How to Go High (When Things Go Low)
Ellen Petry Leanse

Ellen, thanks for writing this. Interesting tech analogies for the way our brain works — I found them very useful. And great recommendations and exercises for activating and priming the “sensible” part of our brain.

Here in the UK, I think we are no less shell-shocked by the various events of this year that have caused dissension and divide. And the implications of what will unfold in the US affects us all. (By all, I mean the world — people, places, wildlife, resources, business, industries, etc — the ramifications are far reaching).

And as I’m South African, I come from a country with it’s own legacy of complex social and political upheaval, on many fronts (some ongoing). I’ve also been on the receiving end of some of the tension that accompanies this type of upheaval. So, a lot of what you reference in relation to a “country under stress” is exceptionally relatable.

There is a word you may already know of — Ubuntu — although I’m not referring to the operating system :).

Ubuntu has been defined in a few different ways, from “loving kindness” (similar to the Buddhist term “maitri”) or “I am what I am because of who we all are” to “a quality that includes the essential human virtues of compassion and humanity”. It is rooted in community and togetherness, despite our differences.

When Nelson Mandela finally came to power, Ubuntu became a keystone in maintaining the unity of a collective South African cultural identity, despite the many differences and difficulties its diverse people face. (There are 11 official languages, which might give you some idea of the cultural complexities).

Archbishop Desmond Tutu described it as follows:

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu — 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.

Ellen, you are correct in suggesting that, despite the fear, stress and uncertainties which the American people must face in days ahead, the situation is also an opportunity.

I realize it’s not a simple problem to solve. And I’m not wading into a political debate I don’t know enough about. I just wanted to second your suggestions in terms of creating opportunities for healing, based on the similarities I see between two different situations. Honing the use of our sensible brains and employing a little bit of Ubuntu may go a long way to help lessening some of the divides.

All the best. :)