I remember first hearing about the philosophy of Ubuntu and feeling like almost everything I’d wanted to say about community, humanity, and our interconnectedness as people was represented in this one simple (and yet profound) concept:
I am, because we are.
The term Ubuntu comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages and roughly translates as “humanity towards others”*.
A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from 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.Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I do not need to feel threatened by your success, or proud that I am “beating you” at whatever game (chess, politics, careers) we might be playing. All of this is a construct. In reality, when any member of our society suffers, we all suffer. We are all weakened and lessened. We are all less “good”.
I am, because we all are.
Ubuntu helps me remember that I am not alone, or independent of others. I only exist as myself because of my interactions and relationships with others. Sometimes we are guilty, as a society, of labelling people as “in receipt of support”. In fact, we all rely on the support of others at times, and we collectively rely upon the giftedness of every person in our communities.
…we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye… we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.Barack Obama (speaking of the concept of Ubuntu at Nelson Mandela’s memorial)
Ubuntu is, I believe, an inherently (inclusive) feminist concept too; we need to lift others up in order to mutually and collectively benefit from the gifts and offerings of all our fellow humans. We need to notice and check our privilege, because it might be getting in the way of someone else’s progress. We need to be community-minded and collaborative.
At Agnostic Scotland, we have already begun to bring people together at our Community Connection Gatherings. As we grow, we look forward to providing more of these opportunities to connect and explore our common humanity together. We endorse no single faith or belief system, but delight in the diversity that exists within humankind. We exist, probably because other belief bodies exist, and we do so with an open-hearted appreciation for what others believe and create.
I am, because we are.
You are, because we are.
We are, because we ALL are.