The Lost and The Found: Putting Tribe and Family Back Together

A Broken Continuum

In the September 15th, 2006 episode of the public radio show, This American Life, titled “Unconditional Love” you’ll find this story:

Act One. Love is a Battlefield. Alix Spiegel tells the story of a couple, Heidi and Rick Solomon, who adopt a son who was raised in terrible circumstances in a Romanian orphanage, unable to feel attachments to anyone, and what they do about it.

What do they do about it? They rebuild part of the continuum, as expressed by Jean Liedloff in the Continuum Concept. They spend countless hours recreating the in-arms phase that the orphan missed in the abusive orphanage environment. Keep in mind; their son towers above the mom, so it takes some logistical wrangling to get an enormous teenage boy into some semblance of an infant’s experience in the arms of his mother. But they do it. And you’ll have to hear the story to believe the results.

Culture Means the Games We Play, By the Rules To Which We’ve Agreed

Part of my exploration, in teaching animal tracking, mythic cartography, and spoken tradition skills, goes in the direction of teaching them the original way. Nowadays you can find plenty of field guides on animal tracking, plenty of teachers willing to tell you when to whip out your notebook and tape measure. Few of these teachers have any conception of the enormous richness that exists in the indigenous tradition of animal tracking. Even fewer know how to tap that tradition, or to rebirth it.

My fellow forest-miscreants and I have begun experimenting with eloquence, thanksgiving, and familial traditions through the practice of games. Games put us in a place of child-like openness, they re-establish a capacity for superlearning and whole-being involvement, and they allow us to experiment with new “rules” for interacting.

How do you begin to learn how to place the economic/utilitarian dimension below the social one, except by doing it? But how do you cross that awkward social boundary of feelings of awkwardness and insincerity?

My friend Lisa has a long history of facilitating Spolin Theater Games, games that crack open the human psyche to rawness, realness, authenticity, and powerful intuitive modes. But not simply as individuals…the theater games reach their full power in groups, as humans interacting with each other, and getting to a wordless communication of others in the theater troupe.

Through these games we see a possibility dawning, of a way towards real cultural creation, of playful experimentation with rules and traditions as easily created as tossed out the window, but keeping the ones that work. A high-powered process of co-creation emerges, a re-birthing of culture and family. And what happens when you involve the land in these theater games?


The world wakes up, in the human heart. Plants start speaking, the sky whispers in your ear, the animals nod and wink, as simply as the act of listening and watching for such things. Getting there can take some doing, but once there the earth seems to sigh in relief at your arrival.

Now comes the part where you learn to explore staying there, and adapting to the relentless tug-of-war across the border that separates civilized awareness from a free and familial one.

Written by Willem