I am because you are. I am still in your presence, and we see and are seen. This is our common consciousness. We meet each other’s full humanity.

I walked from spiritual drought and a busy, hurried and harried life into a sea of silence and stillness. The Light shone through the door on those gathered people and silence was like a balm to my ruffled nerves and soul. The warm embrace of acceptance, just as I was, was moving and magnetic. I made a decision to stay and search deeper. Who were these people? They shared their space, their tea, their lives and their God – that calls us to be one in the same body. They broke bread with me as never before. I stayed! I was accepted, affirmed, and that enabled me to accept that there was that of God in me, despite what I had been led to believe. ‘Umuntu ugumuntu ngabantu’ – a person is human through the humanity of others. I found my humanity and humanness through those Friends who saw that of God in me and affi rmed that.

Duduzile Mtshazo.

Being accepted by others, I can be my full self, and then accept others and enable them to be themselves. Difference is not threat, but richness and joy.

The human being is powerful. They perceive instantaneously. The free human, knowing and respecting themself, is able to see and respect others. Then we are connected, in humanity, love, creative and spiritual power.

The Zulu greeting Sawubona means “I see you” and also communicates “I value you”. The response “Shiboka” means “I exist for you”. Seeing the person, I give them my full attention. I listen without prejudice.

I see you as a person. I recognise you as a person, not as some agglomeration of roles and characteristics, a white or black person, a plumber or a doctor, but a whole human being, alive and self-aware.

What if the other person is destructive and damaging? No person is born evil. Some are doing what they feel they need to, to survive. Some are loyal to a subset of humanity rather than to the whole human race, or the biosphere, and so are acting in what they see as the interests of that subset, and harming others. Or am I reacting badly to them, because of something I reject in myself?

I affirm the person and not every one of their actions. Or I have to accept some unknowing, some discomfort with what I see until I can come to acceptance.

Mostly from Living Adventurously, the Faith and Practice of Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting.

Barack Obama summarised it, we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. We can only grow through the growth of others. Nelson Mandela acted not in vengeance or retaliation, but in peace. What you do well affects the whole world.

Reading this made me think of Martin Buber, I-thou relationship. We relate with our whole beings to the whole being of the other. I respect the reality of the other. Alan Watts said “Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others”. Buber wrote, “Every it is bounded by others; it exists only through being bounded by others. But when Thou is spoken, there is no thing. Thou has no bounds.” There is only the relationship.

Ursula Le Guin says, “In most cases of people actually talking to one another, human communication cannot be reduced to information. The message not only involves, it is, a relationship between speaker and hearer. The medium in which the message is embedded is immensely complex, infinitely more than a code: it is a language, a function of a society, a culture, in which the language, the speaker, and the hearer are all embedded.”

Let there be no barrier between us!
As your words move in my mind
We become one flesh, like lovers
Though we only pass in the street.

All these ways of relating would recognise our transness, our gender, our unique way of being, not forcing us into a gendered box but allowing us to be ourselves.

3 thoughts on “Ubuntu

  1. After so many years of expressing my feminine-self only to a mirror on the wall, I had an epiphany during an encounter with a cis woman the second time I braved the outside world. I came to the realization that my true reflection of self had never been revealed by the mirror, which was but two-dimensional. The reflection I saw of myself in the eyes of that woman, however, was almost overwhelming. While she probably did not have an epiphany from our discussion, I think she did come to some realization from the reflection cast from my eyes. Knowing oneself requires knowing others; two dimensions just won’t do.

    Liked by 1 person

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