Ubuntu is a traditional Nguni Bantu (Southern Africa) philosophy which emphasizes our common humanity. It’s primary tenet is our connectedness and interdependence as fellow human beings.
“I am, because you are” says Archbishop Desmond Tutu; “ how I behave impacts not only on me but also others around me because we all belong together.”
So a person with ubuntu is generous, thoughtful and respectful towards others, appreciating the differences that together make us greater than the sum of our parts!
One of the problems inherent in discussing, let alone implementing a collectivist view is that the interpretation is too often made of a harsh collectivism. A harsh collectivism involves the erasure of the individual for the many. So, this is often met with the “opposite”—a harsh individualistic erasure of the collective.
Ubuntu is not that. It is a celebration of individuals within the collective. I will say here, with no reservation, that this is less a philosophy than a simple fact of human existence that many of us have long denied to our own detriment.
A great many of our disconnects as human beings seem to stem from fear. Fear of scarcity, fear of the unknown, fear of those who are different from us. The funny thing about engaging in play together, is the ability of joy and togetherness to move us beyond that fear. Play can break down both intrapersonal and interpersonal barriers.
Play and interaction through enjoyment and exploration are those things that can diffuse through many modes of interaction, be they economic, communal, political. We cannot underestimate the importance of changing the basic threads of how we deal with one another.
In my observations, if we want to extract the true power of play, the players must be left mostly to their own devices of expression. The power of play becomes more and more diminished with each increasing level of external control. Truly, it becomes less “play” and more “execution of patterns”. Can that still break down barriers? Yes. But joy is an amplifier. Curiosity, creativity, and freedom are amplifiers.
Also, we need to look not only at moment to moment interactions, but at how we grow up interacting on a long term, consistent basis. What is our primary mode of interaction? If we play a game together once in a while, but view most of life as a zero sum, dog eat dog game – life doesn’t work very well. Even where people have enough to eat, and sufficient shelter, we become more embittered and more isolated from one another. Is that life? Is that living? Further, zero sum competition as modus operandus has the potential to create an increasingly smaller group of elite performers, while discouraging those who don’t “win” early. This is especially true in children.
What is my “proof”?
Simply look at the results of both our education and youth sports systems in parallel. In education, we have continued to drop in academic competence, while resting on a few elite performers amidst the sequential failure of incentive based programs. In parallel, we have increasingly impressive performances and achievements by elite athletes while people have become more and more sedentary.
Economically, we continue to concentrate wealth and opportunity amongst a smaller and smaller percentage of people. I assure you, this is not a political point, but a factual one. We buy ourselves a whole host of problems when we put all of our eggs in the elite basket. We exclude and discourage those that do not perform or live at elite levels right away, and we overburden and stress elite performers. We are whittling away our talent pool through exclusion and attrition.
Even play itself is being co-opted by elite performance.
The message is being sent that “play is actually what will make your child the most elite”, oft citing its benefits for cognitive performance and athletic performance. Play is supposed to be for everyone and by everyone, not yet another tool for separation.
Now, understand that within business, sports, and education there are pockets of exploration, cooperation, mutual understanding. I am talking about the way the system as a whole has been set up. A flower struggling through the cracks in the cement does not a meadow make.
As we have developed technology/weapons/civilization, we seem to have removed our primary conflict from the environment to each other and the competitive control of resources. This has been, I believe, at the root of racism, sexism, and religious conflict and is exacerbated by concentrated population growth. These roots, never having been solved, seem to have increased our disconnect from one another exponentially and in perpetuity.
So, I am asking for a fundamental change, a paradigm shift toward playfulness in our daily interactions. Does this mean that every single minute will be happy go lucky? No. Some moments will be somber, dangerous, stressful. But could more moments be joyful, interactive, and cooperative? I think so.
I think movement and music aren’t some final solution, but are particularly situated to lead that shift. These are two modes of human experience that have proven time and again to bring disparate people together.
But this doesn’t happen with packaged, corporatized movement and music. It happens with movement and music that are full of spirit, exchange, and organic growth. This shift to Ubuntu requires movement that grows out of play and music that grows out of garage jam sessions. It requires dance not borne of preparation for contests, but dance that escapes from the body as a response to rhythm.
This fundamental change requires true interaction, not simple repetition of the packaged. Open your door and leave your front door. Go play something. Go play with somebody. Let your children know that is a beautiful way to live. Hint: They already know, they just need you to let them know that it doesn’t have to end. They need you to keep oxygen flowing to the fire.
Having trouble figuring out how? There is a tool to help you light the path. Click hereOriginally posted on Move Theory
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