Sunday, July 6, 2014

On Interbeing, Faith in Humanity, and Knowing that You Matter

Like so many things we see posted online, shared across social media and via email, I've recently seen yet another cycle of sharing regarding the Babemba or Bemba tribe of Africa, who make their home in areas of Africa including Zambia and the Congo. It speaks of a practice which is extraordinarily profound and touching.

Being a frustrated research librarian at heart, I usually explore the origin and legitimacy of a message and information before sharing. If the message shared is negative or accuses someone of some group or some group of being harmful in any way, I most certainly want to be sure the information  and message is correct. When it is a positive message, I personally don't care if there is factual evidence behind it; I am able to take the lessons within the message to heart without a need to have facts to support or affirm the wisdom in the message. In the case of the viral sharings referring to the Babemba tribe, I researched in order to give proper credit for the message, not because I questioned the validity of the wisdom contained within.  (From the myriad posts I sifted through, what I found is that this story is originally from the book, "Contact: The First Four Minutes," by Leonard Sunin, which is out of print.)

The results of my search were striking, though not surprising, and fairly indicative of how positive news and messages are often received. I would say half of the people seem to appreciate the clear, simple wisdom contained within and don't necessarily care if it is based in fact or fiction. Others condemn the message, and those who share it, as being false, fictional, ridiculous and assorted profane adjectives (it is the Internet, after all).  Because there are horrors taking place, specifically in that part of the world, many people refuse to believe there is also good. It seems to me that many people view the world as black or shades of gray.

What I propose is that we consider "What If?"  What if the message is based in truth? What if the story itself is a factual representation of a practice of another culture, not even the Babemba tribe?  What if more of us could put this practice into action, regardless of the origins or validity of the story? 

What if we choose to have more faith in Humanity and believe that a more compassionate, mindful, peaceful way of being in this world is possible, if only within our own small circles, at least at first?

What follows is the more comprehensive version of the viral message I have seen:

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe, regardless of age, begins to talk out loud to the accused, one at a time, about all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his/her lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted. All positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious about his/her accomplishments or the positive aspects of his/her personality. The tribal ceremony often lasts several days and does not cease until everyone is drained of every positive comment he can muster about the person in question. At the end the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person symbolically and literally is welcomed back into the tribe.

Can you imagine if this were put into practice in other cultures?  No, really -- can you?  It would create a drastic transformation in our societies.

Another tidbit which often accompanies the Babemba message, though not necessarily attributed to them (often cited as being a South African saying), is this:

Shikoba Nabajyotisaikia

Nabajyotisaikia is a compliment said to mean: “I respect you, I cherish you. You matter to me.”

In response, one replies with "Shikoba," which means, "So I exist for you."

I adore that. I absolutely adore that. To know that we matter in this world, and matter to those around us, is perhaps one of the basic needs and desires each of us has in common. To be acknowledged as existing…to be seen and heard…is often all we are really seeking in our day-to-day lives. To tell someone that they matter to you can be a tremendous gift. To hear someone say that you matter to them is a blessing.

Another term more people are becoming aware of is Ubuntu, also attributed to the Banta peoples of the South African region. It is difficult to translate into English but one way it is explained is simply this: 

Ubuntu is the essence of being human, our interconnectedness.

Archbishop Tutu:  “Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human. When we say someone has Ubuntu, then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.' We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons."

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, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”

Nelson Mandela describes it as:

"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?"

Regardless of the origins, translations, myriad attributions or factual elements, all of these messages contain a a simple truth:  They speak to our interconnectedness -- our Interbeing -- what I personally embrace as my one Absolute Truth.

I'm honored to share such messages as they cycle through these interwebs.  J

I wish you Ubuntu and Shikoba Nabajyotisaikia!

And I sincerely want you to know that YOU MATTER in this world.

Thank you for reading.

~ Dena