Last night I wrote about Sebastian Junger in conversation with Joe Rogan.
Now, I am not wanting (yet) to promote the blog – I still haven’t worked-out whether I like it or not (cf Hardcore History – which is all good; go listen!). Anyway, this interview was incredibly rich in substance, deep in its analysis of different, essentially, existential questions, most of which followed the publication of Junger’s book ‘Tribe’.
Junger talks about the evolution of humans and the reality that we as a species have evolved for most of our history to live in small intimate groups leading lives that expose us to significant challenge, which in turn bond us together creating a sense of wellbeing.
Or, at least, words to that effect.
When you compare this to modern society, for all that we are tribal in our hearts and souls, we are mostly not bound by threat or challenge. For the greater part, we in the UK, the US and other post-industrial nations, lead lives of benign comfort. Even those at the peripheries can still rely that our fragmenting society will hold them together in times of need (you can always turn-up at the front door of A&E for example).
A consequence of this dissemblance is that our groups are loosely held together, and because of the weakness of these bonds, our tribal structure is tested. Give a man a McDonalds and he’ll eat it; give him a thousand and he’ll develop metabolic syndrome.
Crises however have an effect on society, in their imposition of a real or perceived threat, we are drawn more closely together.
I experienced a mini-crisis this week in the hospital.
Very early in the morning I was alerted to an issue with bed availability. Well, at first it was just a message inferring ‘a problem’ – it subsequently transpired that the hospital had run-out of beds; patients were waiting too long in A&E, to the point that the hospital had moved to a state or red-alert, diverting ambulances to a nearby hospital, for several hours.
This was I am sure the correct thing to do at the time, although as happens not just in the NHS, but any large organisation, people moved into a state of crisis.
I won’t go into the details, although by the end of the day everything had settled down and the system was ticking-over with patients flowing as they should. (Through an albeit damaged system – thanks Jeremy & Theresa).
The thing is, this transient crisis resulted in people coming together. I felt a new closeness to colleagues; when the going gets tough, people collaborate – that is the human response to challenge; it plays to our core; provide existential threat and if we have a tribe, we will cooperate, collaborate, join.
The Blitz and 9/11 are classic examples. Refugees thrown together, expats, military units. Sure, the experience at the time can be horrible, painful, traumatic, but, the closeness to other humans consequent upon these events is unique, precious, it helps shift meaning into life.
And, yes, perhaps a paradox, only when we are most threatened are we most alive.
You can’t generate crises (well, yes, some leadership textbooks say you can, but this is a finite resource). You can however probably seek commonality with others and band together.
People don’t have to suffer or die for us to recognise the common themes that bring us together, that add meaning and substance to life.
Seek out your tribe and enjoy.