I was listening to Oprah Winfrey the other day, and she said something that hit home, in a way things do when we are ready to hear them. She said, “No one makes it alone…All those people who have come into my life are the bricks in the building that I am.”
I am currently involved in an educational initiative that has a mentorship arm that I now realize is crucial in the growing up process. Mentors help us expand our concept of ourselves. I know my mentor did for me and I want to pass it on. If I didn’t have someone who hadn’t believed in me, I wouldn’t be who I am today; neither would I strive for progress. I wouldn’t have looked for new direction or believe in my worth…I think it’s important to believe in another’s capability too.
So who would I thank for helping me travel along this road of life? My parents, of course, my partners, my friends and students…also floods of people I have encountered, some even momentary encounters enter my mind, especially the challenging ones. For all these I feel a sense of immense gratitude.
I am learning and growing because of the people who crossed my path and who help me fulfill my role as wife, mother, sister and certainly as a teacher. Our own well-being is deeply tied to the well-being of others. I deeply resonate with the universal concept, “people are not people without other people.”
This is exactly what Nelson Mandela personified. He became the embodiment of what in South Africa, is called “Ubuntu”. It is a beautiful and old concept based on human kindness, connectedness, community and mutual caring for all. Its hallmarks are reconciliation and harmony. It reminds us of a need for understanding but not vengeance, a need for reparation and not retaliation, a need for ubuntu and not for victimization. It speaks of the very essence of being human, which to me means our generosity of spirit, friendship, hospitality, caring and compassion. It is to say, “My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours. We belong in a bundle of life.”
In many ways Ubuntu mirrors the Hindu spiritual teaching of Advaita, or the law of opposite polarities. The night exists because there is day, yin and yang are part and opposites of the same concept, anger is our reality because some part of us has the potential for willingness; plus and minus, positive and negative…one cannot exist without the other.
Contrary to the division and separation implied by western science our entire world is connected and full of organisms and particles that work together in harmony. It’s a giant, cosmic, spectrum of potentiality. Our planet is dependant on all of its parts and something that affects one part affects us all.
I love what Bill Clinton has to say, “The world is too small, our wisdom too limited, our time here too short, to waste any in winning fleeting victories at another’s expense. We must find a way to triumph together. If we were the most beautiful, the most intelligent, most wealthy or powerful and then found that we are alone on this planet, it wouldn’t amount to much, would it? I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.”
At times, this infinite energy and endless potential seems too vast and daunting where I see myself as the tiniest grain of sand. Yet, I know that behind everything there is not nothingness, not emptiness, but a vast energy seen as matter. It is not enough to say that this energy surrounds us or engulfs us….we are this energy! We arise out of its gentle embrace!