Community = I Am Because We Are

by CSW Director Rob Field


I’m writing these words on Independence Day. And I’m certain I enjoy the Fourth of July as much as the average American, if not more. I love a holiday that celebrates our country and the freedoms we cherish. We are a nation that prizes the liberty we’re still working to extend to all people.

There is, however, one serious downside to our love of independence: as a whole, we Americans discount the value of coming together as fellow citizens and neighbors. And we have a serious need to come together because we have a lot of work to do — to bring light, love, and healing to our world.

After Apartheid, South African spiritual giants like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandella taught the world the concept of ubuntu, an African philosophy summarized by the proverb “I am because we are.” It reminds us that until we are connected to others in community, we are less than we can be.

Community has been on my mind for many reasons, including the isolation many of us experienced during the pandemic. It’s on my mind because, at Center for Spiritual Wisdom, we’re trying to determine the safest way to bring people back together in person for some of our offerings. In addition, I’m working with a group of local leaders to encourage greater dialogue in our community in spite of differences that might otherwise keep us apart.

Community is also on my mind because I recently found myself stranded with a stalled car that could not be re-started due to a dead battery. I was so grateful for a friend who came to try to help, two strangers who stopped to lend a hand, and — when all else failed, the tow truck driver who not only got my car to an auto mechanic, he was kind enough to drive me home afterwards.

In many simple and profound ways, we need each other, even when we have difficulty acknowledging this need or living it out in a healthy way. Ubuntu means “I am because we are.” It’s a crucial part of what it means to be a fully awake and alive. And it’s an important part of what we’re about at CSW.

photo by Aaron Thomas via Unsplash