Being part of a tribe satisfies our most primal urge to belong.
The idea of joining this group of people who, if we went away would miss us, is a deep and ancient human dream that is worth pursuing.
Human tribalism, on the other hand, is really terrible idea. Our preliterate humanity can make us do some pretty awful things to each other, and so, we have a responsibility to use the more evolved parts of our brains to overcome those judgmental urges with compassion.
Particularly when it comes to sick people. Because our impulse is to label them as crazy, evil and wrong. And to isolate those people, otherwise their stank will contaminate us and negatively affect morale.
But what we really need in this situation is to flood our hearts with wonder and humility.
For the first part, we can wonder to ourselves what that person’s contextual situation might be. All it takes a little imagination. If there’s a shirtless, mentally unstable person panhandling on the subway, we don’t have to empty our wallets and become his bestie. What we might do is imagine that the guy’s current condition is echo of untreated mental illness stemming from years of trauma or neglect, over which there was very little control on his part.
That’s wonder, and it doesn’t cost us anything.
For the second part, shifting from wonder to humility, we can use what my fellow philosopher friend calls the three most important words of compassion. Just like me.
This is a whole person, just like me.
This is someone who has gifts and dreams and desires, just like me.
This individual is doing the best they can from their own level of consciousness, just like me.
This human is more than just the wounded part of himself that the world chooses to condemn, just like me.
Wonder plus humility equals compassion. The more often we think this way towards each other, the more we will be liberated from dark side of our most tribal tendencies.
We can still experience our cherished feelings of belonging, but without the gorillas banding together and ganging up on the one ape who’s bleeding.
How are you contextualizing people you encounter in the larger ecosystem of humanity?