Tuesday, July 14, 2009


By Charis Hill

UBUNTU just is.

“Isn’t that U-buh-ntu, the computer program?” No…not quite. I am referring to a concept best lived and experienced outside the confines of technology. Ubuntu draws humans together, in very personal ways. If we listen to the word very carefully, we are able to hear, “Ubuntu: we are all connected to our brothers and sisters. We depend on one another for survival.” Ubuntu reminds us, if we listen, that we cannot live independently from our neighbors. What a hard concept to grasp in a world that is being taken over largely by individualistic, western thought that encourages competition and applauds Darwinian, “survival of the fittest” thought.

Perhaps I should ask, CAN you live without the brothers and sisters beside you? It is for what we take for granted that we should be most thankful: the roads we use, the clothes we wear, the buildings in which we reside, the food we consume, the music we hear. I cannot think of any one person among us who is capable of producing, alone, all these wants and needs for herself, nor are there enough hours in the day. We depend on one another for the sustenance we need which we cannot ourselves provide. I work daily on improving my awareness and thanks for the materials I use. I think about the origin of the products I use and the people who helped to make it possible for me to use these items. Someone made my clothes, someone cleans my hotel room, someone transports my recycling away.

We are all connected.

Ubuntu: we are all in this together. What does Ubuntu really mean, in English? I cannot tell you. Even if I had the words, there is no way everyone would understand it with the same perspective, and no way for me (as a Caucasian North American female) to accurately describe the best meaning for Ubuntu as its origin dictates. Do I give up attempting to explain it to you? No. I live it, breathe it, and share it.

Ubuntu is sharing.

For those of you who, like myself, are “tree huggers,” them perhaps I can reach you by saying Ubuntu is living in harmony with every living being. Or, those of you familiar with the Bible (which I dearly pray you are), perhaps I can compare Ubuntu to I Corinthians; we each have our different gifts which make up the body of Christ. We cannot function without others. If we deny the gift of another, we deny our own gifts and therefore deny what our body needs to survive. I am because you are. We are because we are.

My short time thus far at General Convention has been filled with interactions with Episcopalians and non Episcopalians. My idea of Ubuntu is that I treat none of these interactions as any more or less important than the next. If we can grow together to a point where we are happy enough with ourselves that we can love every person equally and treat one another – within or without the communion – as she deserves, then we may find ourselves in an Ubuntu-filled world. We should work, all of us, towards embracing one another, as Christ calls us to do, and move away from simply tolerating the differences we find. Without our differences, we would be less than whole. We must find a way to return to harmony, first within ourselves, and then with every other part of God’s creation. No exceptions."

Charis Hill is from the Dioceses of East and North Carolina.

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