Today, while complimenting one of my friends on her cute shoes, I spied something tattooed on the top arch of her foot and of course had to inquire! (I’m too chicken to get a tattoo, but I love learning about other people’s)
It was the word, UBUNTU, A South African philosophy which when translated to English means, “I am who I am because of who we all are.” (Whew! Powerful!)
I was truly inspired as she told me the philosophy behind the word and why she felt such a connection to it. She explained how it is a constant reminder about how the people of South Africa treated her like one of their own, while she was studying abroad in Africa. She had traveled there to help take care of them, but in turn, they enriched her life by opening their homes, lives and hearts. Her tattoo is a constant reminder to think bigger than just herself. (She has it on her foot to signify all of the walking she did while she was there!)
After talking to Meaghan, I should have done some work, but I just had to look further into the meaning of this amazing philosophy. I found these two passages on Wikipedia:
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.
Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Reading this and talking to Meaghan got me thinking about how powerfully simple the concept of ubuntu is, but how complex we make it out to be. I know that when money is tight and I feel like I am being pulled in a million directions with family, work, art & life, that the last thing I think about is doing my part to contribute to the whole. I’m just trying to stay afloat most times!
But contributing to the whole may not be as hard as we think. It’s not just about the giving money or giving hours of time. We are contributing to the whole every time we smile at a stranger or let someone go in front of us in the grocery line. For us creative people, it’s the reason we create. For us mothers, its the reason we work hard to raise our children well. And when the stranger smiles back or our children say ‘Thank you’ in public (without being told to say it), we feel good inside. We put in and we got back. Simple as that.
Think about it this way…if the whole had not molded, shaped, or influenced us, we would not be who we are today. And if that wasn’t scary enough, if we fail to contribute to the whole, we risk robbing our children of the knowledge, love & inspiration that the whole provides. Do we really have a choice but to give back to something that has given so much to us & will continue to give long after we have left this Earth? I know that I’m definitely forever indebted to the whole!
Starting today, let’s make an effort to live by the ubuntu philosophy and in turn, enjoy peace within.
How will you remember to invest in the whole? (I’ll give you a hint… My reminder won’t be a tattoo, lol)…Let’s have a conversation!
Until next time,
Live, Laugh & Be At Peace.