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Posts tagged ‘empathy’

Ubuntu: I Am Who I Am Because Of Who We All Are

“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.
– Desmond Tutu

“A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”
Nelson Mandela

ubuntu community children circle africa

Community is the fundamental part of our human identity. We learn who we are because of the way our families, neighborhoods, schools, and friends have shaped us. Many cultures have tried to define this sense of togetherness and connection to others using words like empathy, or collectivism. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a simple South African word with roots reaching as deep as humanity itself: Ubuntu, which means “I am who I am because of who we all are.” It is the ultimate statement of community, to share success and failure, joy and pain, help and suffering with one’s fellow man. Ubuntu is the human spirit at its highest, emphasizing the virtues society holds dear and seeking to share those virtues with one another in a community of friendliness and collaboration.

The philosophy that encompasses three deeply held traditional maxims in African culture: to affirm one’s own humanity by recognizing the humanity in others and in turn establish respectful, generous, and humane relationships with those others; to always value the preservation of human life over wealth and greed; and for leaders to always remember their status and power comes from the will of the people below them.

The concept of Ubuntu is known by many names throughout Africa: Botho in Botswana, utu in Kenya, unhu in Zimbabwe, obuntu in Uganda. It has spread towards all cultures, influencing everyone from Theodore Roosevelt, to Bill Clinton, to Madonna, to the Boston Celtics. The Sanskrit phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam prevalent in traditional Hindu means “the world is one single family”. Mahatma Ghandi wrote of Sarvodaya, the progress for all or “universal uplift” that was the cornerstone of his philosophy. Cicero famously wrote non nobis, sed omnibus – “not for us, but for everyone” as part of his belief that all men have a natural kinship and should interchange acts of kindness. The name Ubuntu survives today in its namesake computer operating system, notable for being completely free so that users can experience its flexibility and open-source customization.

OurPangea’s ideals are the same as all of these. We believe the world is connected and seek to bring humanity together to share in our hope for the future. Together we can provide for Nelson Mandela’s traveler – we can enrich each other to promote a sense of good in our hearts, in our homes, and in our world.

Being A Part of the Human Community

The human race.  Humankind.  Humanity. These are terms that get thrown around a lot, indicative that we as humans share a common bond. But too often our ability to unite as a human community and consciously recognize our collective humanity is just a response to a disaster or intrusion from some inhuman—or perceived inhuman—source.    Think the Tsunami in Japan, the Earthquake in Haiti, the Stop Kony campaign, and 9/11. But we are quick to forget our bond as humans and return to conflict because we identify more strongly with our ideologies.

district 9 manhattan indepedence day movies human community

And then of course there are the non-human threats, like the ones in Independence Day, District 9, Watchmen

This behavior might lead one to believe it’s in our nature to be aggressive, confrontational, violent, and self-interested.  However, new theories  are suggesting this tendency towards conflict with other humans isn’t a part of our nature, it’s the result of our environment.  Researchers hypothesize we are, in fact, wired for empathy to seek sociability, attachment, affection, and companionship. The reason behind this wiring could be the strongest innate driver of empathy:  the drive to belong. If we begin to see each other as a single community of humans rather than many communities segmented by nationality, religion, and ideology, we can start to act as we are wired to do and actually embrace our innate empathetic natures. So what’s stopping us?

Empathy is defined as ‘the automatic or intellectual reaction to identify with and understand the plight of another you feel connected to.’  So when something harms  or impedes another human – like learning of a natural disaster – we automatically empathize with the affected because we are humans.  And yet, in today’s world we don’t consciously make this human connection favoring instead the containers of nationality, religion, and location.   My question is, why do we do this?  Why inherently dismiss our connection as humans so easily?

knee cut scab frown kid

Don’t you feel bad for this kid?

Throughout history the empathetic connection between humans has expanded and evolved to conform to the man-made constructs of community we’ve created. People of faith expect to feel connected to others of the same faith, as it is with nationality and ideology.  We have segmented our identities to feel like we belong, but we still do not consider our humanity to be an obvious link.

But this connection is not completely forgotten. Just look at the response to any modern day natural disaster or world event.  We instinctively empathize with our fellow man halfway around the world.  We feel the connection, but what we need to do is consciously acknowledge it. Empathy based on our human community should be something we expect and something we cherish, not a feeling we dredge up after some terrible occurrence.

This hints at our need of a place for us, as humans, to belong, to collaborate, to interact, and to enjoy our relationships.  As a human community we can put aside our disagreements, dismiss our differences, and collaborate together as equal human beings recognizing our innate relationships as human beings.

There is nothing to do this yet…
So we’re resurrecting  OurPangea.

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