Growing to Maturity the Tribal Way
Maturity is not just something that happens by letting the years go by. You're going to need models. We all do. We are tribal beings, and it is critically important that we gravitate towards and surround ourselves with people who are good, who are good, solid, wholesome beings full of life and creativity and resilience, and as we all know in this day and age, this is not an easy task. But it is these people who will grow these qualities within you.
Each generation that is surrounded by good people living good values grows tighter and more coherent. Eventually a critical mass of coherency is reached where the truly tribal, for which our evolutionary genes yearn, snaps back into place and becomes a living reality. It is something for which we can strive, and we build that potential by ensuring that everything that is of value within us we do our best to midwife and bring into actuality and relation with others.
Right now, there is something dormant in you, something that yearns for the energy of a specific other, a key member of your scattered, fragmented, missing extended family, without whom that quality wallows in darkness and never comes to sprout. Let us admit it to ourselves : there are aspects of ourselves that only come to light in the presence of others who carry and champion these qualities, and we need them! That doesn't mean it isn't our responsibility over time to hold these qualities on our own, but it does mean we garden each other. We are each other's farmers. We recognize the seeds within each other, and through our example, the example of just being, in that way that only we can be, when we are at our best, and most natural, we begin to grow within others around us those qualities within them. When we all come together and share our diverse qualities, we begin growing a permaculture of personalities that fills every emotional space within the human being. And when you have that kind of climax satiety, you have found tribe : the natural social unit of being a live human being on the planet. Those are the people with whom you are concerned, those are the people to whom you are assigned. This doesn't mean you have no compassion nor honor to demonstrate to others ; only that they become your primary concern.
We aren't there. We're detribalized folks learning and practicing and yearning and striving and failing and failing and striving and practicing and sometimes or often succeeding in gaining a glimpse, or touching an evanescent edge, of what it means to be a true human being on the planet, to live the tribal way. This way is not guaranteed, nor is it obligatory. Because we are free, we can choose to live other ways, as much of the surrounding culture does. But as Daniel Quinn puts it, tribe is not the only way ; it's just the way that millions of years of evolutionary trial and error have determined to be the most optimal way of living. Nor, as Quinn points out, is tribal life perfect ; it just so happens that, all factors taken into account and optimized, it's the best deal out there. Other options maximize particular factors much better than tribe, but end up with pronounced deficiencies. The most sustainable human form, that allows the best in us to come to full fruition, is tribe.
And coming to full fruition is the definition of maturity. We desperately need maturity in this culture, because as Richard Sennett has pointed out in his brilliant The Uses of Disorder (and this is a book that those who weakly yearn for ethnic purity really need to read!), the culture-at-large is caught in a spin cycle of adolescence, as the renowned psychologist Erik Erikson defined that particular stage of life, yet in our cult of youth, we are actually starving the youth of what they need most to grow : role models of mature, successful, whole, and loving elders. Youth need something towards which to grow. Youth need elders who have achieved that full emotional richness that fills out a human soul and makes it wealthy. They don't need spouted platitudes which always resound as stale and trite, but lived experiences of wisdom based on lives of challenge, adventure, and coming together with others so that the full potential may blossom.
I'm not even certain that a "child-centered" culture is a healthy one for children. It is natural, of course, to shower love and attention upon children, for they bring needed qualities of refreshment, innocence, and idealism straight from the underworld that are capable of healing our wounds of cynicism. (Here Idunn stands behind each child and hands him or her a cup of apple cider brewed straight from her apples of youth to offer sip to those who earn it through loving, firm, and guiding attention.) But when we begin to obtain our entire meaning in life through child-rearing, as a culture, then we have oriented ourselves towards the seed and not towards the fruit in life. Elders, with all the rich spiritual, existential, and tribal wisdom they have won through the living of worthy deeds, are the fruit in life, and they are the guardians of the treasures for which the rest of us ought live, towards which we ought aspire, and around which we ought circle to protect, nourish, and defend. A child needs attention and love, but it is too much of a burden for them to have to supply what should be grown adults with all their meaning in life. She or he is looking to the adults to supply models and examples of what it means to be mature. This is deeply inspiring. A child should feel like he or she has a strong, nursed, and guided place within a much larger mandala of meaning, much of which remains obscure yet mysterious, an allure that begins vaguely but as the child and then young adult grows comes to occupy intrigue to investigate.
