I had lunch with my mother the other day. She told me about a conversation with my sister, who lives on Whidbey Island, Washington. My sister prefers to travel by bicycle (though she owns a truck for her gardening work), and doesn't own a cell phone. The conversation went like this: Mom: Cary, you really should have a cell phone. I mean, what if you were to have an accident on your bike? You could be lying there with no way to call for help.
Cary: Mom, if I had an accident, within five minutes a car would drive by with someone in it who probably knows me - and if they didn't know me, they'd jump out of their car to help me anyway.
I had to laugh, because it's absolutely true. You see, my sister, Cary Peterson, lives in what I would say is the modern approximation of a tribe. She coordinates the "Good Cheer Garden," with a purely volunteer staff that grows vegetables for the Whidbey Island Food Bank. She's truly considered an "elder" of her tribe, having had her hand in several different aspects of community life for over twenty years.
There are plenty of recent articles and studies that show that exercising with friends results in better health and greater motivation. Apparently happier married couple live longer than single people. Why is this? I would have to agree with Frank Forencich, creator of Exuberant Animal, who, in addition to teaching joyful, fun movement, also emphasizes the importance of the "tribe." Back on the ancestral grasslands of Africa, the tribe was our survival. In an environment replete with every kind of danger imaginable, "going it alone" would have meant certain death. Our environment deeply affected our behavior, from our need to cultivate awareness and control, to our ability to move quickly, and intelligently, to our need for community, the modern day version of "the tribe." The tribe taught us, nurtured us, and kept us alive. Tribal behavior quite possibly caused our brains to grow as well.
Is it any wonder that so many of us feel lonely and disconnected in modern day life? How many of us can say that we have a "tribe" that supports and nurtures us, and is there for us during the different stages of life?
For those of you who feel connected to a tribe, I'd love to hear your stories and comments.