Ubuntu

“We can only be human together”, so says former Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the Anglican Archbishop during apartheid in South Africa. He was an ardent advocate for nonviolence and peace during a time of great divide, anger, anguish, and violence between races in South Africa. Yet, he remained a devout believer in god and the teachings of peace and justice. The things he saw, the violence, the anger, were horrifying. Yet he still remained a firm believer in this concept of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu addresses an idea that is central to African philosophy, which is the essence of what it is to be human. According to a book entitled “Believe” which contains quotations and inspiration from the life of Tutu,

“The definition of this concept has two parts. The first is that the person is friendly, hospitable, generous, caring, and compassionate…because of this they express the second part of the concept, which concerns openness, large-heartedness. They share their worth. In doing so my humanity is recognized and becomes inextricably bound to theirs”

Essentially, we are only human because of our relationships to others, and we cannot exist in a vacuum. “A person is a person because of other people.” To explain this, think of a family. Without your family, without the love and care you were raised into, would you be the person you are today? Who teaches you how to be human? Other humans, whether it is your community, your family, or your friends.

Our humanness also relies on how others see us, and how we treat others. The compassionate Tutu, in his forward to “Believe”, states,

“Anger, resentment, a lust for revenge, greed, even the aggressive competitiveness that rules so much of our contemporary world, corrodes and jeopardizes our harmony. Ubuntu points out that those who seek to destroy and dehumanize are also ­victims, usually, of a pervading ethos, be it a political ideology, an economic system, or a distorted religious conviction. Consequently, they are as much dehumanized as those on whom they trample.”

It was this concept that allowed Tutu to see the perpetrators of violence and injustice during apartheid as victims of a broken system, suffering as much as those who he fought for. They were being as much dehumanized by the violence they were perpetrating as those they harmed. This is an incredible compassion which is almost impossible to conceive, and was wrought by the power of Ubuntu.

We are all human together, we are only who we are because of our relationships and love for others. Without that, we cannot fully realize our full human potential. This is so powerful, that it allowed Tutu to work for nonviolence and peace when he was in the midst of nothing but violence and anger.

If he can have compassion, and seek to see the humanity in those who opposed him, surely, we can do the same in these troubled times. We must seek to understand that those who work against the health of the planet and the health of future generations do not necessarily want to jeopardize the future—they are merely caught in a pervading ethos which prizes money, quick fixes, and power, over community. It is only by seeking to truly understand what drives those who seek to stop our movement that we can seek to win them to our cause. Tutu put It very well when he said, “My father always used to say, ‘Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.’ Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters, nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right.’” Let us seek to understand, rather than shout.

We can only be human together, Tutu says. I am keeping those words written on my heart, as I seek to move toward a beautiful future, together with my fellow eco-warriors and citizens of planet earth—and members of humanity.

Advertisements

Sustaining Rest

The Power of Sustaining Rest

Sometimes it feels like all I do every day is spin my wheels, living from checklist to checklist. I start my day, I run through my morning routine, which, let’s be completely honest, is a checklist of sorts. I get to work, and I check off my emails as “read” or “unread” or “I’ll look at this later.” Then, I revisit the checklist of things I made for myself to accomplish at work the night before. I go home, and I go through my home life/evening checklist. I go to sleep, wake up the next day, and do it all again.

Checklists can be useful. They keep me on task, they ensure that I don’t forget anything in my busy life. I am involved in a lot of things and a few different causes because I enjoy being an active member of my community, I enjoy occupying my free time with fulfilling activities. It’s part of the crazy, driven, type-a personality I have. My lists make sure that nothing comes falling down on my head or slips through the cracks on a daily basis. They are a useful organizational tool.

But living from lists all the time, and constantly spinning our wheels in a series of to-dos, isn’t always sustainable. We will burn out. I have burned out many a time, pushing myself too far, working too hard, and forgetting that magic of balance.

