A TFW Portland Book Review: Tribe by Sebastian Junger. Stronger together than apart!

Some time ago, I got my hands on Sebastian Junger's book " Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging".

The title speaks to me because my story (like so many others) has a hard time finding a launching-off point. Whether you left home early amidst instability or you had a rock-solid foundation in your nuclear family, you may have struggled with a sense of identity or sense of "home". Not because you didn't have an address, but because you may have lacked something a little more intangible... and a little more important.

Junger uses frontier stories from early America, his personal tour of the former Yugoslavia during The Bosnian War from 1992-1995, and US military reintegration problems circa now, to weave a consistent narrative that hits home to me as a veteran and as someone who has recently found their tribe.

Communities come together (or truly cohere) in times of intense stress. When connections become clear and teamwork becomes NECESSARY, not just a "nice to have". The bonds are strengthened in times of strife, and the strength of those bonds keeps groups tethered together when times are good. Those tethers give us a comforting sense of grounding when we feel the anxiety of free time and the isolation of physical separation.

Junger tells story after story that highlights the pain of individual suffering apart from the collective. When you are the only one that loses a job, you feel shame which in and of itself is isolating. When the whole tribe goes hungry, there is less shame and more bonding that comes along with mutual suffering. This concept of shared experience is powerful when he describes a scene wherein a town hall is dedicated to veterans sharing their stories on Veterans Day. Emotional, raw, and unfiltered veterans take advantage of the moment to release the pressure valve they've been storing away from their communities. Explosions, tears, sobs and untapped feelings spilled out, to be met with acceptance from their communities.

Tribe puts a magnifying glass on the critical elements that we use to keep ourselves from finding our tribe. In each of us resides a narrative: we are too _______ (scarred, damaged, incomplete, afraid) to be truly accepted by our peers. Combine this potential separation anxiety with a social structure that prides itself on freedom (meaning that none of us need other humans to eat, sleep, earn money to eat and sleep, or find our purpose) and you have a recipe for disconnectedness and depression.

The "solution" to the issue of necessity and suffering together is not presented, at least not in a top 10 list of action steps format. But the antidote to negative feelings has always been positive action. By seeking out your tribe and showing up to support them, you will have done the difficult thing by selecting those you WISH to identify with. Unlike Junger, I'll give you some action steps to adopt your tribe.

Show up: If you see your friends doing something important to them, show up. Whether it's going to a poetry slam, outdoor concert, or art opening! Very few of us have people who are willing to show up. Do this and this alone and you'll feel great by getting out of your comfort zone, along with being more connected to your group.

Lead: You don't have to organize a field trip to restore trails in the Columbia Gorge (we are doing this, by the way). Even taking a small action like hosting a BBQ for your ultimate frisbee team will take the pressure off community organizers to do the heavy lifting all the time and give people a chance to get together.

Follow: If there is a lot to do in your tribe, grab a shovel. Being a great follower is actually a form of leadership because you're making great choices for your tribe by taking action, today. This is a great habit to get into when you find an organization that shares your values.

Ask for help: AFTER you've shown up, if you don't know what to do, tap somebody on the shoulder!