“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” ― Thomas Merton
Ignore the Tribe.
Make me happy?
Make me richer?
Sort out my s***?
If you don’t, you’ll continue to feed that whiny voice in your head that won’t shut up.
Now, you might think this a bit OTT (apologies for the profanity), but it’s the path I’ve walked most of my life — actually, I’ve been scared witless most of the time that I’ll waste it doing nothing of any importance — and, as a result, I’ve joined or been part of any tribe that I thought would make me whole.
Thank god though, in March 2010, I was, by dint of a very serious whack to the head, reminded that there was more to life than fitting in or maintaining my place in the job-title queue (both were/are illusions). It was at that stage, and not before, I began to question my assumptions about being part of a powerful tribe.
And when I say question, it wasn’t the members of the tribe I questioned (in any event, the manual was already set in stone by the elders), it was my naivety in staying put as a private practice solicitor when it did nothing to help me self-actualise, beyond the fact I could apply my messianic zeal in the pursuit of profit for a group of people that cared only about their exalted position and not about those they served.
I’d dearly love to single out a few moments where I tried to come to terms with my half-hearted attempt at life but, in many ways, and as limp as it sounds, it’s too painful, not least because I now see how much of my soul died stuffing down my deep-seated frustration. What I should have done is grown a pair of cojones, jumped ship and follow my creative North Star. To be fair, at the time of said crises, I would have been hard-pressed to articulate what my bent was but I would have made damn sure that I didn’t end up handcuffed to a desk, spiritually marooned and bereft of anything that made me feel alive. And yes, I know that sounds fantastically idealistic, but there would have been no point throwing away six years of training and all that gut-busting effort to compromise on finding work that lifted me up, not broke me into a million shards of disappointment.
During the past six years, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being seduced into following a few more tribes — social media, spirituality and contemplation to name a few — but one thing that’s remained rock solid is my fundamental belief that underneath this rag bag of beliefs lies true Self (see New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton at pp. 29-36).
To be clear, it’s easy to fall victim to the marketing that comes with tribe-making without investigating our higher Self. Not the ego-fantastical creature that allows our inner voice to hold you ransom but the ‘I Am’ that comes well before I am this or I am that.
If you don’t know what the hell I’m prattling on about, you need to revisit your earliest memory (which is a thought-construct of course) and ask yourself what it felt like. For a start, I’d wager you were happy for happiness sake. In other words, you weren’t focused on money, titles or fame. Everything just was. This doesn’t mean I equate a child’s mind with happiness but it’s simply that as our capitalist conditioning took hold, you know the one that prizes the altar of stuff beyond all else, we lost touch with our innate wellbeing that comes from being alive. (Let’s face it, even in the darkest hour, we’re aware of something, and it sure as hell isn’t what we’ve got left in the fridge or some goal to pursue.)
Part of me would love to exhort ‘kill the tribes’ but I know that’s a stupid outlook. For all the corrupting influence, there’s much to be gained by learning from the mistakes and wisdom of others, but, at the same time, you’ve to be very careful you don’t start exhorting tribe speak that’s prevalent in many circles, which means you’ve shaken off another faux personality, adorned another set of new emperor’s clothes only to find, in six months’ time, you’re back to the start, questioning why you’ve given so much of your time to one thing that’s no better than the one before.
In case you’re left wondering what you should do, without wishing to appear prescriptive, my only advice would be to journey within and continue to question your thoughts and feelings with one or two simple questions; namely, What do they (my thoughts) mean? or, better still, Are they (my thoughts) true?. (It’s unlikely that any of your thoughts are true but it may allow an insight to arrive where, perhaps for the first time, you question if you’re indeed you’re thoughts? Once you recognise that you’re not, then you might not be so inclined to follow another tribe but instead delve deeper, exploring the outer reaches of consciousness and universal mind.)
One final thing. Even if you’re not on a spiritual path don’t think that the success gurus and entrepreneurial tribe-makers are any less dogmatic in their worldview than the new-age evangelists. But is it you? Or rather, are someone else’s beliefs (about money) the same as yours? If not, perhaps it’s time you started your own tribe of non-tribers. You never know, you might find it has a ready-made following of those people who’ve woken up to discover that they never were the person they thought themself to be.