Wendy Talks About Ubuntu
...and loving people, staying connected, and listening.
It’s snowing lightly and the sun’s last glow is obscured by mist. My teenager is practicing cello in a small, quaint cabin nearby while I meander in the woods and along the lakefront, stopping briefly on the dock to see if I can see any stars emerging.
I’m listening to a book by Iain McGilchrist called “The Master and His Emissary” and it’s in turns riveting and excruciatingly boring as he describes the dire straits we’re in.
Pre cello lesson, I’ve been nursing one of Brene Brown’s “vulnerability hangovers” so bad that all I have wanted to do is dig a deep pit, crawl into it, and hide.
Of course, my better senses prevailed and the ground is still frozen here, so here I am, strolling in these woods as I wait for my progeny to finish.
As my neck hangs back, my eyes searching for that first star which I am determined should be visible through the light fog, my ears register this:
“The philosopher Gabriel Montell speaks of the difficulty of maintaining one’s dignity as a unique individual subject in a world where a combination of the hubris of science and the drive of technology blots out the awe inspiring business of conscious human existence.”
I briefly lose my balance.
Ahhhh…Science and Technology. Or, Hubris and Drive.
A few days prior, and I am bungling as I “help” with the tech in my ongoing Cultivating Humility class.
The past couple years seem to have been spent being admonished to head into the woods, value my fellow humans more, and “be kind”. Here I am, taking a year-long course called “Cultivating Humility”. Being the consummate good citizen, I am ticking off all the boxes.
I find myself wracked with guilt and angst — zoom meeting after zoom meeting, days isolated and alone in my home where I find myself talking to my cats a bit more often than is likely healthy. Although this last bit likely will keep me from undue Hubris anytime soon, it definitely reminds me of the lack of conscious human existence in my life.
We are told to “be kind” and then given herculean constraints that make kindness nearly impossible. We are told to head into nature at the same time that mountaintops are “removed” and “placed” into formerly pristine valleys. We are told how crucial it is to have a supportive group of friends and family and then — well, you know.
We need to make a decision to turn toward what is good and right and beautiful and honorable and just. And even when we want to turn away, just for a moment, we need to shore up all our inner strength and steadfastly remain facing that light.
Now — what on earth is the word for that? Someone mentioned the Nguni word "ubuntu" this week. At first, I thought, am I bold enough to use a word from a culture I know little about, potentially out of context? And then I remembered the late Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and felt that if he shares the concept with the world, I can humbly offer it as well.
Ubuntu, according to Desmond Tutu, means “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours."
What if we, all of us who dare to stay connected to each other even as those who admonish us to do so effectively try to rip us apart — what if we dared?
What if we dared to remain truly kind to each other, the masses, the vast majority of humanity who is not a billionaire, who is not “in power”? What if we dared to stay connected to each other, to do unseen and unheralded selfless acts for each other? What if we danced daily, played music loudly, listened more? And listened to our odd coworker, not Fox or MSNBC or whichever corporate entity is on your screen? Listened to our ranting uncle? Our crazy neighbor? You get the idea? And not listen to get enough information in order to change their minds so that they also agree with whichever screen is favored on your device but listened just so that other is heard, feels heard and seen?