Balance is a difficult thing for me, because I am so type-a that it feels like when I rest, I am slacking off. Over time, I have found a way to deal with these emotions. I have learned that if I am burnt- out, I am not good to anyone, and I have to start over. This is not a “sustainable” way of living, or a “sustainable” method of being an activist, having a career, doing whatever it is that you are driving and pushing yourself to do. (See what I did? Sustainable.) How hypocritical am I if I preach about sustainability, but cannot incorporate a sustainable pace into my own lifestyle?

I find that when I am intentional about my rest, and when my rest ties strongly into my greater purpose, it is more fulfilling, and I don’t worry so much about taking a break. Often that rest is yoga, sometimes it is enriching my mind or my body of knowledge with a good read, or taking time to journal. All of these things play into my skill set, but also bring me great joy and relaxation.

Today, I just got back from a two-day mini vacation into the city with my boyfriend. We have travelled together before for a wedding, but never truly to just be together, and take a few days off from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. I have never been so glad that I took a break before in my life.

The trip allowed me to fully immerse myself in all the reasons that I love him, and all of the reasons that our relationship is so strong and joyful. All it took was two days of intentionality, and I am feeling refreshed, full of joy, fortified for some time to come, and able to deal with the pressures of daily life.

How do you sustain yourself through rest? I would love to hear, and I’m sure the rest of my readers would as well! Leave a comment or a message! Take some time to sustain yourself this holiday weekend.

Legacy

For many reasons, the issue of Climate Change is about Legacy. At least, it is to me. It is about the kind of world I want to leave behind for the generations to come. I want to be able to say to my grandchildren that my generation is the generation that stopped climate change, that changed our ways, that set the world on the right path to mending itself. Here is my poem about the topic.

 

Legacy

 

This is about legacy.

This is about a why.

This is about “no I can’t control your actions but I will try because it’s worth it.”

This is about no more “how”s

no more assumptions

Only a window

Into why I want us to throw our stuff into the right recycling, trash and compost bin.

 

For real.

 

This is about a legacy, and this is about a choice.

A legacy of “no I won’t die from the chemicals in the air but…

I can know that each day the particles of air I breath contain

more C02

more greenhouse gases

more harmful chemicals

then it did the last time I woke up.”

And they may not kill me but one day

my children and my children’s children may not be able to breath

because of the toxic accumulation

of my

careless

choices.

 

It’s about a choice.

 

It’s about a basic choice

Do I throw all my trash in a trash can

or do I take 30 seconds

and sort it out

because believe it or not

that 30 seconds

makes a difference

 

and no I’m not perfect but I try

and I don’t want what happens to the future generations to be

my fault

no matter

how small

the fault

may be

 

this is about how excruciating it feels to watch

as people walk through the world

heads down

frowning

on the phone

oblivious to the beauty around them

 

it’s a message

it’s about power

 

and how we have more power than we could possibly imagine

 

It just needs to be owned.

 

By choice.

 

This is about legacy.

Motherhood

Sunday, May 14, was Mother’s day (duh). I probably don’t need to restate the age old theory that Mother’s Day is just another Hallmark holiday, or a “setup”, or that “mothers are underappreciated” or even that “every day should be Mother’s Day” because all of those things are 5000% true, and you’ve heard them, or said them, all before.

The day before Mother’s Day this year, I had a close encounter with motherhood which left a powerful mark that I have yet to be able to define, but that warrants sharing, if for no other reason than to add a voice of appreciation to the void, singing praise for the human method of mothering.

 

On Saturday, May 13, I volunteered with Sustain DuPage to pick up trash along the East branch of the DuPage River. It was a gorgeous spring day, perfect for hiking. We stopped at a riffle, a small collection of rocks in the river, and watched Asian carp spawning in the river. These creatures were much bigger than any fish I’d ever seen, and the reckless abandon which with they were mating to ensure the longevity of their species was strangely awe-inspiring. They splashed in the shallows, creating a whirlpool of frenetic activity, as the sun glistened, reflecting the water on their brown, mottled scales.

My friend, fellow environmental warrior, and the ever-fearless founder of Sustain DuPage, decided he was going to catch one of these creatures, in order to teach the volunteers about invasive species and river ecosystems. And so he  did. I rolled up my pants and tentatively followed after my new friend as he plunged his hands into the river, and after a somewhat epic battle, emerged victorious with a fat, impressively large female, whose belly was engorged with her future offspring—which she promptly dropped all over Andrew’s pants. She dropped her eggs, fearing that she was soon to die. Her las action was to hopefully ensure their survival. I won’t describe this orange mess, as I feel the pictures do it better justice.

