Friday, 16 December, Leontine van Hooft presented her new book “On route to Gross Global Happiness”. It was an inspiring book launch with dance and interesting stories. I was there because Leontine is a great person who runs a fantastic business with her husband Léon van Rijckevorsel. Also, because her first book “The power of African thinking” was an inspiring page turner, introducing me to Ubuntu. I learnt many things from the book and my personal conversations with Leontine. Here I would like to share the three inspirations that help me on my mission to create a sustainable society.
Inspiration 1 – I exist because of we
The Ubuntu philosophy can be characterized with the expression: ‘I exist because of we’. People belong to each other and are joined together. Leontine writes in The power of African thinking: “We only learn to know ourselves by belonging to a group or community. It is precisely through such meetings with others that we can develop and grow. We can only succeed if the community to which we belong is successful.” This means putting the group first. It means that an individual uses his or her talent for the benefit of the community.
Inspiration 2: Source, pillars, carriers and beacon
To understand Ubuntu you need to know about the source, pillars, carriers and beacon.
In Ubuntu the source refers to a vital energy and life force that is present throughout the universe. Opening up to this energy brings understanding of why we are here and where we are going.
What the source means to me? The idea of putting your life in a larger context. ‘Opening up to the life energy’ gives insight that we are part of an entire planet, where animals, plants, micro-organisms, non-living things and processes are all connected and are all one. If one part neglects the wellbeing of the other part, the entire system falls apart – benefitting nobody.
In Ubuntu individualism is replaced by dignity, teaching us what it means to be a human being and which behaviour is appropriate. These values are reflected in five pillars: Respect, Reliability, Recognition, Responsibility, and Reconciliation. This means that we generously respect every person we meet. That we can be relied on to be authentic, human and contribute to the community. That we cherish and learn from the diversity in our network. That we behave responsibly and take a meaningful position within our community. That we actively seek peace and common decisions through dialogue.
What the pillars mean to me? They offer guidance in how we can behave as a member and leader in our communities.
The carriers reflect the way we perceive the continuity of our existence. It is about spiritual connectedness, with ancestors, the living and the unborn. It is also about the way we perceive time and our knowledge of the underlying systems of our community.
What the carriers mean to me? To take a moment to understand the ‘system’ and to apply systems thinking. To connect with the environment before taking action or forming an opinion.
In Ubuntu the beacon is a person’s final destination, which can only be achieved by being connected with his or her core being.
What the beacon means to me? You can only do well in the world if you take care of yourself. So, considering your own health and happiness so that you can offer a strong shoulder and be a beacon of light to others. By making sure you are in your own ‘right flow’, you are better connected to your talents, to the people around you and able to achieve common and noble goals.
Inspiration 3: Storytelling
Storytelling is also part of Ubuntu. In the book The power of African thinking the story ‘Stone Soup’ is told. It is about a soldier using a stone to miraculously bring together a divided village with suspicious villagers. I loved the story and its message. Moreover, it is a story I can easily remember and tell others. It made me realize that the strength of stories is enormous and that we should tell each other more stories.
I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on Ubuntu. Interested to learn more? I can recommend reading the books by Leontine van Hooft. Don’t be a stranger, invite me to share a cup of coffee together.