One Native Life: Building a Tribe
- Richard Wagamese | November 08, 2013
The technology today is mesmerizing. In my lifetime we have gone from the typewriter to the tablet in what seems an incredibly short time. I couldn’t have imagined being able to acquire an entire book in less than a minute. But I do when I put another one on my Kindle to read when I travel. We even buy telephones in order to read. That’s how much it's changed.
I watch young people. They are virtual wizards with computers and gadgets. Six year olds know more far about technology than I do and you can't go anywhere nowadays without seeing people connected by some sort of gadget. The days of robots and artificial intelligence can’t be that far away. You get the idea that anybody can build anything to accomplish anything at any time.
There's so much techo stuff around that most of it I haven't even heard of or seen. I thought we were doing great when my wife got a new cell phone that she could send text messages with. But the sheer magnitude of technological marvels is mind boggling. It seems that every week I see another adapted, faster, bolder way of doing things. Science just keeps inventing.
But I've discovered that the one thing they can't do is build a tribe. As much as science is able to accomplish, they can't do that. They can't bring people together in a common purpose. They can't tie people together in emotion, in spirit, in faith that we were created to be in community – or the desire to be there. They can't create harmony or cooperation.
That takes a different kind of technology. To bring complete strangers together in unity, equality, harmony and purpose takes a technology of the heart. We watched it happen recently. We were part of it and it changed us and made us more. We were honored by it. We came away from that experience understanding completely that some things will always require human spirit to accomplish.
We were part of a writers group I was hosting. It was held on the campus of Royal Roads University in Victoria. The writers who registered were all thirty years old and older and were compelled to attend because of a love of words. We all carried the desire to become better writers. We all shared a dream and a yearning. When we met for the first time we could feel that. We sensed it in the people in that circle.
Over the course of five days, we focused only on that energy. We used it to bring us closer together. Nothing else mattered but paying attention to the flow of it, to sharing it, to allowing it to enter us. What happened was magical. We became a tribe of people bound by something bigger than ourselves. We were part of one singular creative energy and it caused us to feel connected in a way none of us expected.
Now, I’ve been leading writing workshops, seminars and classes for a few years and I have experience leading other groups. But this was the first time that I actually felt led, borne forward, perhaps. There was something far more powerful than my limited understanding guiding us together as we shared.
We became bound by the desire to be heard. We grew closer because each of us carried a story and we wanted that story to be recognized and validated. We wanted our voice to matter. We wanted to be included. We wanted to be part of something. That’s a desire as old as our species itself. Sometimes in our busy technology-driven lives, we forget that.
One woman shared a story about how her love of writing had been shamed by the nuns at a residential school. She spoke through tears of how that had hurt her and crippled her ability to trust herself with the words she felt inside of her. Another woman shared her trouble with her academic career and how it had robbed her of her ability to express herself freely. She let the anger over that out in the group.
One by one we shared human moments. One by one we brought ourselves closer to the others. One by one we let ourselves be completely human. We let ourselves be seen, warts and all and felt accepted. We were Ojibway, Cree, Irish, Metis, Scot and French. We were people. We were brothers and sisters. We were equals.
That's how you build a tribe. You don’t need to be bound by race or culture. You don’t even have to have known each other before. What matters is equality. What matters is recognizing that we all carry the same yearnings, desires, wishes. You build a tribe by heart - the only technology capable of changing the world.