"A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has 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."
— Desmond Tutu

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Music Woman

I am extremely lucky in having grown up in a family where music played (and still plays) a central role. My sister and I played the piano, sang in choir, played the viola and cello, and participated in musicals. I learned to play the French Horn in high school, just because I thought it was beautiful. We were extremely lucky to have the opportunities to pursue music like we did; we had private lessons and we were always able to see a number of touring Broadway productions. I can't imagine a life where music would not be a part of it. While the talk of educational cuts are never-ending, music programs across the nation are always on or very close to the chopping block. Many school districts have already abandoned music programs all together. Stories like this show that music is a necessary element in our lives, and one that we must pursue regardless of funding. Of course, not many of us will go on to become the next Joshua Bell, but being given the opportunity to explore music, the challenge to make it, and the ability to partake in being a part of a greater whole exemplifies the idea of Ubuntu unlike much else.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Something out of nothing

This is one of the first stories I heard on NPR this morning as I was driving to work, and for some reason, I didn't really think that it applied to my "people who embody ubuntu" theme, perhaps because Dr Kenney lived so long ago- it's not really a story about someone today. But the more I read about him, the more I think that stories like his are important to remember. I was particularly struck by the granddaughter's last phrase: ""Our grandfather, who was the son of ex-slaves — if he can do what he did with nothing, what is our excuse?"


And here is more information about him and his hospital:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feeding those who are fighting

After reading a thoroughly discouraging piece in the New York Times, I felt the familiar surge of anger boil up inside me. So, I found this. And now I want pizza for dinner.

Here's another story about it, detailing the people from around the world who are calling in orders:

And if you want to order a pizza for the protesters:

Cleaning up the city, one trash can at a time

While perhaps it should just be innate to throw something away in a trash can and not just out of a car window or on the floor, this makes it more likely that the trash will actually find its way into the trash can. I wish we had these at the school where I teach! I'm sure my students would be scrambling to clean up the room after class and throw away their trash! Now we need one for recycling....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The embodiment of ubuntu

A great starting point. Watching this man always restores my soul.

Why we need more Ubuntu in our country

"So, you find humor in other people's suffering?"
"Yeah, why not? It's not me. Plus, it's funny." -- a 12th grader at Thornton High School

After hearing this sentiment echoed in my class today, I realized that I am not okay with the direction what we perceive as "entertainment" is going. We mock people's deepest beliefs, we laugh at people getting hurt; we somehow think that being an "individual" is best manifested by belittling others, picking on and bullying them for kicks. 

We are a nation of shadenfreude. We like to see people hurt, people lose, people be shamed. I suppose, being a member of the "America's Funniest Home Videos" generation, that I shouldn't be surprised in learning that many people think that other people's suffering is entertainment. Most "reality" shows like American Idol, and America's Next Top Model thrive in the moment where one person is mocked, scorned, and sent home. We mock those on American Idol for months and even years after their public disgrace. We look at websites like Lamebook, RegrEtsy, and People of Walmart and feel superior to those dumb fools we see. "Wow, that's pathetic," is a comment often printed underneath pictures of people donning strange hairdos, wearing revealing clothes, or selling a hand-crafted trinket.

I listen to NPR nearly every morning, and more and more, I find myself reeling in anger at the stories I hear. Leaders of our country are telling us that it is okay to "hate" those who oppose us (or who do not agree with us), that we must be "vigilant" in ensuring that our OWN opinions are the ones that matter... the lack of civility in public discourse (as a friend put it) is astounding. And it should be terrifying. We so much want to be right, we want to "win," and we will do it at any cost- human or otherwise. The idea behind Ubuntu is that we are not threatened by others, and we ourselves are dimished when others are. We, therefore, do not do the diminishing.

Yes, there was definitely a time when I got my kicks at the expense of others. I am a big fan of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I loved making fun of former president W. Bush and his stupidity. However, as I listened to my class today talk about how they would rather see a fight or a car accident for entertainment than read a book or even watch their favorite TV show, a terrifying thought struck me: this is our next generation of leaders. And this is what they want to see. As I near 30, I am beginning to realize a few things: mindsets like these are unproductive, they distract us from problems that require thought and reason, and this is simply not funny anymore.  

So, this is my quest for enlightenment, of sorts. Not a saccharine, sappy, "after school special" of feel-good stories, but an honest look at what people are doing in the United States and in other parts of the world to be productive, to improve their society, and to embody the idea of "Ubuntu" about which Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke. Every time I see/hear/read about the dehumanization of another human being, I will counter it with finding a story about someone who embodies Ubuntu. Perhaps through this, I can at least find some balance in my own soul, and look upon our American culture with pride and hope for future generations. 

"Bless the whole world- no exceptions."