A Tribe of One
Recently, I attended a men’s event called The Grail in Kansas City, MO. In the event, there was a young man in his twenties who, until this time, hadn’t felt the freedom to express his true feelings. He spoke of how his friends, and various girls he had approached to go out on a date, treated him with disdain. In a beautiful expression of rage, he screamed out “Fuck em all!” I do love to see those moments of clarity, rare as they are. Later in the event, I had a chance to acknowledge this young man. I said “I honor your willingness to walk your own path. Like you, I am a tribe of one.” A friend of mine asked me about that comment, and I did not respond at the time. Now, I see this same type of rage building in my own family, and I reminded of the truth of my statement: “I am a tribe of one.”
“In what concerns you much, do not think that you have companions: know that you are alone in the world.”
Henry David Thoreau
This is one real bitch of a lesson.
From the day I was born, I was led to believe I was a member of many tribes. First, there was the tribe of my family. Next, there was the tribe of my religion. Every Sunday my family would go to Mass and celebrate a ritual in honor of this tribe. Then there were the tribes of my school mates, my friends, and even of my pets. I belonged. It felt good to belong. Somehow it felt safe and secure to be surrounded by like minded individuals (and a dog named Rascal).
In my experience, so much of life is about un-learning. In my early twenties, I soon realized I was absolutely not a part of the Catholic Church tribe. Too many rules. So many things simply didn’t make any sense when contrasted to my experience of life. However, when I declared my resignation from the tribe, I was met with a strong voice from my family, a voice of disapproval. I have come to learn that when one leaves the tribe, the remaining tribe members display a wide range of emotions of upset: anger, sadness, fear, and confusion. Dealing with this disapproval, and understanding it’s deep, underlying and dark roots, is a seminal piece of the life long process of waking up. It forces one inward.
Next, again in my twenties, I determined that being married simply was something I could no longer do. I had been married for 7 years, had two children, and was completely miserable. Of course, looking back, I can now see that the misery was my own, and that blaming it on my wife was very childish. But at the time, my reality was such that I believed changing my external world would impact my internal world, and moving on was the right decision.
Well, here again, getting a divorce brings up a titanic deluge of disapproval, not only from close family members, but from anyone who is married. I was the first in my family to get a divorce. My parents are still married, as are my two brothers. It is not too strong to say that my divorce created such a rift in my family, that my membership was temporarily revoked. I was no longer a part of the tribe of my immediate family. I was not invited to Thanksgiving, nor was I spoken to. It was some months later that my father approached me and rekindled communication. I have never felt the same about my family. Whatever happened during this time, I was no longer a part of the tribe. And again, I learned how the other tribe members respond when one of their own either breaks the rules or leaves.
Just yesterday, I was taking a day off from work and watching an episode of “The Sopranos.” Tony Soprano was talking to Christopher (his nephew) and explaining to him how friends will always let you down. “In the end, it is only family that you can count on.” I would have to say that Tony Soprano is wrong, and when pushed hard enough, friends and family will not be there. In the end, there is only the tribe of one.
Now there is yet another tribe which attracts those who have rejected various tribes such as religion, marriage, government and family. It is deceptive, for when you join this tribe; it feels like you really belong. It is the tribe of no-tribe of which Stuart Wilde coined the phrase “fringe dwellers.” I hang out with a few groups that loosely fall into this classification. In my home town of Sebastopol, California, you see the green tribes everywhere. Many tribe members even wear a sort of uniform to let everyone know they have exited the mainstream, and live a supposed life of freedom from all the “bullshit.” Hemp clothing is a big clue. Talking about crystals, moon phases, and the next music festival are also strong clues. However, here again, as I have often done, when I speak my truth, I get a strong dose of disapproval and ego-based self righteousness. Again, I am not a member of the tribe. I may enjoy playing with the members of this tribe the most, but I am not a member. I remain on the outside looking in, often wondering why I am the only one to see the farce of the security of the tribe.
Now let’s look at this from a deeper place. Why is there a need to be a part of a tribe? Where does the demanding desire to be secure come from? I would say it comes from a lack of trust. And that lack of trust comes from a profound ignorance. If one does not understand the nature of this reality, one will always be clinging to another, for there is the false belief there is another to cling to. This is pretty heavy stuff, certainly it will make most upset, but it must be said.
