Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu (A Person is a Person Through Other People)
Cammy Watkins – Executive Director
Martin Luther King Jr. is quoted for many things and I feel a responsibility to share his words on courage in this blog. He said:
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency ask the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
We have a responsibility to our humanity. We have a responsibility to step into our courage when it comes to humanity and in doing so, we are doing what is right. And sometimes doing what is right for humanity is seen as going against our own self-interest. When we push aside our fear, we are tapping into our greatest strength because courage, as Roy Bennett says, “is feeling fear, not getting rid of fear, but knowing something is more important than fear and taking action in the face of fear.” Too often, we abandon what we know is collectively our responsibility to others in society; to our greater humanity, because we are afraid of how these choices will impact us individually. However, the truth is that, when we turn our back on others we lose ourselves and in turn our connection to humanity.
In the past few years we found ourselves in a battle of who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is evil. But we forget that there are few concrete absolutes in this world. There is gray in everything because in our humanity we are more than just one thing. We are complex beings. We are a multitude. There is a duality of all of our circumstances and until we have the courage to fight for ourselves, whether we love each other or not, to fight for the humanity of our people, our communities, our world, we will not be whole. We must have the courage to fight against the status quo in defense of humanity and when we do not do so, we are betraying ourselves. “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” I am because you are.
Desmond Tutu says, “Ubuntu is the essence of human being. It speaks to the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours and I am human because I belong.” We all belong to each other and for each other, and until we start to work as a community and a society to creatively build a world in which there are no hierarchies, there is no sexism, there’s no heterosexism, there is no racism– We will never truly experience the beauty and the glory that is Ubuntu, to be one because we are of each other.
So that is my challenge to each of us, to fight for the humanity and the pieces that we know are right for each other. We have to be willing to take the risk of getting it wrong. As Ken Robinson says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” And the world needs us to come up with something original. The world is calling for us to be greater than we have been before. We need us to be creative and brave and authentic and human in order to create the world that we all can thrive within.
There is this fear, this fear that stops us from trying something different, from doing something new, from being something different yet extraordinary.
Osho says, “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” So let us dance in the light of creativity and difference in celebration of humanity. Let us dance in the joy of courage. Let us dance in the face of fear because as the Zimbabwe born and Canadian based philosopher and author Matshona Dhliwayo says “It takes greater faith to dance in the dark, than to rest in light.”
We have a choice. Being a human being is given, but keeping our humanity is a choice. So what will you choose?