What can we learn from tribal societies about loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning. Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. – Sebastian Junger
Today’s society is filled with ideas of individualism and making it on our own. The American dream has become synonymous with the idea of individually becoming all that we can be with little regard for those around us. The ideal of manliness today is based on self-sufficiency and becoming a “self-made” man. The problem with this image is that we weren’t wired to thrive in this environment…it gets awfully lonely at the top when we climb to these metaphorical heights.
Sebastian Junger is a bestselling author who wrote a book titled “Tribe”. He is also a journalist who was embedded with American troops in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through this experience of watching a platoon of men come together under high stress and the constant threat of attack, Junger saw them come together as a tribe in order to survive and thrive.
Junger noticed that several soldiers were reluctant to return home. This corresponded in some way to the high percentage of soldiers who had fought in combat and later diagnosed with PTSD when they returned home. This made him ponder some deeper questions about what this experience of war and disaster brings out in the human person.
He found that it wasn’t the violence that the men missed from the experience of war, but rather the community that had developed out of the necessity for survival. When the men returned home they were thrust into our society which is blessed beyond belief in many respects, but our material abundance creates an environment where individuals become just a number and aren’t made to feel necessary as was the case in their platoon. Throw in our addiction to electronics which further inhibits human interactions and it is no surprise that depression and suicide rates rise when societies, like ours, gain affluence.
The question becomes how do we, who live in the land of great abundance, create or find a tribe in order to thrive as we are wired to do? If you look at the explosion in popularity of CrossFit in our country it is an anecdotal solution to the problem of tribal living.
The magic behind CrossFit isn’t the burpees or muscle ups, it is the community. They have developed a way in which affluent people can rally and suffer together and it creates this tribe in which each person benefits from looking after the person to the left and to the right of them. Within this workout community, the strong athlete (the alpha) will regularly be seen coming back and picking up the weak one and encouraging them through the rest of their workout.
At Intentional Encounter it is our goal to build tribes like this in your community beginning with physical wellness and then taking it to a deeper level through an encounter with God. Junger talks about a study that he read in which a group of about 30 men were put together and developed a good functioning community. However, when this group was told about an enemy or an adversary group their cooperation and corroboration accelerated dramatically. Innovation and excellence are born from trust and cooperation.
Although we live in a society that is relatively secure and enjoys peace, make no mistake about it, there is an opponent that is “prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Christians should form the ultimate tribe regardless of where they live because of the real spiritual battle that is raging and the cost is souls.
We want to wake the men up who don’t realize that there is a battle to be fought and gather those fighting the good fight in order that we not fight alone. We are wired to come together and form groups that can do great things when we look out for the person to the left and to the right of us. Will you join me?
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)