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Sunday, April 02, 2006


The Tribe

A single gifted community hasn't formed naturally because gifted people are born into all kinds of families and situations all over the world. It's difficult to find us, because many of us are deep in hiding, especially as dependent children. In the fictional world of Harry Potter, British children with magical talent receive an acceptance letter to Hogwarts School. For some, this is the first idea they get that what is different about them might be valuable and wonderful. For others, it's a family norm. All are given the opportunity to meet others like them and really develop their specialness.

I was born at this time in history to unite a tribe that has been long divided. GIFTED PEOPLE ARE DYING. This is urgent, and real. We've got to give up any defensive claims that gifted people don't need or deserve help. We've got to stop the turf wars over different conceptions of giftedness that dominate the academic and educational worlds. It's time to create a system that will hold all of us as our personalities disintegrate and reintegrate. This is the only way that we can grow into the higher levels that are the fullest expression of our intelligence and humanity.

Gifted people must come together into a cohesive group so that we can begin to do all the things tribes do for their members - provide a community of acceptance, a safe home. Serve each other, protect ourselves, and mark milestones together. Care for the young ones and give them the training and tools they need in our particular society and in the societies around us. Celebrate and mourn, support and challenge. We now have the technology to fully meet this need.

We must find a way to get an "acceptance letter" to every gifted person and invite them to join a strong, vibrant tradition of self development within the safety of a group that fully "gets it".

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I disagree that 'giftedness,' however it might develop, is a sufficiently broad and important characteristic to create a single, meaningful group of people. Firstly, the problem of definition is a serious one. Do you count if you can multiply huge numbers almost automatically, but have lower than normal capacity in other areas? While kinds of intelligence are privileged by the definition will establish the boundary of those included. Additionally, when it comes to testing 'giftedness,' most forms of testing favour those who have come from certain backgrounds. Having a broad vocabulary is at least as much a product of your environment as it is of your aptitude.

More importantly, 'gifted' people are split in almost every important way and in terms of almost every issue. You find extremely intelligent people across the political spectrum and on either side of divisive issues; you find them in all religious groups, both tolerant and intolerant.

As such, the purported aim of creating support and camaraderie among the gifted is probably a misguided one. Without some kind of sensible ordering principle, beyond intelligence defined in contentious terms, such a grouping is more likely to be fractious than fraternal.
Hi Jo,

I love the idea of a tribe. I feel like I have found a little of what you are talking about in the UU church. When I read about the traits of gifted people, I think one of the defining characteristics is a certain independance of spirit, and those people seem willing to break with tradition and many of them have found their way to a UU church.

In a book about archtypal journies there is the journey of the warrior and the journey of the lover which are opposed to each other. That part of the journey is transcended when someone finds a community where they can be themselves and belong. I think that is such a strong need in our world, and certainly a big part of my journey. I think it is a worthy and possible mission you have set for yourself.
Hello Jo:

Anonymous Two here again. I like the concept of a tribe thing - a bit of the Robert Bly "Iron John" stuff. I think Milan comments may not be focusing on what you have in mind. In my viewpoint - giftedness is not about intelligence - it is about an unique sense of being - gifted individuals have certain traits such as hypersensitivity, "getting it quicker", the ability to learn quicker and at more advanced levels and have existential issues. While I agree with Milan that some individual's intelligence and knowledge of things is due to upbringing and social class, giftedness is more of an innate issue. For example the concept of lonliness and isolation are common threads for gifted individuals. So if you can establish a tribe where all gifted indviduals are welcome regardless of intelligence level where the main issue is friendship and acceptance then count me in.

I will bring my drum to beat around the campfire.

Personally, I've always found the Harry Potter letters / sorting hat to be creepily Calvinist, or even Socially Darwinist. That especially comes out when Hagrid booms in the first film that Harry has been "on the list since the day he was born."
Seems Milan and r.k. missed (or ignored) your stated point/aims (i.e., stopping "the turf wars over different conceptions of giftedness"). Perhaps it would be worthwhile to take an organization that already exists, like Mensa for an example, and work on eliminating the stigma and perceptions (and misconceptions) about it as a first step. If more gifted people actually joined it, alot of good could come from that. Some may quibble with the tests they use to determine eligibility, but considering that you can take a qualifying test at any time and not just while in a school system, (or alternatively, use tests already taken when you were in the school system), it may be easier to try to work where there is already a communication structure in place rather than try to create your own from the scratch. There are even means for very young children to join it or be associated with it by parental membership.

Lovely as HP is, we don't have a real world magic quill which writes down gifted children's names at birth. I hope you'll post your ideas on how you're thinking of going about this, but yeah... I'm thinking it's easier and more practical not to reivent the wheel. At least, not until you have more allies working on it with you. Much easier to create a broader, more inclusive spin-off group with help from like-minded fellows as a second or later step.
I found you through the SENG message boards. I love what you have to say here, but I think it will take a certain paradigm shift for many gifted individuals who value so highly being part of a very exclusive club. I've considered joining Mensa. But that requires either tracking down my ancient school records from some dusty dead file basement or taking their test, neither of which appeal to me in the least.

I've spent my life balancing on the fence between hiding my giftedness to fit in and clinging to it for a sense of identity. I crave a place of acceptance where I don't have to prove or pretend anything and I can be myself: an everyday complex, multifaceted, flawed, gifted person.
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