Cheerful robin harmonizes with reader responses on ubuntu

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 22, 2018

The robins are back, filling the spring air with their cheerful melodies and reminding us how their happiness and ours are so intimately interrelated.
Photo by Judy Sikorski

What a great way to celebrate the arrival of spring. Judy Sikorski, of Cochrane, looked out her window last Saturday and there, perched on a branch, was a robin! And it looked and sounded to be just as happy to be back as she was to welcome it back.

“I love robins,” Judy wrote me. “They are the ‘tweetest’!”

Yes, these heralds of hope and happiness are indeed the “tweetest,” a worthy introduction to a few of the responses I received to our March 8 column on ubuntu.

You’ll recall Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s comment on ubuntu, a Xhosa value which, he says, “speaks of the fact that my humanity… is inextricably bound up in yours.”

Archbishop Tutu’s words were originally brought to my attention by respondent David Ambrose, now living in BC. (See my column for May 3, 2006.) David reasserted his concern over the negative impact of the “I-me-mine syndrome” on human affairs: “I echo your wish that ubuntu becomes a universally accepted way of life, in North America (where it is sorely needed), and right around the world.”

HR consultant Tami Anderson, a frequent visitor to our table, reflected deeply on this value:

Every person doing every task within every role within every moment on every day is important. Connected like a cosmic melody of perfectly orchestrated notes. Nothing is missing. Yet we miss so much. We don’t see how important everything is. How important each of us is. The relevance of every encounter and experience. How perfect the balance. How relevant the moment. Everything matters!

Everything is connected to services provided by people for people. Our workplaces are a mere extension of our being. How we are growing, developing, participating, giving, receiving. No matter how we work – in our homes, in a business, volunteering, in churches, on soccer fields, in schools, shopping, going to the doctor – everything is all connected to services provided by people for people.

Every single event, from a passing conversation to something long lasting and more meaningful, is like each stroke of a paintbrush within a beautiful painting. Every movement, color, texture, light, depth, pressure, length of stroke is known and necessary – all part of the whole. Maybe this is like ubuntu.

I’ll close with this response from Michael Bopp, of Cochrane, specialist in sustainable participatory development:

“The African concept of ubuntu echoes, in its deepest meaning, a concept that is found in virtually all Indigenous languages in North America,” he says. It speaks to the interrelationship of everything. To violate this interrelationship is “to violate the ground of one's own being and nature itself, and beyond that it is to violate the trust of the Great Creator,” a trust to be lived out in “the Seven Grandfather Teachings: love, respect, courage, honesty, humility, truth and wisdom.”


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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