Friday, August 17, 2007

A Cup of (Tribal) Comfort

Since our ancestors lived in tribes for millions of years, the feeling of belonging to a defined group of people – an 'us' that sets us apart from the undifferentiated hordes of 'them' – is almost certainly hard-wired into our psyches.

These days, most of us don't live within our tribes any more. Yet the feeling of identification, the sense of belonging to a discrete group of fellow humans set apart from all the rest is still a basic need. When we don't have our tribe, we long for it. So we search for it. We may search for it in our local communities, but more often these days we search for it in sub-cultures. No matter how unusual or bizarre our preferences and preoccupations, through the global interconnectedness of modern life it is possible to link up with other people who see the world through the same sort of lenses as we do. And when we find those individuals or those groups, there is an 'Aha' moment, followed by a long, sighing 'Aaahh' of pleasure. Something in us has come home to itself. 'There are people out there just like me'. We no longer live within our tribes; nowadays, our tribes live within us.

So rich are the possibilities that modern communications like the Internet have given us that, unlike our ancestors, many of us nowadays feel part of several tribes at once. When I think about my own life, I am aware of being part of at least four major tribes apart from my biological family and my professional colleagues. One, I became part of not simply by passing through menopause but in writing two books about aging and, through those, linking with various branches of the world-wide tribe of 'conscious' elders who are reclaiming elderhood for our times.

Another, I am part of by virtue of my love of our precious, lovely Earth and the Earth-based spirituality of Thomas Berry, Matthew Fox and dozens of other, inspirational writers. That is my tribe of 'green' people. It, in turn, has natural and obvious links with another of my tribes – the folks who live, as my partner and I try to do, lives of voluntary simplicity in which we take as little as we can of the planet's resources and give back as much as we are able, in service, in compost, in love and in writing.

It is writing that unites me with the fourth of my major tribes: the tribe of writers. We are everywhere, we are legion and we really, really need each other. For there are some things – a lot of things, in fact – that writers feel and experience and talk about that no-one but another writer could possibly understand. Writing is, for most of us, a solitary pursuit. Yet without the knowledge that there are others just like us, sitting at our computers, dealing with precisely the same sorts of struggles and doubts, pleasures, pains and questions, we would probably not be able to sit there very long.

It is for this reason that writers band together in writers' groups and encourage others to do likewise. And it is for this reason that writers love websites, discussion groups, magazines and books that explore this special, tribal world that writerly folk inhabit.

What I am (slowly) leading up to telling you is that a wonderful anthology by and for writers was published a few days ago and I just received my copy yesterday. It is called A Cup of Comfort for Writers.

I am telling you this, not because it has an essay by me in it, although I am very happy to say that it does (my essay called 'The Baptism' is on page 236). I am telling you because I have been reading some of the other essays in the collection and I know that if, by any chance, you are a writer, they will speak to you, just as they are speaking to me. They may well give you an 'Aha', followed by a nice, long 'Aaahh'.

And if 'writer' is not one of the labels you wear, I encourage you to find – and rejoice in and talk about and blog about – the tribes of which you are a part and which, in turn, are part of you.


kokopelliwoman said...

Lovely, lovely! I am awed by your writing, I will definitely come back for more "comfort."

Anonymous said...

Wonderful discussion of tribes. I, too, appreciate how you put words together. Thanks so much.

joared said...

Interesting thoughts about our tribes. The book you mention sounds intriguing. Appreciated your comment at TGB which reminded me I needed to stop by here again.

Unknown said...

I've just now discovered your blog and will return often. I will look for the book about "Comfort" for writers for we sorely need it.
If you have an extra moment, please check out my new blog at:

I'm new to this and would welcome comments especially since mine seems a bit different from most.