The God Fraud. Virtually all cultures on this planet have a belief is a supreme deity. Here in America, for the most part, we just refer to this being as God. Most are raised to believe in God. Political and religious institutions ram this belief down our throats from the day we are born. “God bless America.” It is even on our money: “In God We Trust.” The belief goes like this: There is a supreme being, and his (or her, if you are a member of the Goddess tribe) job is to listen to your prayers, and take care of you. The more you live your life a certain way, and follow the rules, the better your life will be. And if you can also honor his son, Jesus, well then you are in really good shape. All your troubles will melt away. Hence is born the God tribe. When all is lost and you are forlorn, you can always join up with God, and feel that safety and security for which most long. I have heard expressions like “I was saved!” or “I was born again!” to express the jubilation of joining the God tribe.
Now just on face value, these are all beliefs. Not one person who proclaims the word of God really knows for sure that they are either saved or born again, or for that matter, that they are going to some place called heaven. It is a belief, and there is only shaky evidence at best that any of this holds any merit. When I point this out to members of the God tribe, I am mocked and told I need to have faith. I must say that whoever invented faith really understood the game. Without faith, there is no God. With faith, there is God. So if I don’t buy into the god paradigm, I must need some faith. The problem is all mine, and those that have faith can get all self righteous in their feigned knowledge and security.
I don’t do faith. My mind simply won’t allow me any longer to believe in anything. If I experience something and know it to be true, then I have something to say. If anyone is going to tell me that I must believe, or trust, or have faith, then I will tell them they aren’t looking deep enough. There is no there…there. I have looked deep. I have a powerful innate drive to dig as deep as necessary into my seedy murky dark side to get to some truth. Superstitions don’t interest me. God is a superstition.
So what do I know to be true? My experience of my life is mine.
Just heard a sound in the living room. I went to see what happened. It sounded like something fell. I kid you not. My business partner had left a book on a shelf. That book has been sitting on the shelf for over a month. And then, just a few minutes ago, that book fell to the ground as I was writing this blog. The name of the book is “The Buddha In Daily Life” by Richard Causton. Synchronicity, when noticed, can bring me such a sense of joy and wonder. I went to the book and opened it to the page with the business card book mark. Here is what stands out:
The state of complete mental “not-being” described so graphically by Proust (and with characteristic scientific restraint by Professor Borbely) is highly significant, for it could point to a level of consciousness in “delta sleep” which is even deeper than that experienced when dreaming. If so, this suggest evidence for what Buddhism calls the ninth, or fundamental, pure consciousness. This can be described as “the very core of our life,” or the pure, undefiled and inexhaustible life-force of the universe. In Buddhism it is equated variously with myoho, chu, or the Middle Way, the true entity of life, Buddhahood, and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In other words, the ninth consciousness is the source of energy for all our mental and spiritual activity, and is the power behind the “mechanical” energy which causes our physical selves – our bodies – to function; in short, it is what sustains us throughout eternity. When we sleep, then, there may be periods when we are able to directly “tap into” this consciousness, the pure life-force of the universe inherent within us and of which we are a part. This would certainly account for how sleep restores our energy, since the life-force seems to come out of nowhere and miraculously revive our spiritual and physical organism.
Could it be that we are somehow “recharged by the universe” when we are asleep? The idea may not be as fanciful as it sound for, in quoting the following passage from the Chuang-tzu, a Chinese Taoist text of the third century BC, even Professor Borbely may have an inkling along these lines: “Everything is one; during sleep the soul, undistracted, is absorbed into this unity,’ when awake distracted, it sees the different beings.”
And it is exactly that distraction which brings about the illusion of others, and the subsequent desire to connect with others in a tribe in a search for our natural state of unity. I marvel at the brilliance of the universe. Ain’t it cool! As a part of the universe, I feel my role, or the path of least resistance (and henceforth, suffering) is to get in alignment with the universe. I am constantly feeling into situations and circumstances. For example, let’s take this blog. During an event, I made a mindless comment about a tribe of one. Later, one of my brothers asked me about the comment. Then for a few weeks, the concept of a tribe of one kept resonating in my thoughts. At this point it seems clear I ought to sit down and write about it. And then, BAM!, a book falls to the ground. This book could have fallen days and weeks ago. But no, it fell at the exact moment of this writing. Not only am I writing what I feel to be true, but I am also learning from the universe in the form of a fallen book.
“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” Three Dog Night
What a crock of shit! Last night, I downloaded Three Dog Night’s greatest hits. Here is more synchronicity. I downloaded the CD for the songs “Eli’s Coming” because there is a Sales Representative in my company named Eli, and for “Joy To The World” because I performed it during an 8th grade talent show. Taking a break from the writing, I remembered my download and hit the play button. The first song starts with the phrase “One is the loneliest number.” Experiences like this use to seem weird and strange and I would want to share them with others, building my ego with comments about my expanded awareness. Now they seem common place. They are still very cool, but they happen all the time when I slow down and pay attention.
