Ubuntu: Divine inspiration after a Good Friday full moon

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on April 7, 2012 at 3:10 PM

I awoke this morning feeling unusually energized after sleeping all night under streaming lightbeams from a full moon suspended in a cloudless backdrop of sparkling infinity. Before I got out of bed I casually checked my iphone for messages then opened my Facebook app just to see what was happening in the world. That’s where the inspiration started.

First, I was treated to an amazing recording made by my dear daughter (“Gia” as she is known professionally.) Then I read a post about a clever stewardess who retaliated against the racism of a passenger on her flight in a smart, peaceful and humorous manner – I loved it! You can read it for yourself here.

And that was followed by a story about a group of African children who were given a chance to run a race against one another with the prize of a basket of candy going to the fastest runner. But these children chose instead to all hold hands and run together at the speed of the slowest runner in the group. Then they shared the candy evenly amongst themselves, stating that their generosity was inspired by the concept of Ubuntu, which means “I am what I am because of who we all are.” For the children this belief translated to: “How could any one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

I was struck immediately by the contrast of Ubuntu with our American rugged-individualist, boot-strap, every-man-for-himself mentality that stresses the survival of the fittest in the competitive struggle for material wealth. We have lost the knowledge that is so obvious to these children in Africa: we must work together just to survive on this planet, let alone to find happiness.

Yet it feels like we are moving farther and farther away from this ideal as we scramble to take whatever we believe is rightfully ours, stepping on those with fewer resources, lesser abilities, or a lack of good fortune in the process. And all the while, those who win the race and grab for themselves the bounty of the earth’s abundance congratulate themselves for being more deserving and more entitled to the riches they hoard, believing that the very fact they possess more is a sure sign they deserve to have more.

But, the truth is that each of us who rises to the top, excelling in achievement or material success, is “who he is because of who we all are.” No one person becomes successful without the support of the whole of humanity, yet few in our society seem to recognize that fact.

Then just as I was feeling discouraged about how lost we are, I scrolled down a little further on my Facebook wall to see something else. Curiously two of my friends from totally different times of my life who have never met and live on opposite ends of the country had shared the same video at the same time, each commenting that it was inspiring to them. And even more interesting is the fact that one friend is a member of the very conservative Mormon faith and the other friend is a minister in the very liberal Unitarian Church. This was a video I had to watch!

What I found was “It Gets Better at Brigham Young University,” a video by gay and lesbian students at BYU and their straight friends and supporters, openly discussing the painful and lonely challenge of being a homosexual in the Mormon Church. These students were reaching out to others who might still be hiding or running away from their homosexuality with a message of hope and acceptance within a body of faith that has never before offered them inclusion.

These students were courageously modeling Ubuntu and helping one another survive in this judgmental and harsh society of ours – holding hands to make sure everyone can get to the finish line together, refusing to let one single life fall through the cracks of hatred and bigotry. Tears streamed down my face as I saw hope in a place I never imagined I would find it and saw love brilliantly outshining all the fear, ignorance and hatred in the world.

“I am what I am because of who we all are.” And who we all are includes the greedy and jealous and confused and misinformed and lost and lonely and frightened among us. We cannot get to survival or to happiness without everyone of us being included in the circle, helped along the way, lifted up after a stumble and brushed off after a fall. “How can any one of us be happy when all the others are sad?’ Indeed, it is not possible and now is the time we must open our eyes to this fact and reach out to those around us. It is never too late. There is hope.

(Photo Credit: Susan Fassburg of

Categories: Transformation, Spirituality, Current Events

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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