We are all Africans
by Leonardo Boff *
Whenever civilizations go through crises, they look retrospectively, seeking inspiration for the future. Nowadays, we are in the midst of a phenomenal planetary crisis affecting all civilizations. So, that means, we can take a great leap forward towards a superior condition of humanization, or otherwise, a threatening tragedy could take place affecting our entire species. In such a radical moment, it is not pointless to sound out our more ancestral roots and identify that very beginning when we stopped being primates and started to become human beings. There must be useful lessons to be learned.
Nowadays, there is a consensus among paleontologists and anthropologists that the adventure of humanization began in Africa, around seven million years ago. It accelerated by evolving from Homo habilis, erectus, Neanderthal, until arriving at Homo sapiens around 100 thousand years ago. From Africa it spread to Asia, around seventy thousand years ago, then to Europe, around forty thousand years ago, and then on to the Americas around thirty thousand years ago.
“AFRICA IS NOT JUST THE GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION OF SOURCES . AND THE PRIMAL ARCHETYPE, THE SET OF BRANDS”
Africa is not only the geographical location of our origins. It is also, the primal archetype, conjunction of marks, impressions in the soul of the human being, present even nowadays as indelible information similar to what is written in our genetic code. Africa was where the human being prepared its first sensations, where the growing neural connections were ar-
ticulated (cerebralization), the first thoughts were shone, juvenilization was strengthened (a process similar to how a young person displays plasticity and great capability for learning) and thereby emerged the social complexity that enabled the onset of language and culture. The African spirit is present in each human being.
Take a look at the three main streams involved in the spirit of Africa that can signify real therapy for our global crisis. The first one is Mother Earth. Spread out through the vast African spaces, our ancestors experienced profound communion with the Earth, considered as the great mother of all who generated everything, feeling the interconnection among all things stored within. In spite of being victims from the exploration of colonists, Africans nowadays have not lost that intimate feelings for the Earth that is so well portrayed by the Kenyan, Wan-
gari Mathai, who is the winner of the Nobel Prize for planting millions of trees and thus, returning vitality to the Earth. We need to reappropriate that spirit of the primal Earth and save Gaia, our Mother and our unique “Common Home”.
The second stream is the relational matrix as anthropologists say. African use the word “Ubuntu” that means the power that connects everything, forming the human community. That means; I become human by being human to others, the conjunction of connections to life, nature, others, and the Divine. What quantum physics and new cosmology teaches about the interdependence of all and to all that is an evidence for the African spirit. This dimension was strongly confirmed by Pope Francisco in his encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home” (2015). To that community belong the dead. They do not go to heaven as westerners imagine. They continue in the midst of the people as counselors and guardians of sacred traditions. They are not absent, only invisible.
The third stream is the rituals and spirituality. Important experiences for personal, social, and seasonal life; they are celebrated by rites, dances, songs, and presentations with masks, bearers of cosmic energy. In these rituals these negative and positive forces balance and deepen the meaning of life. All reality is penetrated by energies, represented as spirits. They open, vibrate among themselves, become incorporated in various moments of everyday life and that is living spiritually. That spirituality passes through the living body and is loaded with “axé”, which is the cosmic energy that penetrates everything and densifies in people, especially in some community leaders and curators.
This dimension is anemic to our modern western and secularized culture. After Nietzche announced the death of God and Max Weber secularized all society, we lost our existence in this world as one of our greatest references, resulting in feeling of solitude and becoming uprooted, lost in a gloomy world and losing our way to where it will guide us. Revisiting our ancestral roots makes it possible to dive into the African archetypes and it is alive in our collective unconsciousness and makes the vision arise of meaningfulness and hopefulness. If we reincorporate the spirit of Africa, the crisis does not need to be a tragedy, but just a necessary step so that we can find another way to inhabit the “Common Home”.
*Eco-theolo-gian, philosopher and Brazilian writer