Monday, January 05, 2009

RE-INVENTING THE TRIBE

Christmas morning I think: We gather every morning for "Hugs and Mugs" and every afternoon for "Circle."
About 100 of us enjoyed the holidays together at Yuma, Az
Bagpipe Bob entertaining us around the campfire.


Pictured above is a fraction of the tribe I belong to, the Wandering Individuals Network, a real life mobile community of about 600, mostly single individuals. We are camped outside Yuma, Arizona for the holidays. I have wandered with these clever and friendly people for the past ten years, diving in for a social fix and departing to find solitude. I’m proud of this group because we are reinventing the tribe; we are creating a whole new culture. As I have rhymed:

We began as a tribe on a grassy plain,
Wandering a circuit for meat and for grain,
Sharing our fire, our food, and our fun;
Transcending aloneness, we fused into one.

Now WIN is becoming what we’ve already been,
A wandering tribe of women and men.
We scatter like pollen to court solitude,
Then gather like salmon for a fine interlude.

We are a vagabonds’ dream come true. We have all the tribal advantages of security, mobility, comforts and companionship without the traditional disadvantages.

The tribalism of our ancestors was characterized by birth membership, hierarchical power structure, suppressive of individualism, plagued by fears and superstitions, locked into rigid rituals and taboos. Currently existing primitive tribes are pretty much the same as those of 20,000 years ago. When you see films of New Guinea tribespeople dancing with their spears and hear the narrow scope of their concerns when they are interviewed, you would likely decline membership if offered.

Ah, but in your heart you do want to belong to a tribe. Everyone does. It’s in our genes. Call it a support group or a circle of friends or a club—it is a form of tribe. Even outcast hobos need a tribe. Yesterday I watched several of them congregate for companionship under the ocean to ocean bridge in Yuma. I maneuvered to eavesdrop. It became obvious from their crude banter that they neither trusted or respected each other but they lingered together anyway; proof that people need people.

Bill Gates and his crew are surely a tribe in the best sense. Obama is assembling his tribe even now. Minimally speaking, a tribe is a group with something in common, and I maintain that the modern version can promote progress.

I have friends who think of themselves as loners but who regularly camp at Elk or Moose Lodges for a taste of sociability. One of my hard core loner friends (the very one who got me doing this blogging) frankly admitted recently that he’d had enough of solitude and now resides in a trailer park. I say to him and all who fantasize the lone wolf lifestyle what Teilard De Chardin said: ISOLATION IS A DEAD END; THE SELF IS FULFILLED IN COMMUNITY. I will tweak that aphorism and say The self is fulfilled by a happy vacillation between solitude and society.

My tribe, the WINs are mastering the art of togetherness without tyranny, ritual without rigidity, movement with meaning. Instead of aimlessly wandering, we lay out sensible, weather sensitive circuits of short hops to interesting places, camping mostly in free areas. All our rigs are self contained so that we do not need external power and most are electronically connected to the entire world. For extended periods we can camp as pictured above in complete comfort on vacant land. We have a vast reservoir of information at our keyboard fingertips via our magic air card connection to the internet. I daresay that 70% of us could easily find out which movies are playing where and when. With the punch of a key we can find all the dump stations in the state. We often print out stuff on our printers. When we are near a body of water, many will unstrap their Kayaks and go paddling. If we see wild lands on the horizon, down come the ramps and out roll the 4 wheelers to go investigate. Night time will often find us around a fire some member has built using his chainsaw to gather wood.

Even our ancestors knew instinctively about the BONUS OF HUMAN ASSOCIATION: that one person could build a fire that 40 can enjoy. Expressed mathematically, one unit of work put into the tribe will often produce 50 units of benefits and in time will yield 50 units of benefits for the contributor as others make their contribution. A pot luck dinner is proof conclusive.

If this sounds too good to be true, I assure you it is not. Some small fraction of the million or so full time rvers have bonded themselves to reap the windfall benefits that collaboration brings. I believe all of us desire the warm familiarity of the tribe like we desire submerging ourselves in warm water.

As advanced as this tribe is, I think we’ve only scratched the surface. Visionaries among us see us with a communal tent, portable dance floor and sound system. Collectively, the cost per person is trivial. A prototype of the dance floor will soon be tested. New games and new connection strategies are in the offing for those seeking a partner.

In short we are reinventing the tribe----as a means of enhancing individuality and creativity rather than detracting from it. I see WIN as a rock tumbler where variously shaped rocks polish themselves by increased interaction.

No less an authority than Palo Solari, architect and founder of the city of Arcosanti, has pointed out that civilization only began when city walls forced us to interact more intensely.

5 comments:

Bushrod said...

It's hard to say anything after that, Ran. It is a non sequitur, but interesting..

721sandwiches said...

I like this post. I believe that what you say about people wanting to be in a tribe is fundamentally true. And how you say one unit of work goes into 50 units of use - it's very true. I find myself thinking about this when I cook food.

I'm a lone guy in a van, and there is not an easy network of people to share with. Your RV tribe is appealing just for that purpose. People in vans, especially in towns and cities, seem too busy hiding, and we miss a mark when it comes to sharing resources. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just this massive pot of rice and beans - 30 mins of propane, a cup of rice, and I could be feeding about 6 people accidentally. Hm. This seems to be a pointless ramble now.

I like your tribe, and your poetry is good.
Chris

Mark said...

This mobile tribalism is fairly amazing.

wisesongbird said...

Prose and poetry - come together in another great piece of writing. Always enjoy your blogs...an insight shared from the philosopher/poet. Thanks.

John said...

I went off from the tribe and have found life has become an existence not a joy. Iam coming home to the tribe where I belong. Thank you Randy for being a guiding light.

John Coulter 1850