Nobody knows when humans became fully human, which I define as that point when some mysterious light went on in their soul and they began to wonder, to imagine and to know right from wrong.
Just for round numbers, let’s say that happened 100,000 years ago. For 90% of the time since then, humans lived in tribes. Think of a tribe as an extended family of about 50-200 people. They worked together to keep not just themselves, but the tribe alive. They had a constant sense of past tribe members and of future tribe members.
You knew who you were, where you came from and where you were going. Conflicts arose and were settled. Strangers were suspect, but not necessarily wiped out. They might be good trading partners, or for swapping ideas or obtaining spouses. It all depended on how they acted. Defending the tribe was vital and defenders were heroes.
We still long for tribes, of course, and make them where they are lacking; either from family, friends, co-workers or by joining gangs or political parties. We still suspect strangers, but accept them if they act all right. We still think defenders are heroic and that the tribe must, above else, survive.
Yesterday my daughter, who is 22 and struggling in this economy, was passed over for a promotion. She has such excellent tribe-building skills that her co-workers had lobbied for her promotion. They were angry when she did not get it. I told her to make sure neither she nor any of the others gives the newly hired person a hard time. That would not only be cruel, it would be unprofessional. She agreed.
Then she brightened up and reached in her purse. “Look. I got this, though.” It was a little handwritten note from her tribe.
We all need a tribe. These days we have to make our own. Be sure to do that if you haven’t already.