Tribal Instincts


Tribe. A group of people who gather together to share resources for a better chance of survival or for social connection.

Tribe. A unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture.. 

I consciously joined my first tribe at 13. Intentional ritual with the list of cans and can’ts written out and presented to me before the closing of the deal. The strength of a tribe, a group, that bands together in the face of oppression from a perceived invader is comforting and powerful.

When I left, I blamed the tribe for my feelings of isolation, I blamed them for having to leave. They were my people, my family, they were “supposed” to be my support in times of trouble. And they were, they would have been. But I chose something inimical to my participation. I chose to discover and believe things outside the parameters of the tribal sphere. I accepted the lack and explained it as inherent to the nature of the tribe. This tribe failed me because they were too limited and narrow in their rules for acceptance.

I joined a new tribe. The rituals were informal, the rules were unspoken, but the comfort and power of our shared experiences was equally intense. Perhaps it was my love of tribal connection, but I dove all the way in. Not even aware that I was doing so. Until I did it again. Found things in my heart incompatible with my tribal world.  The tribal instinct is to circle the wagons in the face of an enemy attack. Unless you start connecting with the outsiders. Then how can you close the circle? I was looking at this ass-backwards and disconnected. There hasn’t been any betrayal on either side. It was a contract of connection. The tribe cannot keep that which is outside. It is contrary to the tribal nature.

I think the difference between tribe and community is the room for difference. I am now interested in living in community with people who are interested and willing to examine and explore the ways in which we are different and yet still connected. But sometimes, I miss the certainty of the tribe.