I asked to hold the fish, and immediately regretted it as I reached out my shaking hands. I’m not sure what I was really afraid of, except that this was such a completely foreign experience that I felt my brain was short circuiting. “I can do this”, I said out loud, and Andrew looked and me and said, “of course you can”, and that vote of confidence was all I needed.

Holding that fish was an absolutely transformative experience. There was something about the weight of that life, the heaviness of its belly, that felt absolutely sacred. I won’t go into goofy depth about spirituality here, but the power of that fish in my hands struck me to the core. Maybe it was the idea of connection with something so wild, so free, and so recklessly concerned with the survival of her species.

There is something to be envied in species like that who recklessly pursue survival and are not concerned with all the trivial human problems of life. For the same reason, I also envy human mothers their purpose in life—the grand pursuit of the survival of their family. I also respect them that. To think of people dedicating their lives to raising families is a humble pursuit that often does NOT go noticed. 

The Asian carp is a K species, which means that it produces many offspring at once and does not nurture them to adulthood. Humans are an N species, which means that they invest their energy and time into one offspring, caring for them and raising them until they are grown. As much respect and awe as I had for that Asian carp, I was also induced with a healthy dose of gratitude that I was born into an N species, and that mothers, for the most part, raise their kids to be functioning, well-adjusted adults.

So today, in a weird, turnabout kind of way, I have turned an experience with a big-ass fish, into a reflection on motherhood. Who would have thought it possible? I can thank my mom for that—and for always nurturing my love of writing. Without her, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.

Just One Year?

It has been way too long since I’ve written a post for my own blog. In case you’re wondering where I’ve been, or what I’ve been up to, check out the website of Sustain DuPage. I’ve recently started volunteering more with various projects of theirs, lending my writing skills to the cause of sustainability closer to home. It’s incredibly fulfilling, but doesn’t always leave time for my own blog. I am still working on balancing all the aspects of my life. I wonder if that’s something anyone ever truly masters? I digress.

 

This week marked my one year anniversary of being at my current job. I don’t know how it flew by so fast, but at the same time, it feels like an eternity. It feels like I’ve always been there. Maybe it is because I am meant to be there. It’s the right place, the right job, and the right time, with the right people.

As I reflect back on the year, I think of how having a steady, full time job doing something I love has given my so much confidence. Part of that is acclimating to the role, but part of that is taking on challenges and obstacles at work that I had no idea I would be able to tackle. I have been given tasks in the past year that a year ago, I would have not had any idea how to handle- but handle them I have.

I’m a huge proponent of faking it until you make it, with the caviat that you definitely need to know your own limits and when to ask for help. I’m blessed enough in my coworkers to have people who are more than willing to help me. This is because their desire for our insitituion to succeed is far more powerful than their desire to beat out a coworker for a better paycheck. That kind of self-serving has no place in my workplace, and for now, that’s how I like it.

The only way to handle challenges, I have found, is to just do them. To attack them face on, and to stay present in the doing. Yes, there is doubt. But dwelling in doubt is something that we cannot afford if we want to pass through obstacles and into successes. If only success were anywhere near permanent. Like obstacles, like doubt, we must move through success, and to our next obstacle, which leads us to even greater success. This is how we grow.

I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had to grow in knowledge, in confidence, and in expertise. I am grateful every day to wake up with the feeling that I am making a difference, both at my place of employment and in my hobbies and volunteerism.

To those who said I couldn’t find a job like this, who said that changing the world is a pipe dream destined for people who want to be unemployed and miserable- I thank you for the inspiration, and I am proud to say that has not been the case for me. (To make it crystal clear, this is not said out of spite, rather it is said out of honesty and with no grudge whatsoever.) To those who believed in me, and continue to believe in me as I travel on my life’s path to uncover my vision and my dreams: thank you for believing in me. I believe in you, too.