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  • Dr. Shelly Harrell

Weekend Wisdom: Ubuntu, Our Interconnectedness

The fundamental law of human beings is interdependence. A person is a person through other persons. -Bishop Desmond Tutu

Feeling the energy of interconnectedness is one of the most powerful phenomena to experience. I’m talking about those moments where we feel a profound and alive connection to another person, to community, to nature, to animals, to ancestors, to Spirit. It is a dynamic and vibrating aliveness that moves within us and between us. It is a glimpse into our oneness, an experiential knowing that “we are all related”. Sometimes it is subtle and sometimes it is intense. Those moments when I have felt the power of interconnectedness have been some of the most soul-stirring moments of my life, and are part of what has inspired my focus on the experience of soulfulness. Slowing down, meditating, and opening ourselves to deep connection provide opportunities for experiencing the energy of interconnectedness that is always there, whether we are conscious of it or not.

In this week’s quote, Bishop Desmond Tutu is referring to the African ethos of ubuntu. Ubuntu affirms our spiritually-infused, interconnected humanity and holds that a person’s humanity cannot be fully realized outside of our communal connection. Ubuntu reflects the deep philosophical-spiritual truth that “I am because we are”. Our embodied existence is initiated in the joining of cells with each other. Our development is enhanced through relationship. We are healed and uplifted in relationship. Our highest human potential is fulfilled through the nature of our relations with others. From an African-centered orientation, our interconnectedness extends across time and place and dimension to include ancestors and descendants, those who have come before and those yet to be born. Because the nature of life is co-existing interdependence, we have collective responsibility to each other and to the natural world. The fullness of our humanity cannot be realized outside of relationships that honor the humanity of others and the sacredness of all life. It is ultimately our relational and communal experience that reflects the deepest essence of our being. At its core, ubuntu provides an ethical-moral grounding for how we should live.

There is a science to this that I don’t purport to be an expert on, but that provides some support to what many people come to know experientially. Our interconnectedness is supported by the fact that, at a fundamental molecular level, all entities (from the stars to the earth to animals to humans) are all made from the same elements and that we are all connected as descendants of the cosmic stardust from the beginnings of the universe itself. In addition, according to Einstein, “mass and energy are both, but different manifestations of, the same thing”. The visible and invisible are connected. When I pause to contemplate all of this, it totally blows my mind.

How will you manifest the wisdom of ubuntu to honor our interconnectedness and more fully realize your own humanity?

With Peace, Love, and Soulfulness,

Dr. Shelly Harrell


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