March 8, 2021

Wisdom of Ubuntu: What I do Affects You & What you do Affects Me.

“‘Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language…It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up, it is inextricably bound up, in yours.’” ~ Desmond Tutu

I grew up with a father who used to say, “What hurts you, hurts me.”

His intention was to show love and devotion to his children.

On the one hand, it clearly planted seeds for my codependent tendencies since I interpreted it to mean that my feelings were not my own and that I had to guard expression of them so as not to cause distress for my father and, by extension, anyone I might encounter.

I learned that lesson well. On the other hand, it might just as easily mean that symbiotic relating is not always a bad thing. The truth is, we need each other.

This time in history has brought with it a grand opportunity to explore symbiosis and interdependence.

As I was driving to a chiropractic appointment on a bright and sunny Pennsylvania day, listening to NPR, I had a thought that is common for me. “I am really blessed and feel grateful for the life I am living.”

I have a full-time job and several overlapping consulting gigs. I can pay my bills. I have the privilege of receiving quality healthcare. My family and friends, who are my treasures, are safe and well. Those I know who had COVID-19 are recovering. I received my second vaccine nearly a month ago, with no side effects.

My mind and heart turned toward people who are lonely, frightened, depressed, wounded, unemployed, wondering how they will pay their bills and feed their families, those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, those who fear for their own lives.

>> It extended to people living in the line of fire in their communities and in war zones all around the world.

>> It extended to people who are held captive.

>> It extended to people who are in abusive situations.

>> It extended to people who are hostage to their addictions.

>> It extended to those who are at the mercy of other people’s whims and are not able to escape.

>> It extended to people who are attempting to do the right thing, only to be thwarted by those whose motivation is to cover their own tushes.

For some, it is easy to turn a blind eye to those who are struggling to get by each day because it doesn’t affect them, or, at least, that is what they think.

And even when it does impact them, they may still not do the right thing. What must it be like going to work every day with people who support someone who sicced a crowd on you who wanted to kill you?

How can Republican reps who supported Donald Trump and the “Big Lie” have such cognitive dissonance that they forget that the terrorists could have murdered them too? Are they in such denial that it won’t come back to bite them in the aforementioned tush?

Today, the COVID-19 death toll is 517,640, a shocking number that too many have become numb to.

Hard to wrap our minds around it, so some choose to deny it or minimize it. It turns out that as of the end of February, it was equivalent to the population of Atlanta.

Although I can’t pretend to know what goes on in the minds of the deniers, it is equally hard to wrap my mind around the sheer irresponsibility of states like Texas relaxing their mask mandate and opening all businesses as if the virus had been obliterated.

Who knows what Governor Abbott was thinking as justification for his decision. It certainly wasn’t in the best interest of the residents of his state. Abbott stood by his call to lift the state’s mask requirements, stating that Texans already know that “the safe standard, among other things, is to wear a mask.”

“Do they really need the state to tell them what they already know for their own personal behavior?”

I would say that the answer is a resounding yes.  

If all adults from coast to coast would mask up, by choice, a mandate wouldn’t be necessary. I would like to have more faith in people, but experience in the past year since quarantine went into effect, sadly tells me it would not be well placed. That’s when the concept of ubuntu comes into play, which translates from Zulu as “I am because we are.” It doesn’t deny individual rights, but it accepts that we are inextricably linked.

I know that every decision I make has an impact on everyone on the planet.

If I smoked (which I never would), my exhalation would be inhaled by anyone near me.

If I drove 80 miles an hour because I felt like it, I would be endangering everyone on the road.

If I took something that didn’t belong to me because it appealed to me, I would be depriving someone of what is rightfully theirs.

I ask myself if what I am about to do is constructive or destructive, not only for myself but everyone I encounter.

If the only people who were affected by their reckless behavior were those engaging in it, it would be an entirely different story.

The same reasoning goes into my choice, what I consider a sacred responsibility, to mask up, wash hands, and maintain my distance. I owe it to everyone on the planet to be part of the solution and not the problem. It is not a live and let live dynamic. It is a live and prevent death dynamic.

If you knew could save lives, why wouldn’t you?

In the Lakota language, Mitakuye-Oyasin (pronounced mi-TAHK-wee-a-say or Mee-tah-koo-yay Oy-yah-seen) translates to: “We are all related, or all are related.”

May we constantly be reminded of that.


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