In my experience, it is true that there can be a tremendous amount of pain which accompanies separation from a tribe. A dear friend of mine is now going through a separation from her immediate family. As I see it, her energy has recently risen, and those who can’t handle the energy, are rejecting her. Not only is it a lesson in letting go, but in also honoring the powerful direction of the universe. Some things can’t be undone. You can’t un-pop a balloon. And why would you want to? Our powerlessness is complete and undeniable. There is a choice: I can row the boat in the direction of the current, or struggle and suffer and row against the current, all because I think I know what is best, or what is right. Who am I to judge? I am nobody.
“To realize your true nature, you must wait for the right moment and the right conditions. When the time comes, you are awakened as if from a dream. You understand that what you have found is your own and doesn’t come from anywhere outside.”
I feel blessed, for I have had this moment. It happened some four years ago on a beach in Bodega Bay. When it happened, I knew it had happened. It is unmistakable. I knew that single moment in all my life experience was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work. No moment would ever match it. I was done, complete and ready to die. Yet here I am, so it seems the universe still has plans for me. I smoke because I like it. I eat what I like. I fuck who I like. When it is my time, call in the clowns. I have met only one other person who I believe to have had this experience, which Jed McKenna refers to as living with “abiding non-dual awareness.” I have seen a few on DVD, and read the words of others in books. Perhaps there are many out there and my awareness needs more fine tuning. I don’t know. I don’t care. The most preposterous tribe to even consider is one of the awakened. It’s anathema. Verboten. Ridiculous. If there is no other, how can there be a tribe?
I spend quite a bit of my time alone. People ask me if I ever get lonely. To deflect more questions, I reply with something like “I am weird, I just don’t get lonely.” This usually works to stop the line of questioning. You see, I have no interest in sharing my experiences, unless I am called upon to do so. When called, I answer, as is demonstrated by this blog. Bottom line, I am in love with my tribe of one. To experience oneness is to experience everything at once. I am a part of this computer, and my printer, and my candles and pictures. We share the same cells. We breath the same air. We are all 99% space, with little bits of matter spinning around at light speed. Could the illusion of solidity be any more transparent? I imagine myself in this reality as a sort of soup of cells mixed in with all the other soups of cells all swimming around it the ultimate bowl of cosmic soup.
In closing, I invited you to look at the tribes of which you feel you are a part. Can you interact with the tribe without being dependant on the tribe for your happiness? If not, then what is it within you that feels it needs anything whatsoever from another. Then the next question to ponder: Is there another? Another great question: If there is no other, then who am I? This is the question that will really get things moving.
More synchronicity from the universe. As I complete this blog, I am listening to the song Shambala:
Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala
How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala
Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the road to Shambala
How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala
I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes
On the road to Shambala
I can tell my sister by the flower in her ear
On the road to Shambala
After hearing this song, I googled Shambala and found the following:
It is the Shambhala view that every human being has a fundamental nature of goodness, warmth and intelligence. This nature can be cultivated through meditation, following ancient principles, and it can be further developed in daily life, so that it radiates out to family, friends, community and society.
In the course of our lives, this goodness, warmth and intelligence can easily become covered over by doubt, fear and egotism. We tend to fall into a kind of sleep or stupor, believing in the conditioning we have as the ultimate truth, and coming under the sway of fear. The journey of becoming fully human means seeing through fear and egotism, and waking up to our natural intelligence. It takes kindness—to ourselves and others—and courage, to wake up in this world. The journey of awakening is known as the path of the warrior, as it requires the simple bravery to look directly at one’s own mind and heart. www.shambhala.org
Arrogant bastard that I am, swirling in a sea of synchronicity, I am complete. Thank you for reading.
Thanks for the post. I enjoyed reading and reacting.
…So, what is your “tribe of one”? Thoreau’s atomistic “you are alone in the world”? Or the Chuang-tzu’s “everything is one”? Or does it even matter? Connection and union are sought regardless, yes?
Also, the point of the boat allegory continues to elude me. Facing a choice, I choose (i.e., judge) necessarily. “Who am I to judge?” I am the one who perceives choices. …I had a similar reaction to the hands-off-the-steering-wheel scene in “Fight Club.”
The insight shared here is great for a lost soul as mine. For now I am jusy trying to step out ofmmy own way and move forward.
Thanx for the insight.