Tribes

We all belong to a tribe or actually more than one.  We are all born into a family.  Then as we grow, we develop interests outside the scope of the family.  We fall in love with sports either playing or watching; we develop a love for music; we become enraptured by some characters in some book; etc.  Personally, here are the tribes I can name off the top of my head that I belong to in no particular order:  family, soccer fan (of the American variety), reader, writer, music lover, UNC Chapel Hill graduate, Tar Heel sports fan, sports analytics nerd, science fiction geek, beer geek, and television lover.  That’s just today.

These tribes represent one two headed thing for us.  We use these tribes to define who we are to ourselves and as signifiers to others in order to organize our immediate world.

In our modern world the great philosophical problem is probably that of our atomization and the if not the dissolution of the old organizing principals (family, church, nationality, and to an extent race), we search for ways to define ourselves so that we know who we are and others can easily learn who we are.  We began living in nomadic tribes, moved to city-states, then to nation states, and now we live in a global world.

First, as travel became easier and now as communication is has been simplified we live in an increasingly global world with tenuous boundaries.  It is easy to define yourself and standout when the only people you see on a daily/weekly basis are the ones you see when you go to work, church, or the grocery store.  How does one define himself in a global sea?

Once you have defined yourself and joined your tribes you can now organize your life around those tribes.  Who do you follow on Twitter?  What favorites do you have saved in your web browser?  They probably follow along with your self-defined tribes.  With so much to choose from and so much information available, it is almost a necessity to figure out the things that matter the most to you and construct your social life around them.  We would drown in a sea of information.

A great deal of human history has been wrapped up in people trying to define themselves and make sense of the world around them.  Twitter allows you follow only those you want to.  There is a reason you can create lists in most Twitter apps.  You can look up anything you want on the internet, but your web browser lets you create favorites lists with folders to separate all of your links.  DirecTV lets you create channel lists so you only see the channels you want to at any given time.  Those things create ease of use, but they also help us define ourselves by our choices.

I guess as a writer, I’m thinking how much does a character choose his path and affect the narrative and how much do I push him into that path with my narrative choices.  How much control of the story does a writer cede to his characters?  In giving them too much leeway do you risk making your work as messy as real life?  Is that a desirable outcome?

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