Ubuntu is a South African word which according to Wikipedia is often translated as “human kindness”. Within the last few months, I have heard of this word and concept a few times. It appears to me that the idea is gaining a badly needed foothold in our consciousness. Last week I heard a piece of a story on NPR about a South African who grew up on a game preserve and watched the wild animals. Specifically, he was fascinated by a crippled elephant that was assisted by all of the other elephants to survive. More and more we hear stories and see videos of animals helping each other; the monkey that revived an electric shocked monkey friend on an Indian train track, the goat that led a blind horse through a forest to the best pasture, a dog that wrapped its front legs around a companion that was hit by a car and dragged it across five lanes to safety somewhere in South America. It brings tears to my eyes to think that “human kindness” can also be seen in “animal kindness” it is our basic nature born of our core being.
Here is the thing. We have been sold a bill of goods that is not true. Darwinism is not the only and last gasp way of being. “Survival of the fittest” is not the best way to live and survive, we all want to thrive not just survive. The idea that survival is a struggle and that we need to compete with each other to win has spawned a brutal winner takes all mentality. Cooperation is really how we survive and thrive but to truly cooperate we must respect each other in our sameness as does the elephant and in our difference as does the goat and the horse.
I was moved this morning when I saw hundreds of people lined up in the hot Florida sun waiting to give blood after this last terrible mass shooting. Those people live the Ubuntu philosophy. Deep inside, I believe, we all feel a profound need to help, to be useful, to care and to share our love. I know I do. The tools out of our societal dis-ease are in the idea of Ubuntu. I am determined to embrace it.