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Liberation + Interdependence = Ubuntu

In the United States, the 4th of July is a day set aside to celebrate independence from tyranny. While independence (in the sense of liberation and autonomy) is valuable, it leaves us with an incomplete story.  As participants in life on Earth, we are not, and cannot ever be, fully independent. So July 4th is also a good day to acknowledge our interdependence and meditate on ubuntu. We can make ubuntu central to the celebrations we create.

Ubuntu is is the essential truth of inter-being and interdependent co-arising that manifests everywhere.

Smiling children – Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

No human child thrives without supportive others. No human adult is fully healthy without living in community. And of course, the air we breathe and the food we eat would not be possible without the generosity of plants, living in community with the fungi, animals and bacteria that enable them to thrive. Recognition of this interdependence can provide the seeds for growing more vibrant relationships, communities and societies.

“…I am human because I belong, I participate, and I share. A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good…”

~Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Inner Activism: Focusing on Interdependence

To be an authentic practitioner of ubuntu, one must respect and uplift the autonomy of others, while fully honoring one’s own autonomy. Doing the inner work to support this can be a meaningful gift of service to the community, allowing us to show up as our best selves.

One path to achieve greater autonomy and express your authentic self in the world is through Focusing practice. Focusing helps us to build greater complexity and wholeness of self, by improving the relationships and communications between conflicting interests and responses within. Through friendly attending to different felt senses within, practitioners can better integrate their many inner selves. We cultivate ubuntu within, resolving inner turmoil with respectful attention to divergent needs, appreciating the unique gifts and perspectives of each, so that we may more carefully choose our priorities among them.

These thoughts emerged from a conversation between LeomaKendon, and Michelle on July 1st, 2021.

Interdependent Organizing: Ubuntu and Generosity

To celebrate the Novasutras movement’s first Interdependence Day in 2018, and to invite the power of ubuntu to sustain us, we launched a Patreon campaign.  Our Patreon campaign allows those who wish to support the continued growth and vitality of the Novasutras movement to do so through a monthly subscription at a level of their own choosing.

With support from Patreon members, the Novasutras movement can remain viable, including regular online events and conversations, newsletters, blog posts and social media activity. With enough support, we can develop even more content, and work more actively to grow the community so that we can reach larger goals, and begin to develop long-term projects. For as little as US$1 per month, you can join at the ‘Universal Ubuntu’ amount and be among the first 100 partners in this growing movement.

Of course, there are many different ways you can contribute to the Novasutras movement, not just through money.  We hope that you will participate in the co-creation of a movement that remains adaptable, deeply democratic and egalitarian, open to both science and ceremony, and so beautifully compelling that it can powerfully transform the way humans live together in our biosphere.

Celebrating INTERdependence Day in Community

The 4th of July holiday in the United States celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, when thirteen colonial governments explained their refusal to remain subjects of the British crown.

A decade ago, some friends proposed re-imagining America’s annual 4th of July celebration to foreground a celebration of Interdependence instead. We described a full ritual involving retelling and discussion of the history of the Declaration of Independence and the meaning of the American Revolution, along with the reading and discussion of  a New Declaration, and the sharing of special foods.

Declaring Our INTERdependence

We drafted two versions of a New Declaration of Interdependence, one longer version that mirrored the structure and language of the original Declaration of Independence, and a version that was more concise. Both spoke about reconnecting humans with the rest of Nature (the thinking that led Michelle to further develop ideas around agaya and ubuntu, and eventually start Novasutras).

Sharing food to express ubuntu

Our suggestions around foods for an Interdependence Day celebration included providing a dish prepared to highlight the “Three Sisters” of Native American agriculture: corn, beans, and squash. This combination represents the strength, resilience and vitality we find in diverse communities of sharing, and truly celebrates ubuntu

The Three Sisters are a classic set of companion plants, traditionally planted together because they help one another grow. The beans fix nitrogen in the soil to encourage the growth of all three plants.  The corn provides a tall stalk on which the beans can climb. The squash shades the ground to help retain water and prevent the growth of weeds. 

These foods were domesticated and cultivated by the indigenous farmers of the Americas, who learned to appreciate how the Three Sisters worked together to promote abundance. The European colonists that immigrated to their lands brought them back to the “Old World.” They are now staples of global cuisine. So, for both botanical and cultural reasons, these three foods together are a beautiful illustration of the concept of Interdependence and the importance of community.

Three Sisters image by Garlan Miles, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Three Sisters Novasutras Casserole

A Recipe for Nourishing Ubuntu: Three Sisters Casserole

A lovely dish to celebrate ubuntu is this Three Sisters Novasutras Casserole. It includes cornmeal, three kinds of beans, green summer squash, and some leafy greens, plus blueberries or blue corn for color. You can easily make this a fully vegan dish if you choose, as a climate-friendly option for your feast.

  1. Start with a cornbread or polenta base (using your preferred recipe) so that it fills your round casserole dish about halfway.
  2. Outline the Novasutras symbol with black beans (refried, mashed or blendered beans are easiest to apply, although whole beans could work if well-drained). You may add a small dash of hot-sauce to your beans first (especially a dark chipotle-based sauce or molé), to give a little spice to this section. Make this outline come nearly to the top of your casserole dish.
  3. Mash or blender white beans (cannellini or navy beans) to fill in the bottom section. Reserve some white beans to further blend with blueberries or blue corn (cooked blue cornmeal, or even just a handful of blue corn tortilla chips), to fill in the ‘blue’ parts.
  4. Fill the brown ‘trunk’ of the symbol with refried beans (or pinto or other plain brown beans, which could be whole, blended or mashed). You may add a favorite red salsa or hot-sauce to give a little spice to this section. (Lots of leftover beans? Great, you now have the makings of a tasty bean dip — add salsa or hot-sauce and enjoy with chips or cut veggies!)
  5. Sauté a green summer squash (zucchini/courgette) along with your favorite dark, leafy greens (spinach, collard greens or chard work well here). You might add a little onion and/or herbs, tomatillos or green chilies to your sauté, as well. This completes the green ‘treetop’ portion of the symbol.
  6. Enjoy hot or chilled as the center of a hearty feast with family and friends (as appropriate for safety, given the prevalence of COVID-19 where you are)!

Celebrate UBUNTU!

In loving memory of Judy Bloomgardener.

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