As Desmond Tutu the Nobel Peace Laureate celebrates his 82nd birthday on October 7 millions around the world celebrate his courageous peace-making. The work of peace mongering always includes creating peace within your own life. Tutu's birthday is an invitation to think about the tools for doing that.
At The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation we provide tools for young people to create peace within, among and between people. They're all inter-connected in creating lives of well-being. Peace and well-being within your own life, among the people in your community or country and between the diverse peoples of the world. But none of us can be peace mongers without being attentive to peace within our own self.
The Ubuntu Train that will be center stage in Cape Town in the global celebration of both Archbishop and Mrs. Tutu's birthdays is a reminder of the transformative power of the African wisdom tradition of Ubuntu. It says that a person is only a person in the context of others. In other words we need one another in order to each discover our magnificence and allow it to shine by what we do with our lives. It is a way of life that acknowledges that every person is of infinite value. It replaces fear and distrust of others with an expectancy, curiosity and celebration of them.
Living a life of Ubuntu is a way of active engagement with the world. It means that whenever the magnificence of others is confined, scorned or dismissed you intuitively join with others in actively seeking to expand our consciousness of what it means to be human. This affirmation of the dignity of each person often involves the pursuit of justice so that the magnificence and well-being of all can be celebrated. It is ultimately a joyful way of life.
Here are three practices by which this Ubuntu way of life finds expression in creating peace within so that we can also create peace among and between peoples.
Be attentive to those around you. In the bustle of daily life it is common to take those around you for granted as a known quantity. You may admire, tolerate or be dismayed at people for qualities or behaviors they display. Those who dismay or anger you will drain your energy if you cede them that power. Your bandwidth for engaging with others is a limited and precious resource. The choices of whom to surround yourself with will either detract or enliven your vow.
Mindfully choose those whose lives exhibit well-being for themselves and others. Create time to be in conversation with them. Glean from them their truths and discoveries about living in peace. The magnificence of your mutual quest for living in peace will radiate beyond the borders of your own life creating a rippling effect in the world.
Own your cluttered conversations. The things that clutter our lives are not necessarily bad but they distract and detract us from the path to well-being. Old story lines and conversations that rattle around inside of us are a pernicious clutter because of their toxicity. You need to own their existence before you can detach and set yourself free from them.
These are the conversations which undermine you by keeping you ensnared in their hurt, pain, betrayal and fear. They undermine and detract you from knowing that living in peace is possible. Name them and detach from them by offering them to the care of the Universe. It is a toxic cleanse for your well-being. Choose instead to pay attention to the comments and conversations that express a desire for your highest good.
Forgive instead of paying back. When you are unable to forgive someone you harm yourself by allowing part of your life to be occupied by an egregious person. The one who harmed you through a previous act gives little thought to you or what they did. Instead it is you who choose to be a victim of the past. To forgive does not mean forgetting but it does mean not seeking payback. It is a choice to be free.
I ran into someone who had led a malicious agenda against me that disrupted my life in unexpected ways. Years ago I had chosen to forgive him and my life opened to new possibilities. But there he was professing to not know me. The unexpected encounter brought back memories of a traumatic experience. Would I allow him to reoccupy my life? I was reminded that the choice to forgive often presents itself repeatedly. Forgiving is a choice to be free.
With these practices and the desire to live a life of Ubuntu you turn your back on settling for serial moments of peace and instead choose a way of life in which peace within grounds you for joining the Tutu's of this world in becoming a peace-monger. The world and the human family desperately needs your peace at work.
Robert V. Taylor is President of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation USA and a commentator, speaker and author of A New Way to Be Human (New Page Books).