In a tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.
It’s a wonderful story. And it turns out it’s mostly likely not true. Diving down the research rabbit hole, I discovered that although this story has been in circulation for more than a decade and even shared in the writings of esteemed authors like Jack Kornfield and Wayne Dyer, there seems to be no proof that this was in fact a tribal tradition.
Does it matter? With all the lies and false stories permeating our cultural and political narrative in this time perhaps this is one story that can feed us rather than tear us apart. This is one story that offers inspiration for the way forward.
Welcome home! Phone calls from friends and even the man I work with at the Hertz car hire desk in Shannon. And I am home. My life now is so much about being home both here in Ireland and at MossTerra. It’s good to be here to finalize work on the cottage. It’s good to be here away from the toxic energy that we live with in the States. In anticipation of my arrival, a friend here sent me this writing. And it speaks so much to this home coming.
Summer winds are bringing rain. And this time I won’t be with a group of fellow pilgrims exploring sacred sites like the Carrowmore dolman in the photo. Yet within the sacred energy that flows from every landscape in Ireland, I can again touch a horizon of hope and possibility. Coming home in so many ways.
I’m not talking about the COVID mask. And yet I am.
I was at the grocery store yesterday. A young woman was stationed in the entrance. Her sole job to make sure that everyone who entered was wearing a mask. Store policy. After grabbing and sanitizing a shopping cart, I went over to her. I told her that I deeply appreciated her and the job she is doing and thanked her. She started crying. “Thank you so much.”
Like so many, Dennis and I choose to stay home most of the time. Grocery shopping is just about the only opportunity for in-person human interaction. And I’ve found myself talking more to others these days in grocery stores, the other day offering my suggestion about canned tuna to a couple who were clearly new to the brands. More often just saying hello. And like the young woman, most seem surprised and grateful.
It seems these COVID protection masks have become a barrier to human interaction. At a time when our nation is at war with itself. At a time when we are seeing the fascist destruction of our fundamental and founding principles and institutions. At a time when anger and hate and fear have permeated our national narrative. There is so much that separates us. Our COVID masks do not need to be part of that. As we navigate these treacherous times, we need our humanity. As we continue to wear masks to protect ourselves and others from the virus, it’s time to take off the mask of separation.