Friday, April 9, 2010

What is this thing called a tribe*?

flockThere is a lot of buzz today about finding your Tribe*. But what if you don’t know what your tribe is? What about the outliers? Or is that Outlanders? If enough non-belongers get together and get along reasonably well, can they be considered a Tribe?

I have not truly belonged anywhere until I had kids and grew my own tribe. Please…please do not over-read that statement. I am not endorsing that random non-connected people have kids in order to belong. Bringing children into the world solely to keep you company is not a reason that will get you and them safely through colic, teething, chicken pox, middle school drama and arguments over the car keys. This was just a point I realized after the fact, that’s all. Whew!

When I was growing up I attributed not belonging to frequent moves, being the bad child in the family, being damaged, and a very long list of other real and imagined flaws. I thought I was the only kid in the world who felt she had been sent home with the wrong family until I read two other accounts recently.

One was a young woman named Zoe in Kirshenbaum’s “Everything Happens for a Reason.” She told the author that while she missed her parents after they died she wondered if they would have gotten along during her teen years because they were so quiet and conservative while she was always pushing the limits.

The second one was a young Indian woman Gilbert (East, Pray, Love) meets at the Ashram. She doesn’t understand how she can be so different from her parents and family. She hates dressing up and going to weddings, and the women’s gossip, that she’s expected to make a good marriage but she wants to remain single. She doesn’t even think she looks like her family.

These are not the normal and mostly superficial generation gap frictions that every family experiences to varying degrees. Some of us can remember lying awake at night wondering why we did not seem to be able to figure out what would make our parents or teachers happy or pleased; and why everything we try generally gets the same response: why did you do/think that?

So is there yet hope? Can we fringe dwelling nomadic migratory rambler types find enough in common to consider ourselves a tribe? Can we forge bonds during our fleeting meet-ups to sustain us during the separations and that could rally around a common cause by remote?

I don't think this has a one-size-fits-all answer. I think it's a jumping-off point.

*For more about finding and creating a Tribe:
Seth Godin
Chris Guillebeau


Granola said...

I always refer to my tribe as "my peeps." To me, it's not so much a group of people that I interact and socialize with. It simply represents like-minded individuals. For example, certain types of animal welfare advocates, writers and artists, and other subcultural groups are what I consider my tribe/peeps. There's a common bond, even with the people in these groups that I've never met. That's how I see it, anyway. I guess I should start making more direct connections with these folks.

Deb said...

@Granola - I hope you come back and let us know more about you. Meanwhile, I'm glad you've found like-minded people beyond a social group. I have my writers that I hang out with but I'm not sure this is my tribe. I have an area I'm concerned about but I don't know if there are any other like-minded people. I think one this is wondering what the tipping point is for a tribe. Maybe it depends.