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Citizenship in the Land of Happy Little Trees

Why do we define ourselves by our tribe?

Megan Preston Meyer
Megan Preston Meyer

Why do we have such a need for affiliation? Why do we define ourselves by our tribe, whatever that may be? This isn’t a lament, at least not entirely… it’s a legitimate question. There’s something in our DNA that makes us do it, I think, because we’ve been doing it for millennia. But what is it, exactly?

Some of it is probably just cognitive ease. Defining yourself is hard. The more of an identity that you can just shrug into, fully formed, like a screenprinted Gildan Heavy Blend hoodie, the easier. You just look down at the logo emblazoned across your chest and adopt the attributes, attitudes, benefits, and beliefs that come with following the team whose colors you’re sporting. You don’t have to make up your mind about issues yourself; you look to what the Consensus is and go with that. You don’t have to worry about categorizing people as friend or foe; that’s already decided based on their affiliation.

Joining a tribe makes a lot of things simpler, because it makes a lot of decisions for you.

That’s all well and good, but it can sometimes go too far. We forget that the cognitive resources we’ve freed up can be used for other things, outward-facing things, and we channel them all back into our tribe. We forget that we are individuals – instances, not exemplars – and that while we might share a lot of Venn-diagram-overlap with our tribe, we don’t (and shouldn’t) fit all the way inside the circle. In reality, we are parts of lots of tribes, with lots of overlaps, the combination of which makes us unique. We shouldn’t let ourselves get too sucked in to any one of them.

Except one. There’s one circle, one whole, one all-encompassing affiliation that we can allow to envelop us…

…being a Bob Ross fan.

EVERYBODY loves Bob Ross. Even if you don’t think you do, you do. Maybe you haven’t been exposed to him (we need more Bob Ross evangelism), or maybe you feel like you don’t have time to make watching the Joy of Painting a priority, but there is little in life more important.

He likely has baby squirrels in his breast pocket. He draws forth vibrant, moonsoaked landscapes out of white canvas and black Gesso. He gives life to trees, the exuberance of which will never be matched. He creates: art, serenity, confidence, joy.

Also – God. God does those things.

God holds all of creation in his breast pocket, and created the template for the moonsoaked landscapes that Bob makes look so easy. God created trees and art, and serenity, and confidence, and joy.

Watch God. Make God your priority. Make God your affiliation. Shrug into the preshrunk cotton warmth and protection of God.

Inspired by Philippians 3:17-20