographic.

Now, for many,’Tribe’ may as well be synonymous with ‘Freak Show;’ from the outside, this may be intended as an insult towards people who are so unlike the Viewer that they seem like primitive outcasts. However, in my experience, observation, and research, self-identified ‘outcasts’ are some of the most welcoming, interesting people on the planet, whatever their particular stripes. People embrace who they are, or who they think they are, and that is a good first step towards Being. But no man is an island.

Belonging to a tribe is essential. After all, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

The connections founded on some Mutual Sameness are invaluable. In a world so connected by technology and global trade and travel, we are spoiled by our ability to so easily find tribe. It’s simple enough that I think many people take it for granted, and become lazy with their expectations. People find comfort in internet communities, but they are not Tribe, really. Tribe requires physicality and presence. There is something wonderful about being able to communicate in a meaningful way with Tribe scattered across the globe, to plan visits to one another and to compare loss or progress. But the people who you play World of Warcraft with online are not Tribe, nor is the compilation of that Secret Facebook Group you run so you can bitch about everyone else in peace, at least not if that’s all you do. (Sorry.) Online communities have their place, but they should not be ranked first and foremost, and they certainly should not be the only ring of Tribe in which you immerse yourself.

Substituting screen time (or Face Time) for actual face time is dangerous. Presence is important. Stepping away from electronics is necessary to attain and maintain a healthy level of emotional intelligence. We can’t connect to others if we refuse to connect with ourselves. We can’t go out and explore our emotional landscape if we’re too distracted by everything else that we’re always trying to accomplish simultaneously. As eloquently put forth in this 19 minute TED talk by Sherry Turkle, we’re connected, but so very alone.

We’ve cultivated an ability via social media to surround ourselves exclusively with like-minded people if we choose to do so, and have largely lost the ability to air opposing viewpoints with one another in a peaceful, respectful fashion. Any disagreement escalates almost immediately to palpable tension, and climaxes in emotionally fueled arguments. This is a problem in terms of the social ecosystem we create by specializing ourselves like insects. If we are unable to be a panoramic person in terms of expressing, hearing, and existing amid a diverse set of beliefs, viewpoints, and information, then we are self-sabotaging ourselves. It is comfortable to be Like Other People, it is detrimental if we are all Exactly The Same. Homogeneous societies can become fragile because of their sameness, as can digital societies become fragile because of their disconnectedness.

Touch is essential, for infants, children, and adults. It is more essential than food for our survival. True, food nourishes our body, but love, touch, affection, and attention nourish our soul. Without a sense of connectivity, we become isolated, depressed. Without tribe, we fail.

We lose and find our paths so many times throughout our lives. Rediscovering yourself is a wonderful, terrifying thing. Depression is one component, which can be both an effect and a catalyst for anything else that happens. For anyone, whether you’ve experienced severe depression or not, this blog provides brilliant insight via the depths of gallows humor the author has implemented. It is one of the most perfect creations in this world. (Be sure to also read part two. You won’t be disappointed.)

We need 8 hugs a day  (according to research!) to reap the full benefits of oxytocin, “the neurotransmitter also known as the “bonding” hormone. Oxytocin contributes to our sense of connectedness and, as a result, our happiness.” The elderly are frequently the most at risk population for suffering the consequences of neglect. Last fall, I started down a rocky path. As stories go, there wasn’t one identifiable catalyst that engaged the universe’s gears to start churning in any particular way, but the slow water torture of misplaced best intentions over the previous who-knows-how-long finally aligned or accumulated and I was jolted once again in a direction towards being My Authentic Self.

But I started painting again. And making beautiful things to surround myself with was insulating.

I enrolled in massage therapy classes. And finding a tangible way to provide comfort to others was empowering.

I met someone truly wonderful. And being vulnerable together was reassuring, because, as he pointed out, I didn’t need someone to take care of me; I was perfectly capable of doing that myself. Being your Whole Self, however broken and fractured you feel, creates a different beacon than someone who is reveling in and floundering because of their brokenness.

When you revel in your brokenness, and accept it as Who You Are Entirely, you’re overlooking your capacity to heal, and to become anything beyond or other than what you presently feel you are. If you look for connections in this state, you may only find ones who fit with the limited version of who you are, and this limitation ensures that you remain that way in order to maintain the connection. You’re a puzzle piece, looking for it’s corresponding link.


But when you embrace your Whole Self, flaws, cracks, fractures, psychoses, the whole range of who you are, whether the traits are flattering or not, you’re able to do something wonderful, albeit slowly. You start to be able to flex emotional muscles that you had previously babied when they were broken. If you can’t slowly start to reintroduce their use, you remain crippled. Broken People take advantage of other Broken People.

But Broken People who embrace opportunities to heal are drawn to one another, and make it possible to be more than the sum of their parts.

arms and legs

We find compliments to what we perceive to be our flaws, in ways that complete us.

Thanks to the Tribe I have recently found, I have also found an interest in permaculture, which is, as far as I can tell, the truest means to have the highest form of Tribe in the 21st century.

I have wanted a Commune since I was 12 years old. I wanted a big, rustic family, the opportunity to learn more about the world around me than what I knew the day before, the opportunity to take pride in my work.

I am at a crucial juncture in my life, on this journey with my Tribe.
And the view from where I sit is breathtaking.


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