Have we become invisible to each other?
This thought crossed my mind on a recent visit to a favourite café. As I sipped my tea and nibbled on a pastry, I quietly observed a couple seated nearby. It seemed strange to me that not a single word passed between them during their entire stay. She was silently engrossed in her tablet, he in his mobile phone. A glance around the room convinced me that this perhaps, was the new norm.
Without a doubt, it requires real effort these days for many of us to be mindfully present in our daily interactions. The hustle and bustle of modern living, a distractive love affair with our smart phones, the internet, and other toys of technology all make “seeing” others a challenge. Loved ones and strangers alike potentially become invisible.
I fear that in the increasingly busyness that is life, our daily connections with others will become much like our standard North American social greeting. How many of us say a hurried “Hello,” and are already dashing off before we get a response. More often than not, we feel that we’ve neither the time nor energy to linger and engage the person meaningfully. I’ve been guilty of this on a few occasions.
Perhaps to help us connect with others on a deeper level, we should consider adopting the South African Zulu greeting Sawubona into our own daily vocabulary. Sawubona means, “I see you.” As in, I see your whole person – “I see your humanity. I see your personality. I see your dignity.” The traditional response to this greeting is Sikhona, which means, “I am here to be seen”.
This beautiful manner of greeting one another reflects the Zulu philosophy of Ubuntu, an “interconnectedness” that is eloquently described by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu,
“Ubuntu [is] the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
Sawubona. I see you.
Do you see me?