Saturday, January 20, 2007

Who Is My Neighbor?

Just when you think you have something figured out the universe poses a question just to put you into your place...

While reading through Farmlet today, I noticed Kevin posted a small bit about the Path to Freedom site and how the weather has affected them. This struck me since I just finished writing up a piece for a local tabloid regarding the need for renewed localization and regionalism (plus the fact that the site has been in my bookmarks for a long time now). My reasoning was to offset dependence on foreign products such a energy and food (to name a few) and to renew the dying sense of community in our nation. In the midst of such an idea is the hope of becoming capable again. We have deferred so much of our lives to mechanization, technology and imports that we've become nothing but a nation of consumers, entertainers and soldiers.

So a good dose of self-reliance seemed, in my mind, to be just what the doctor ordered. As with all things, finding the balance is difficult. Americans have leaned so far toward self-reliance for so many years, it has become a defining trait. We idolize the cowboy who rides off on his own to face and master his environment. But we've long since left that reality behind and are now simply smelling its vapors. We are reliant on many for much. We don't like to talk about it and won't really acknowledge it, but it is a fact. This world is smaller now and when a rock falls in Japan we feel it over here.

This jabbering has all been a preface to my attempt at figuring out the balance between the tribe and the individual. I know there is a balance there somewhere, but our tribal experience is with more primitive surroundings and more simple needs. Like it or not, the world has changed. Modern tribes are likely quite different. Now I find myself asking, "Who is my tribe?" "Do we have to live in the same area?" "Do we have to speak the same language?" In days past my tribe would have been obvious. Today, this is not the case. Today, a member of your tribe in New Zealand can note the weather in California and pass the news on to New York in the blink of an eye. The man in New York recalls reading the California tribe member's words for a long time and finding them inspiring. Across those miles is a bond. When news of crop destruction reaches New Zealand and New York, hearts are awakened and compassion is felt.

I am, by nature, an introvert. I do well in crowds but it takes energy from me. If I could I'd probably try to make it on my own like those cowboys of yore. But I know that this game is not meant to be solitaire. We are in this together and we will succeed together or die together. I don't know who is in my tribe and I don't know how this will all work out. I do know that I can't do it alone. I think we sometimes search too hard for answers to "Who am I?" and "Who is my tribe?" when the answers are right under our noses. Right now, all I can think of is reading through Luke 10:25-37 and replacing the word "neighbor" with "tribe member".


Blogger casemeau said...

Yes, who do I care about? I always (electronically) check in with Frank to see how he's doing, how the handwriting thing is going, what his latest "stuff" is. What's on Devin's mind these days? Oooh, DeAnna's buying a house! Tom has been down in a funk, what does one do to electronically reach out to him? Rose's animals are all either having babies or not having babies, holy shit, people are sending all kinds of money to Kevin, Nigel keeps freezing his fingers off at the community garden, Aaron went to an earth building weekend and really cares about being a good parent....I feel like a neighbor, perhaps maybe even more like a tribe member, because neighbors don't usually share so intimately with each other. Can a New Yorker and an Arizonan be neighbors? Thanks to this internet and the willingness to open our hearts using words, the answer is yes. Imagine if the internet disappeared overnight, wouldn't you really miss news of Ran and Ted and Jason and Marcy and....When I truly get quiet and imagine being cut off from news of all these people, it would make me feel sad, miss them, be homesick. That's evidence enough for me. Thanks for getting me to do that little imagination exercise, Frank.

January 21, 2007 12:16 PM  
Blogger Marcy said...

That's funny that you mentioned being an introvert, b/c I mentioned the same thing in a post this morning.

I struggle with the word "tribe" because some people equate tribe with commune. A few years ago I actually researched some communes b/c I thought it might be a better answer than mainstream society. I quickly figured out that I would have next to no free time. My batteries would be drained within a week. Lots of those places expect you to eat dinner communally every day. Gawd. I'd see me losing a lot of weight, b/c I'd be doing a lot of fasting in my room.

January 21, 2007 3:38 PM  
Blogger Theo_musher said...


I struggle with finding this balance too.

January 22, 2007 12:52 PM  
Blogger Archangel said...

it's really tough. on the one hand, my strong tribalist response is: there is no true community but that which is face to face. so these things we're a part of now are really sort of hollow in this view.

but they're real, too, and meaningful. balance, balance.

i suspect it will come, organically, as the control grip of the dominators slips little by little. with the web gone, as i suspect it will be, we will have to start engagign with each other again, and work it out again.

but i dunno- we do live in a global context, for better or worse.

tough, tough issues. good post to bring it up!

January 22, 2007 7:38 PM  
Blogger Frank Black said...

I am someone who has believed that we are not wired to handle the woes of the entire planet. For most of our history our world was a small circle of about 20 to 100 miles. All the news within that area was our concern. Certainly news from around the globe eventually reached us, but long after anything could be done about it. As time went on the world became smaller. More news, more information, more stuff. We were still wired the same. It is to the point now that we can literally know all the news for all the towns in all the world if we so choose. But, our psyche doesn't bare up well against so much woe. We can't handle it. So I do agree that our tribe is our main concern and our geographic area is our next concern. But our tribe does tend to spread out. I honestly feel more of a connection (for whatever reason) with Kevin and Rebecca's farm than I do with the farm down the road. That is a bad thing, but it is true. They are in my tribe, for lack of a better term, and there isn't much I can do about it. Geographic proximity is the most reasonable way to deal with a tribe, but in the modern world it doesn't work anything like that. It makes things difficult.

When we go back to soup cans and string this will all work out.

January 23, 2007 3:27 PM  

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