“Have you found your tribe yet?”

“Well, no, but I expect to shortly.” Or so I reported. I had belonged to a tribe of sorts in the last place, but I expected it would and really should take some time to attract a new one in the new place. I knew I was lying, and not simply because my lips were moving, but also because of the nature of my friend’s question. Her question presumed that one finds their tribe. I might have caught this subtlety, but it slipped past me.

Who knows where one’s tribe comes from? Reflecting on my experience, I might more easily conclude that my tribes have more found me than I ever found them. No tribe hangs around anticipating getting found and, again, in my experience, the whole concept of ‘lost tribe’ seems terribly Old Testament. Tribes don’t need finding, seem to resist being stalked, and never appear in a convenient pack.

Tribes seem to accrete around me, or certainly have done in the past. I think it unlikely that this pattern will change in the future. Accretion seems the better metaphor for tribe acquisition. A connection here, another there, and over time, a tribe results. Some groups seem to invite more or less immediate access, but even those need some seasoning before anything like a tribal association appears. Affinity first, then, perhaps alignment, only later, full affiliation.

I tend to forget my tribes. Not that they are inherently forgettable, but tribal relations seem to need more or less frequent reinforcement, perhaps reassurance. That team departing confident that they just changed the world together moves back into individual spaces, places removed from the tribe’s reinforcing influence. The magnetic attraction only extends so far. Outside that field, we just become our isolated selves again. Even if we retain memory of the magic, we will not conjure alone.

Over time, the sharp memory of the peak experience inevitably extinguishes itself. Distance first disturbs the force field. Time erases it. Then, even I become vulnerable to the backhanded suggestion that I should go looking for ‘my’ tribe. I ache for association again. These searches seem inevitably in vain, the harder seeking seemingly yielding ever less likelihood for success, as if chasing away the sought object rather than moving closer toward it. There is no object there. I chase presumption, projection.

Tribes in the thoroughly modern sense accrete one accident at a time, and nobody can reasonably will any accident. They must occur unbidden, surprisingly, unexpectedly. Synchronicity will seem the causal agent, but only ever after the fact. Tribes seem to become the accumulation of chance encounters rather than deliberate intentions. The more proper question might be, “Has your tribe found you yet,” but tribes don’t cruise for fresh associates. They exist only when two or more members are present, each member a veteran of some chance encounter with another veteran of some chance encounter, each and all belonging for sure due to sublime happenstance.

This foundation lends a definite magical quality to the whole association, supremely personal and tenaciously social. We, the members of this tribe, are bound to the present by the compelling power of our past experiences. We, none of us, began by believing, we learned to believe similarly, and perhaps we taught each other, are teaching each other. In a tribe, though, we do not believe the self same things. Our shared belief structure looks like swiss cheese, more the product of fermentation than indoctrination. We share enough for discernible structure but each retains space for our differences. We do not hold these differences against each other, but rather deeply revere them. We might even at some level drive each other crazy, resulting in a robust sense of sanity.

So, no, I have not found my tribe here yet. Nor is my tribe searching for me. I hold no doubt that my tribe here will emerge over time, but only fools push on the tailpipe of time expecting faster resolution. Tribes accrete as inexorably as time plods along, progress measured only retrospectively. However strongly I might desire for my tribe to appear, it will emerge by the time it’s critically necessary; never before. Until then, I can revel in my past tribal experiences and warmly anticipate future ones, but I dare not, cannot, need not rush along the inevitable.

©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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