Religion -- the shared social gatherings focused on those elements of the transcendant that are immanent in mysterious ways within our lives -- plays an important part in this. The child recognizes an element of play in it that is similar to the play she or he engages in and with whom adults at times participate, but it is a play that is deeper, full of greater resonance, and points at challenges and mysteries he or she can only begin to imagine. Observing that the adults themselves do not fathom its depths, yet through this mixture of play and solemnity, attain experiences of profundity, awe, and wonder that revitalize their morale in life, and radiate as a profound reverence towards the difficult, challenging, but potentially rewarding life-process itself, in all its cosmic and personal scope, they begin to awaken to something within themselves that only dimly dawns. Many of them will then grow to want to have children eventually, but not so they can enter the narcissistic infinite regress of having children for the sake of having children, but to bring new beings into the wonder and the challenge and the shared strength.
There is a sense in which the land raises the child, and the parents protect the child from dangerous beasts, the family provides food and shelter, and the tribe provides wisdom forged from nature's deep lodes. The child has an orlog, an inborn potentiality that spontaneously strives towards its own growth, if it is properly nourished, protected, guided, and boundaried, and significantly, if the evolutionary stimuli it was born to detect are available in a rich, ecological landscape and a tribe oriented towards the land and its greater mysteries. We have largely forgotten this spontaneity of the child, for Christianity has so distrusted the instincts that it set itself at times the task of completely forging a child, rather than shaping those instincts in such a way that they can find their spirit guides in the land about, in the tribal elders, and, eventually, in the Gods themselves and the inspiration they provide. We are natural beings. Nature will grow us if we will allow nature to reach us, in landscape and realized, nature-fruited adults.
But to have children for the sake of having children is to say that life, any life, life of any quality or level of honor or coherency or maturity, is worthwhile in itself, no matter how slavish, no matter how misguided. This is hardly a heathen value! There are known tribes that faced with the detribalization and disruption that imperial civilization threatened to wreak, collectively committed suicide, and not because they were insane, but because they knew the full value of maturity in its manifestations of tribe, and this commitment to adventure and generationally-vintaged love made them truly free in ways our laudable but adolescent clinging to formal liberty can hardly know! It is true that there are parents out there, sadly not a majority, whose special art form in life is raising and bringing children into their fullness, giving society a gift of young adults on their way to realization and spontaneously-given and desired contribution. For these few honorable parents, let their contribution to the artform of mystery which is tribal religion be the cultivation of the child. These words are intended as no prejudice towards such master artisans and wonder workers. It is the larger culture, babied or no, which must ensure that its center consists of the mysteries themselves and not mere reproduction for reproduction's sake. You will get no argument from a Vanic standpoint that reproduction, held within its proper mandalic place of balance with other necessary forces and human as well as cosmic needs, is one of the many mysteries the Vanir ward, and thus, there is within it something holy. A mother holding her newborn does not need to be told this, although it is good for the culture to reflect it, deeply and reverently. But this holiness of reproduction is not a monotheism. It is a holiness amongst holinesses, holinesses that require our attention and active valuation. For the worthwhile life is the life that is goal-directed and includes many examples of the pursuit and attainment of worthwhile goals that draw us out of our shells and eggs and propel us into engagement with the world at large! This is life in the grand style, as an open and not a closed system, non-incestuous and bold, proud of itself, confident in its muscle as well as its powerful, natural benevolence, and it is a life that everyone, adult, child, and elder can believe in.
Because maturity, fruition, coming into age and fullness of wisdom, is the very vintage of life, and it is that mead towards which we all ought be striving to toast. Wassail!