“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform,” King wrote. “Prior to reading Gandhi, I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationship,” King wrote. “The ‘turn the other cheek’ philosophy and the ‘love your enemies’ philosophy were only valid, I felt, when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was.”
I've spent the morning researching MLK and his relationship with Gandhi. Since I first started my spiritual journey I have always been greatly influenced by both of these men. How they chose to live their lives of faith with such action and with such transparency and vulnerability. To commit your life to living love out loud, no matter the cost...what tremendous courage this must have taken, and with what fear they had to overcome.
"We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
I was first introduced to the concept of Ubuntu through this quote from MLK many many years ago. I then read Archbishop Desmond Tutu's reflections on this African philosophy years later and was then introduced to Ubuntu directly. This idea that we are all connected has never left me and it is something that I wrestle with even more so today than I did years ago. I think it's because as we get older life gets more complicated. I have watched this happen to me as I have evolved from living solely the priesthood lifestyle to running a nonprofit to trying to scale a business. The concepts surrounding business and being so focused on making money, creating a desirable brand and developing a self-sustaining social impact company in Africa has clouded much of the simple origins of the desire to live into my place in the interconnected human fabric of our world. And yet that is still to this day my greatest desire.
I always give our staff MLK Day off for this reason, to remember why Ubuntu was ever birthed and our ties to such a great man and the ties MLK had to Gandhi and the ties that Gandhi had to Jesus. We are all connected, we are all the same.
I recently read a wonderful book co-written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy. They both speak brilliantly to this concept of Ubuntu, of our interdependence…
"When someone is warmhearted, they are always completely relaxed. If you live with fear and consider yourself as something special, then automatically, emotionally, you are distanced from others. You then create the basis for feelings of alienation from others and loneliness...And if I relate to others, thinking that I am the Dalai Lama, I will create the basis for my own separation and loneliness. After all, there is only one Dali Lama in the entire world. In contrast, if I see myself primarily in terms of myself as a fellow human, I will then have more than seven billion people who I can feel deep connection with...A thousand people - same human being. Ten thousand or a hundred thousand - same human being - mentally, emotionally, and physically. Then, you see, no barrier. Then my mind remains completely calm and relaxed. If too much emphasis on myself, and I start to think I'm something special, then more anxiety, more nervousness. When you focus too much on yourself, you become disconnected and alienated from others. In the end, you also become alienated from yourself, since the need for connection with others is such a fundamental part of who we are as human beings."
Tutu then takes this a bit further by introducing directly and simply the concept of Ubuntu, "A person is a person through other persons. Ubuntu says when I have a small piece of bread, it is for my benefit that I share it with you. Because, after all, none of us came into the world on our own."
How simple a concept, yet our world has always struggled to recognize that we are all bound to one another. Thank God, He has given us such warmhearted leaders like Gandhi, MLK, the Dalai Lama and Tutu to remind us by their examples that we are all connected and our lives truly only have their fullest value when shared with others.
This is a concept that I obviously believe strongly about, naming our company after this philosophy and having experienced it first hand through my unlikely friendship with our co-founder, Jeremiah Kuria. I have also tattooed the name along with the continent of Africa on the inside of my right arm as a way to remind me, as I often live differently which I am not proud to share. Our hearts are at their loveliest when loving and being loved, yet our world lives in a constant state of separation and reminding each other to fear our fellow human beings that look differently, believe differently and live in other parts of the world.
On MLK Day I share this post in hopes that it encourages others to love and be loved as we are all human in need of one another. I especially ask for forgiveness to all when I have not lived in this way, probably yesterday, if not this morning!