“You are truly home only when you find your tribe.” (Srividya Srinivasan)
Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. March seeks SERENITY.
A Native American student invited me to a local Pow Wow and Nancy and I decided to view the Grand Entry. We love the drums, the regalia, the dancing. We love fry bread. But I had a sense of loss, a feeling of something lacking in my life. I have no tribe.
The next class, I mentioned this to my student, a mature man, Army Veteran, and father. He told me to go back to my people. That is my tribe. That would be Wales and Cornwall, and I have no connection to that land.
Ah, connection. We have separated ourselves from our ancestors. We have separated ourselves from others who do not share our ancestors. Well, biologically, we all share ancestors, but we separate ourselves anyway.
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” (Seth Godin)
I need a tribe, a group of people connected to one another, a group with whom I connect, all connected to one single idea. And I need a leader.
Gangs come to mind. Humans are pack animals establishing status in the mirror of our pack or tribe. Often, our status becomes our identity as a member of a tribe, our group which is separated from other tribes by some discrimination of genes, heritage, and/or ideas. Individual identity is a subset of tribal identity.
You don’t think so? Who is your favorite team in March Madness? Super Bowl? NASCAR?
Do you have a political identity? Geographic? Ethnic? Socioeconomic?
Oh, where, oh, where is this unselfishness we seek (from last week’s blog) that might liberate us from our troubles and free us to find serenity and power?
There it is, in the tribe. Serve the members of your tribe.
I had never desired to be a soldier. It was a duty of grave inconvenience to me, and I was happy to leave the Army early and return to the University of Wisconsin where I felt at home. Except…once I got there in 1971, I no longer felt really at home. So, I joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard—my tribe. I had combat medals and patches. I had status. But, more importantly, I belonged.
Until I didn’t. I lost the leadership I had respected. I no longer found a common idea to serve, and so I abandoned that tribe and went back to school. Except for a few intermissions, I have been in school ever since. School is a place I fit.
Life is a dance. Finding a tribe in which I fit is a futile challenge. Adapting to fit into a group is a dangerous endeavor. To find my tribe without losing my self AND to find my self without losing my tribe, that is my wish.
I have abandoned many groups because I could not believe in their ideas or their leadership, and in the abandoning, I lost myself.
I have found some groups accepting of me as I accept others. Working toward an important common purpose transcends trivial differences like race, language, political party, or team loyalty. Veterans’ organizations allow me to serve. Teaching allows me to serve. Serving allows me to think of others besides myself, to see our similarities rather than differences, to find unity rather than division.
When I seek ways to serve, I find myself surrounded by a tribe of others doing the same. When I stop seeking the tribe to save me from myself, I find myself accepted by a tribe.
My you find the tracks of service in your heart so that your tribe may find you.