Once upon a time, ‘we few, we band of brothers”… and sisters, banded together for a vital cause.
In my eighth decade, even remembering Pearl Harbor and hearing too much about the Great Depression, I do not have a sense, –ever before–, of being as baffled as I am about life in America. I turn to Sebastian Junger’s recent little masterpiece – for words upon the flyleaf alone:
“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding: TRIBES. This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society. Regaining it may be the key to… survival.”
I wonder if the author realizes he is a prophet.
He starts us right out with Benjamin Franklin’s lament that English settlers were “constantly fleeing over to the Indians — but Indians almost never did the same…”
Junger insists that “tribal society has been exerting an almost gravitational pull on Westerners for hundreds of years. The reason lies deep in our evolutionary past as a communal species.”
Some of my friends now, and my little sister and I always, back in Michigan, really really wanted to be Indians. Even the friend born in Germany, but nourished upon The Last of the Mohicans. We had headdresses. Moccasins.
Houser Mother and Child, Santa Fe, New Mexico
This longing for tribal reality is surfacing now, in the face of this dire global plague. People with no obvious connection are reaching out heroically to one another. Kind shoppers smiling and saying on my only shopping run, “Here, let me get that for you.” A neighbor stopping by with six eggs of her dozen this morning. My computer wizard, finding out that my printer won’t pull in paper, writes at 8 this morning, “I will bring you mine.” And he did. And it works. A Target employee gives my college roommate and her Alzheimer’s husband (who cannot go to daycare and cannot be left home alone) “the largest possible single pack of toilet paper; ditto of paper towels; and one sealed canister of wipes.”
I’m expecting Junger to write a sequel – “How a virus brought back tribal consciousness in the 21st Century.”
“Men who go down to the sea in ships” all along America’s coasts, belong to a noble tribe, full of courage and outstanding unity. This at the Assateague lighthouse:
My real-life friends and colleagues know, I’m always looking for the gift. Even in this nightmare. Here are some Junger insights that might help us not only recognize gifts, but increase them:
“Our entire existence may be a seeking of/for communion.”
Junger defines connection (which describes my “Caring Corps” who pulled me through last spring’s hip replacement) as “a situation of collective healing — some pros; most devoted amateurs.”
He describes “the most dangerous loss generated by our addiction to ‘prosperity'” as communion.
Junger mourns that “America lacks a shared ethic of trying to protect something.”
What’s relevant this day, 3/20/2020, Junger insists, is that “Disasters thrust people into a more ancient organic way of relating, allowing humans to experience immensely reassuring connection to others; bringing back ancient human virtues of courage, loyalty and selflessness.”
TRIBE – Santa Fe, New Mexico
I salute Sebastian Junger’s courage in daring to speak these truths, including – unlike our Indians – “The U.S.A. suffers from a massive devaluation of its warriors.”
How are these truths resonating around you, everyone, as various states impose the equivalent of house arrest?
How are you finding yourselves unexpectedly nourished, far beyond supermarkets and big box stores?
Junger’s most daring phrase is on the second to the last page: “…True leadership, the kind that lives depend on, may require powerful people to put themselves last.”
“Belonging to society requires sacrifice; and that sacrifice gives back way more than it costs.”
“Solidarity is the core of what it means to be human… It may be the only thing that allows us to survive.”
I personally find it ironic that the name of the virus is “Corona” …another word for “crown.” Our founding fathers, mothers and writers launched a successful revolution to free us from the tyranny of a crown.
This crisis may truly be our greatest opportunity.
This sign is in the museum on Chincoteague, which, with its barrier island, Assateague, had just survived somehow a massive hurricane that tumbled houses like Mononopoly pieces. This actually could be the American Dream.