4 Ways to Keep From Being Overwhelmed by the Tribe
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, Staff Writer
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Sometimes the tribe can be a bit suffocating. Whether “the tribe” is familial, societal, or cultural, it can make even the most extraverted of us claustrophobic. Sometimes in order to keep from being subjugated and engulfed by the status quo, we need to break away. We need to discover a secret place, a sacred space, where we are free to howl at the moon and bow to the sun without a judgmental eye over our shoulder. Where North is a drumroll, and South is a compass. Where we can count to infinity and surf the cosmic wave without the clanking of steel or the honking of horns in our ear. Where East is a crossroads, and West is a threshold. Where we are free to slap the face of God and dance with our demons, and vice versa, without a disapproving finger-wag or a whiny “blasphemy!” from the outdated crowd. Sometimes in order to discover our true place in this life we must disrupt our lives. Like Charles Simic poetically stated, “He who cannot howl, will not find his pack.” In the spirit of finding our place in the world, our sacred pack, here are four ways to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.
1.) Meditation and Solitude
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” –John Muir
Mankind is fundamentally connected with the Earth and with the cosmos. Neither the Earth’s problems nor humanity’s problems can be resolved without taking full account of this interdependence. And so it goes with the alienation between cosmos and psyche within the individual.
A powerful way to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe is meditation and solitude. Doing so tears through the veil of ignominy and launches us past the smoke and mirrors of the cultural paradigm. The struggle of independence and codependence between the individual and the tribe melts away into the peace of interdependence, which is why it is usually while we’re immersed in nature that we feel the most alive. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him… Wildness is the preservation of the World.”
It is out in the wild places, away from the commotion of the tribe which is incessantly “distracted from distraction by distraction,” where we discover for ourselves what is medicine and what is poison. Solitude and meditation helps us figure out this most basic energy: how to discern between healthy and unhealthy, right and wrong, good and bad, and what to do about it in regards to the self, the tribe, and the world. As Sogyal Rinpoche said, “What we have to learn in both meditation and in life is to be free of attachment to the good experiences and free of aversion to the negative ones.”
2.) Throw Yourself Into Adventure
“If you end up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.” –Frank Zappa
Tired of living a boring life? Sick of walking around in circles within a tiny comfort zone that constricts your way of being in the world? Weary of the yoke of civilization herding you into a life of nine-to-five slavery and daily grinds? There are ways out of boredom: stop being boring. There are strategies for stretching comfort zones: do constructive things that make you uncomfortable. Comfort is as much of an obstacle as the obstacle itself, whatever the obstacle may be. Quit your job and seek out real, sacred, authentic work that makes your soul sing, no matter how scary it might be getting started. Go where the fear is. Test your boundaries. Courage is to fear as diamond is to “in the rough.”
So throw yourself into adventure. Toss yourself into a sacred journey. Chuck your too-conditioned heart into the unconditional abyss. Lob your overly-brainwashed brain into the crushing waves of the cosmic ocean. Hurl your cowardice into the fire of your fear and bear witness as the unstoppable Phoenix of your courage rises out of the ashes. Slip your cover. Discard all masks. Discover the naked vulnerability of your heart-soul pulsing against the hard gravity of an unforgiving universe. Lose your footing. Lose your balance. Fall flat on your face if you have to. Then rise up from the dust with a full heart; with the blood, sweat and tears of your daring marring your overrated reputation. In short, die a small death. Only the death of your ego can give birth to your soul. Like Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
3.) Overcome Yourself
“The real struggle of the heroic individual is not solely to liberate himself from conflict with society, but rather to use the conflict within himself as a source for self-regeneration.” –Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen
Could there be anything more powerful, more self-evolving, more vitally important to our own time, than the ability to self-overcome? To take in hand the tangled knot of the ego and dare to unravel it? To gaze into a mirror and brave the shattered depths? To peel back layer after layer, security blanket after security blanket, until the soft, vulnerable, baby-Hydra-self is revealed? To gamble with our sense of self and, having won or lost, emerge with the hard-fought-for scars that prove the course of our wisdom. Perhaps Joss Whedon said it best, “Don’t just be yourself. Be all of your selves.”
The best way to maintain vigilance over our inconsistent personality is to simply roll with the inconsistencies by assuming a multitude of personas. One could argue that the more personas we adopt the more likely we are to be individuated. The more masks we don and discard, the more likely we are to achieve a humor of the most high. This is precisely because of cognitive dissonance. Since our personalities are inconsistent and change is inevitable anyway, it behooves us to adapt and overcome to such change rather than deny that the change is occurring. We do this through adopting multiple personas that may or may not be consistent with a dominant persona. This has the potential to increase empathy, humor, and love; in the sense that the more personas we can identify with –like latent shadow personas and darker personalities– the more likely we are to subsume the human condition itself, or at least be able to compassionately relate to other people’s difference as we have already learned how to relate to the plentitude of differences within ourselves.
4.) Amorally Rebel
“All is well with the world, when all is not well with the world.” –Alan Gillis
Look inward and ask yourself: am I caught inside a grand cognitive illusion? Play with the answers until questions emerge. Toy with the ideas that arise until they become ideals, and then crush them like you would a mental paradigm. We are caught between moral and immoral, between left and right, between good and evil, between healthy and unhealthy; between so many illusory dualities that we mistakenly begin to see the world dualistically. But it’s not. Nothing is fixed. Everything is in flux. There is no black and white. There is no permanence. There is only a smeared out Middle Gray blank-slate that we vainly attempt to pigeonhole colors onto. Like Robert Anton Wilson said, “The border between the Real and the Unreal is not fixed, but just marks the last place where rival gangs of shamans fought each other to a standstill.”
But there’s no reason whatsoever that you yourself cannot rise up as one of these shamans and fight “whatever” to a standstill, keeping in mind that the “standstill” is the illusion. It’s the “fight” that’s real. It’s the struggle with a universe in constant flux that’s real. It’s between the extremism at either end of the spectrum of power where the real sacred dance is occurring. It’s in the throes of amoral rebellion where we shine brightest. The moralist is blinded by too much light. The immoralist chokes on too much darkness. The amoralist pierces the dark with their light and diffracts the light with their darkness.
Amoral rebellion puts the powers that be on high notice. We will not be pigeonholed into their outdated constructs of power. We will not be placated by bipartisan claptrap. We will not be bamboozled by plutocratic smoke and mirrors. We will not be consumed by the tribe. We will rise above it and self-evolve, dragging it, kicking and screaming through the brambles of our own fruition if need be. We will become a power unto ourselves, a freedom unto ourselves. We will become a force to be reckoned with. Like Bill Plotkin said, “The world was made to be free in: this we know in our bones, and this definitive and fearful knowledge is what both supports us and requires us to turn away from our secure but less-than-joyful lives.”