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Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tribe

I was a weird kid. Seriously. Even as kids go, I was a real oddball.

When I was ten years old, I told my grandmother that I didn't believe in "God" (which went over REAL well, let me tell you), and I'd already seriously considered suicide. It's not that my life was all that terrible (it wasn't, not yet); I just didn't see the point of the whole process, and didn't feel like I belonged where I was.

I was right on that last point- I simply didn't belong there.

As I grew and aged and became a teenager, life deteriorated significantly. My sense of not belonging, and my opinion of the pointlessness of the whole thing grew and grew. I tried religion, serving briefly as an acolyte at the Episcopal church where we lived, and that didn't do anything for me. It made even less sense to me than anything else I'd seen or learned. More and more, my peers, my teachers, my parents- they all seemed clueless, cruel, and ignorant, and nothing I did or said or asked made any difference, unless it was to make matters worse. I ended up living with my father, my younger brother, my step-mother, and her son, and it went downhill even further. My step-mother was a Jehovah's Witness; my father converted, and my brother and I "converted" with him, even though no one asked us what we thought, nor cared. My brother ended up in the care of the state after flagging down some police officers and telling them he was being "abused." In retrospect, he kinda was, and so was I, though I didn't see it that way at the time.

My father and step-mother split up, and I went to live with my father. I became even more isolated; high school was a living hell: I had nothing at all in common with my classmates, my teachers didn't seem to have anything to teach me, really (with a couple of memorable and noteworthy exceptions), and I wondered more than ever why I bothered to hang around.

When my father's marijuana habit cost him his job, and we got evicted from our apartment, I went back to live with my mother, step-father, and half-sister. I battled through my last half-year of high school, found my first girlfriend, and started community college. Things became more and more tense. I got along with my parents exactly not at all, and I finally had a fight with my mother that pushed me over the edge. I emptied the trust fund account that I had (from a car accident when I was six), packed my few meager possessions, and my girlfriend and I got in my car and just left.

...at which point, I found out what hell was really like.

I'm not going to get into details of that trip here; it's pretty horrible, and has no real bearing on the point of this writing. Enough to say, then, that I considered suicide much more seriously during the three months that we were "gone," and that we ended up moving back to California, very much in pieces.

After that move back, I met the man that more or less set me on my Path, and began the rough-and-tumble course that brought me to where I am now.

During all of this, one of the profound and overwhelming themes I battled with was the inherent and obvious uselessness of other human beings. With very few, very rare exceptions, people were cruel, deceitful, dishonest, and shallow. They were only interested in what profited them, they cared nothing for others, and were, as a rule, not to be trusted. Every single time, without exception, that I let someone get close, that I showed trust, I ended up with a knife in my back.

I tried, for a very long time, to emulate one of my sci-fi heros, Mr. Spock from Star Trek: I wanted to purge myself of emotion and feeling, to live life as a logician, an empiricist. Prove it, show me, was my attitude. If you can't, then I won't accept what you say. Even my nascent Pathwork was based on the idea that if I couldn't SEE it work, then it wasn't real, wasn't true.

A very lonely way to live, let me tell you.

In my mid 20's, I was introduced to Buddhism, and a concept that they call Sangha: the Buddhist community. It was the first whispering in my mind and in my heart that I might indeed at long last be able to find my People, that I might be able to trust again, to love again, to care again, without being made to bleed.

A noble illusion, while it lasted: the Buddhists I was working with turned out to be as twisted and corrupt as anyone else I ever met, and apart from giving me another piece of the puzzle, apart from being another rest-stop on my Path to Here and Now, they were no different than anyone else I ever met.

Stumbling through the next decade or so, it was more of the same. I resolved to survive, or die, on my own, and not count on others; I would do well for a while, until lonliness became too great, and I'd let someone get close, only to learn the painful lesson yet again, and go back to solitude for a while.

My first expedition to Salem, which I alluded to in O is for Oregon, marked the beginning of a radical shift in the way I saw the world. I had many of the puzzle pieces already, without a whelk's idea in a supernova (100 points to anyone who knows where I got that expression) of what to do with them; suddenly, a whole bagful of new pieces fell into my lap, and a whole boxful of new tools, new approaches were simply... handed to me.

The people responsible for this sudden metamorphisis know who they are. They also know that I love them, and that I am blood-grateful for all they've done for me. If they DON'T know these things, they ain't been listenin'.

What's the point of all this?

It's in the title: Tribe.

Your People? They're out there. The ones who will give you their blood to drink, if you're thirsty and there's nothing else. The ones who will have shovels and trashbags ready when the bodies start piling up. The ones who will lay down in traffic for you, if that's what it takes. The ones who will help you turn a few loaves and fishes into a feast for hundreds.

Tribe.

...so please, take if from someone who has looked Death in the eye more than once, someone who has contemplated the Void and been as close as a person can get to just... jumping... no matter how painful, how lonely, how terrifying your position is... your People, your Tribe, they're out there... and you will find them, if you don't quit.

I don't pretend to be more than I am... but I also no longer pretend to be less than I am. With that in mind... if there's someone out there, hurting, lost, ready to chuck the whole thing... don't quit. If you need someone to talk to, even if it's only to hear it again that there's something worth hanging around for, feel free to e-mail me. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but between me and my Tribe, we do have a damn big chunk of them, and if I can't help, it's a good bet that I know someone who can.

Remember: Tribe.

7 comments:

  1. WOW WOW tears in my eyes!! The last two paragraphs really show the real man behind the spider and I am honored to have him among my friends!! Great blog Spider!!! :)

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  2. Humbled, grateful and blessed to call you, brother. I love ya,buddy. My spirit recognizes and and honors your spirit. TRIBE, a beautiful word, indeed.

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  3. I am humbled too. I am grateful for you honesty. you know what? *BIG HUGS* Boy you are right. I found my tribe when I became a writer. I hope to be your friend.

    Happy Easter...

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥

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  4. Brad, we are indeed "out there for you," and ready with blood, body bags, traffic cones, nutritionally appropriate rat chow, books by Douglas Adams, and human hearts that have suffered, known joy, and found reasons to go on....and on...despite the cruelty and nonsense that others are capable of.

    I'm proud to be a part of your Tribe and an honorary sister.

    <3 <3 <3
    Melinda

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  5. Tribe is awesome and this makes SO much sense! Thank you for sharing-very very much. :)

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