Lost Word: Tribe
Lost Word: Tribe

Lost Word: Tribe

February 27 th 2020
Appears in Winter 2020

tribe noun

\ ˈtrīb   \  a people to be together who we cannot be alone.

Tribe is the place we live breathe and have our very (human) being together.

We were born to 

     very whole,

     very loved

     very known.

We long to feel the sweet serenade of love known only in the harmony of tribe.

A life in me

sung in the key of us and

a love I can translate to

the rhythm of we.

Tribe is the vibration we miraculously create in the dissonance of our differences. We welcome a soprano, and another person’s tenor to hear our alto harmonize a sweet her and hymn of being human.

Tribe is a garden that grows in the fertilizing nature of our diversity. We are a tribe called “us” and together we turn the crap of the past into a fertile future.

We don’t have to settle our differences but we must settle
into them as a sedentary search for the divine moving through the dung in us all.

We speak in a language more tangible than thought. Together with ritual we grow green in a promise that moves

/// from pain
      through sadness
      to serenity.

Days from the dawn of a new decade,

whose soprano will you hold space for and
whose crap will you settle into
so that we can /// be /// together more of who we cannot be alone?

tribe noun

\ ˈtrīb   \  tribe is a quality of being with others.

On an early Saturday morning as the sun was rising, she walked to the blinds with a smile that could warm the ages and a voice that melted me whole. She sang,

///We are already together, daddy, so, who do you want to be with me today?///

Named for how she rose from the ashes of our infertility journey, Phoenix Alexandra Hall had effortlessly resurrected the definition of “tribe” as a way to be from the ashes of our tribally ill-fated ways of doing.

Through an anthropological gaze we see the rituals and practices tribes do as a means to the end of being and not the other way around.

Tribe is and always has been
amnesia therapy to remember us back
to what we really want
from the values we really have. A way to
remember the future of being
human when we are undone
by this age of excessive doing.

The anthropology of the indigenous tribe was driven by survival. The lions, tigers, and environmental conditions of early humans drove their understanding of who they were /// in relationship to others /// by what they did to keep the group alive. We have been living with antiquated annunciations for the present prophetic power of tribe. We are bigger than what we do. The trauma of “a tribe called human-doing” gives us cultural amnesia and we forget /// who we be /// and too often get caught up in what we do. In all of our doing to multiply all of our getting, we have forgotten the way tribe can bountifully reduce us to the least common denomination of

/// who

/// we

/// simply

/// be.

Lost in the conferences, symposiums, and water coolers of what we do for a living we do do do until our lives become “doo doo.”

/// Phoe-Daddy (the name of our tribe) is made from a playful desire to be with each other. With her I get to be a person I want to be and own the values I already have with new love and light. ///

In the dawn of a new decade, who will you be with others that you cannot be alone?
How will you move from the tribe of doing for a living to tribe of being for a life?

tribe noun

\ ˈtrīb   \  a shared beauty, life, and tension in the ecotone of being human

Days before the dawn of a new decade, we can welcome a new way of being human in the messy muddy middle of our differences.

Have you ever been swimming in a pond?

You take your shoes off and run down the grassy knoll with a loud “whippie”
/// until you tip-toe into the



middle space with an unaffectionate 

\\\ eww eww eww \\\

and then you run into the water with a 

\\\ yeah \\\

The “eww eww eww” is called the ecotone. It’s a poetic and anthropological picture for how tribe can grow in the tensions of differences. Eco from the Greek “dwelling place, habitation” and tonos from “tension,” the ecotone is a shared habitation that grows in the tension between two ecosystems. The ecotone has three values that make it a model for how we can share being human in gritty times of growth.

/// First, the organisms in the ecotone are bio-diverse and
can live in the water and in the grass.

Second, the soil in the ecotone is just as fertile as it is messy with generative
properties that can grow seeds the neighbouring ecosystems can’t.

Last, the ecotone brings together separate ecosystems, systems that
would not be brought together otherwise.

Divisions in the name of tribe can keep us from growing together as the sacred-filled species we are. But the messy spaces of distinction are just what we need to evolve into love and transform into hope.

Leap into the fullness of a love made fertile in tension. Frolic in the fields of a grace made known only in the wake of brokenheartedness. Because,

in the messy muddy middle of our differences
separate stories,
separate histories, and
separate lives become,

/// one life,

one history,

one tribe, and

a shared story called human.

tribe noun

\ ˈtrīb   \  a shared space to be broken and broken open to being human

\\\ We are not broken,
we are broken open. 

Being broken and broken open are first cousins of the same tribe. They play and fight and sing together in the grasslands of tribal story as they learn to live together with hope and grace.

In 2005 I was broken by the church and felt completely closed to the idea of sharing tribe, values, and heartfelt rituals with others. The pain of feeling betrayed by the work of filling seats pushed me away from any form of people-groups. Soon my face was to the past and my back to the future and I was tripping over things I wouldn’t normally trip over and presenting myself back first in rooms that needed my eyesight forward. So slowly I began to make a family of my brokenness as I faced forward.

\\\ You may have been hurt by tribe in the past but
face forward.
You are not broken
You are broken open. What happened to you
isn’t happening right now.

The phantom pain of past hurt haunts the hallows of our present life,
and it is messy, and it is fertile, and it makes us diverse, and it makes us whole.

\\\ I am not broken,
        I am broken open.
        I may have been broken but I was also
        broken open to being more human in the pain.

Let us put our backs to the past and faces to the future as we welcome the possibility of being hurt for the promise of being human with each other.

\\\ We are not broken,
We are broken open.
The window through which the winds of pain and
the gust of God’s promises are the same window.
If I only open that window by an inch for fear of
the pain I am only an one inch
wide open to promise.

We have days before a new decade, and we must learn that our capacity to be vulnerable to pain is directly proportionate to our willingness to grow purposefully. In this age of differences and broken promises we must find a new way to experience being broken with others so that we can be open to parts of us we cannot find otherwise. Tribe is the choice to learn lessons we cannot live by ourselves.

Image: The Gathering/Flying Free, by Angela Davis Johnson, 2016.

Marlon Hall
Marlon Hall

Marlon F. Hall is a curator of human potential, a visual anthropologist, a poet, and most recently appointed to be on the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Fulbright Specialist roster. As an international lecturing anthropologist, practitioner, and storyteller, he uses film, art installations, salon dinner parties, and yoga to unearth beauty from brokenness.


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