Ubuntu-the human connection

Posted by on 01.20.09 | 5 Comments
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UBUNTU is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human…you share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours’. We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons’. It is not, ‘I think therefore I am’. It says rather, ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share’. A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”

Desmond Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness

The video Beth has linked to VTH of “Stand By Me” is so inspiring, so uplifting, it reminded me of this quote from Desmond Tutu which amazed me when I first read it. We are so indoctrinated in the U.S. to believe that we have the best of all worlds. People may choose to live elsewhere but they must be giving something up to do so. Yet, here we have a word from another culture, another language for which there is no equivalent in English (or any ‘Western language’). At first, I felt sad to think that my world view was missing out on something so essential, so cellular, that speaks such truth and creates such connectedness. Then I rejoiced that we live in a time when the great prophets and poets of our nation and other nations are so available to us through the massive exportation of the written word and through the Web and thoughtful sites like VTH.

Reflecting on Beth’s poem “this may be a crime scene”, I see the chalk outlines not just on the “floor of truth” but hovering, shimmering in the aura surrounding the person she is today. They live in all of us. Do I have regrets, sure, I have wounded and been wounded but I would not be who I am today if I had not experienced that woundedness. How comforting it is to think, not in terms of suffering and wounding but in terms of participating in being truly human and recognizing that when we participate with our whole hearts, there may be missteps, it may not come to fruition as we intended but it is our true essence. We are human and to be human is to be imperfect and through our imperfection we grow and learn and stretch and strengthen our human muscle. We need not suffer for tripping on our humanity; we can celebrate our strength and willingness to try to be “open and available to others”.

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