The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

I see you

Within different cultures, we’ll have different ways to attend to the relationship between members of the group.

Do we only assume that people are good at heart or do we also find ways to remind each other of it?

For the Zulu community, no man is born evil. The Zulu people also believe that human beings exist only if others see and accept them.

One of the ways this belief has been integrated into the Zulu culture is the habit of creating visibility. If someone from their community commits an inappropriate or offensive act, that person is required to come to the center of the village. And then, for two days, their friends, neighbors, and family will make a circle around them and remind them of their good deeds, their qualities, their virtues, and successes. It’s a way to remind that person that while there are occasions to stray away from their natural goodness, it’s still there and possible to revert to it.

By giving that person visibility and praise they can find a way back to harmony and joy.

The purpose of visibility is one that is kind to the person and there to help them exist. It’s a very different type of visibility than it was to be in the pillory in western culture.

The beauty of the interactions the Zulu people have with one another also shows in their greeting. Sawubona literally meaning “I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being”. It is responded to with Shiboka which means “I exist for you”. Both describe the importance of directing one’s attention to the other person and be present with her.

Again, this is very different from the greeting heard most often in western cultures. “Hello, how are you?” is usually said hardly looking at one another and without expecting a response. If there is a response, for example, “fine”, it is one that often has the subtext “I’m struggling but I don’t want to burden you”.

Shifting from not seeing to seeing requires an effort. It is hard. It takes commitment and care.

It is moving from keeping one’s distances to reaching out and being reached out to.


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