A term that began in ancient Rome, a “tribe” is defined as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.” Geographically, we have little need in the US to organize in traditional tribes because we are entirely mobile and capable of providing for ourselves individually. But the tribe mentality is still alive and well in the human mind. Think of your first integrative relationships: with your mother, your father, and your siblings. Eventually, those first tribal relationships aren’t enough. For some people, the family isn’t cohesive enough to give a sense of “tribal” membership.
That sense of membership, that sylph; it fills the lungs of each member with the beautiful common between them. As I sit and watch my niece’s volleyball game, it is clear that these small tribes are our anchors to each other. It’s the way girls make sports their own: matching bows, embroidered gear bags, eye shadow that matches the team colors. It seems silly on the surface, but they are the marks of the tribe. They belong. That’s vital to their success as a team.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I belong to a few tribes and no two are alike. Every once in a while, a member (or two) intersects, but each tribe serves an invaluable purpose for me. My art tribe fuels and inspires my creativity; my political tribe keeps me sharp; my friends tribe collectively celebrates our varied peccadillos with impunity; and my family tribe gives me that love that only family can give. I love and need all my tribes. They are part of the rich, heavy tapestry that is my life, my great mantle, warming my soul.