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“I am, because of you.”
This, very simply, is ubuntu.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously described ubuntu as meaning “my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” It is ubuntu that guides the mission and strategy of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation.
“It speaks of the very essence of being human,” says Tutu.
“When we want to give high praise to someone we say, Yu, u nobuntu; hey, so-and-so has Ubuntu. Then you are generous, you are hospitable, and you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours. We belong in a bundle of life. We say a person is a person through other persons. It is not I think therefore I am. It says rather: I am human because I belong, I participate, and I share. A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”
I start with ubuntu because of a remarkable podcast I heard recently. It’s fair to say it left a deep impression on me.
Patrick O’Shaughnessy, CFA, author of the Investor’s Field Guide blog and host of the podcast Invest Like the Best, recently interviewed author and conservationist, Boyd Varty about an incident with a deadly black mamba, learning to move in the wilderness, what he learned from Nelson Mandela, and much more.
Varty grew up on Londolozi Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
This is how he explained the African value of ubuntu to O’Shaughnessy:
“I get to experience the deepest parts of myself, in relation. I can’t know the deepest acts of love and compassion by myself, it’s something about being together that provokes that. We make each other human. Another way they say it in Sotho is: ‘People are not people without other people’. It’s very much about this relation, it’s about being connected.”
Varty is a gifted storyteller and, as O’Shaughnessy tells it, the show’s “most unique” guest to date. The episode caught my attention after I kept seeing references on Twitter about how good it was. But don’t take my word for it, here’s what Jason Zweig had to say:
This @patrick_oshag podcast with @BoydVarty is one of the most riveting things I’ve heard in a long time. https://t.co/KPDRqMbhUz
— Jason Zweig (@jasonzweigwsj) April 13, 2017
If there is one thing from this week’s edition that you should not miss, it is this podcast. Yes, it takes 80 mins, but it is worth every minute. I grew up in South Africa and was instantly transported back to my homeland as Varty described his various exploits in the bush.
Here are some other good reads in case you missed them and you have time for one or two more:
- This weekend Nike and a team of three elite runners will attempt to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon (26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers). Chris Chavez explains: “Using a combination of advanced running apparel and an army of pacers on a 2.4-kilometer loop at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza complex just outside of Milan, Italy, the sportswear giant looks to shave two minutes and 27 seconds off the fastest recorded time ever run by a man.” (Dennis Kimetto holds the world record with his 2:02:57 time at the Berlin Marathon in 2014.) To put this in perspective, a sub-two hour marathon requires running at a sustained pace of 13.1 mph. Another way to think about it: “What can you accomplish in two hours? You might cook a nice meal, finish a load of laundry, or maybe crush a long workout at the gym. But what about running a marathon?” (Sports Illustrated, National Geographic)
- Here’s a look at members of Wired‘s running club trying to sustain a pace of 13.1 mph. Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon, believes those looking to beat the sub-two-hour-marathon will bonk because they will mess with the four-part golden ratio that governs marathon pacing and are going to start much too fast. (Wired, Runner’s World)
- Sticking with running, here are three more reads: A thought-provoking “Why I Run” story; the secret to marathon training; and news that an hour of running might add seven hours to your life. (Outside, Wired, The New York Times).
- In “The World’s Most Beautiful Mathematical Equation,” Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, writes, “We all know that art, music, and nature are beautiful. They command the senses and incite emotion. Their impact is swift and visceral. How can a mathematical idea inspire the same feelings?” (The New York Times)
- If you’re like me, small talk at cocktail parties is the bane of your existence. A great tip from “How to Turn Small Talk into Conversations” is to ask open-ended questions that invite stories, not answers. (TED)
- If you’re a grammar pedant, or simply love grammar, you’ll enjoy this delightful piece on the best punctuation marks. (Economist)
- Tom Brakke, CFA, has a characteristically smart post about making “the wisdom of the crowds” better with a simple question. (the research puzzle)
- Are you sick of apologizing for taking longer than, say, a few minutes to reply to an email? If so, you’re not alone, and Melissa Dahl, editor of Science of Us, says it’s time to stop apologizing for delayed emails. (Science of Us)
- Take a trip to the North Pole with this whimsical travelogue from a National Geographic expedition. (National Geographic)
- Ezra Klein, founder of Vox, spoke with economist Tyler Cowen, author of Marginal Revolution , to learn “What Tyler Cowen Thinks of Pretty Much Everything.” (Vox)
- If you are a frequent reader of my weekend roundups, you may know that one of my biggest pet peeves is misattributed quotes. My go-to resource for righting these wrongs is the fascinating website, Quote Investigator. (I once submitted a query of my own, on a quote often attributed to Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable.”) The man behind the site, the pseudonymous Garson O’Toole, has now published Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations, recently reviewed in The New York Times.
- Married or in a long-term relationship? This one’s for you: “To Stay Married, Embrace Change.” (The New York Times)
- A wonderful article on the redemptive power of carving out one hour a week for quiet reflection: “You’re Too Busy. You Need a ‘Shultz’ Hour.” (The New York Times)
- And finally, one that falls squarely into the “say what?” or “whoa!” category:
Physicists have created a system with ‘negative mass': when you push it, it moves toward you. Wild! https://t.co/bUJU1J9KYq pic.twitter.com/oVnvk0C0GC
— Corey S. Powell (@coreyspowell) April 13, 2017
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Photoevent
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