For the Himba in Southern Africa, the date of birth of a child is fixed, not at the time of its arrival in the world, nor in its design, but much earlier: since the day the child is thought in His Mother’s mind.⠀
When a woman decides she’s going to have a child, she settles down and rests under a tree, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child who wants to be born. And after she hears this child’s song, she comes back to the man who will be the father of the child to teach him that song. And then, when they make love to physically design the child, they sing the song of the child, to invite him.⠀
When the mother is pregnant, she teaches the singing of this child to the midwives and older women of the village. So, when the child is born, old women and people around him sing his song to welcome him.⠀
As the child grows, the other villagers learn his song. So if the child falls, or gets hurt, he always finds someone to pick him up and sing his song. Similarly, if the child does something wonderful, or successfully passes through the rites of passage, the people of the village sing his song to honor him.⠀
In the tribe, there is another opportunity where villagers sing for the child. If, at any time during his life, the person commits an aberrant crime or social act, the individual is called in the center of the village and the people of the community form a circle around him. Then they sing his song.⠀
The tribe recognizes that the correction of antisocial behavior does not pass through punishment, it is by love and reminder of identity. When you recognize your own song, you don’t want or need to do anything that would harm the other.⠀
And the same way through their lives. In Marriage, songs are sung together.⠀
And when, getting old, this kid is lying in his bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his song, and they sing, for the last time, his song.
Going through a whole lifetime without ever hearing your song or even knowing of its existence is a common misfortune in our benighted society. We feel a strange sense of abandonment, often, that we can’t quite put our finger on. Our poor parents receive a lot of undeserved blame for not noticing our suffering. Claiming our poetic humanity is not easy or common in our culture. The mental space excludes it by default.
As a child, I kept feeling like I was put down by mistake into a big family in Texas. I just knew there was another culture where I would fit and feel at home. I only needed to find it and figure out how to insert myself. Easier said than done.
That project turned out to be more complicated than I expected, even with my mimetic talents. My Americanness went deeper than I realized. In the end I became a hybrid person, neither this nor that, but it took fifty years.
I gradually scooted a little closer to my essential self via this quixotic endeavor that has taken so long, and I have made myself incapable of living in my native land. Not that I miss it or regret it. I am thankful that it’s so easy for me to live in non American cultures as I watch so many Americans abandoning ship. The American ship of state is floundering. The rest of the world is looking on in dismay and alarm as armed-to-the-teeth Americans tear at the social fabrics that have maintained a functioning culture. People are even talking about a new civil war. Some folks are frankly lamenting the freeing of the slaves.
I’m shocked at these developments, but my focus has been elsewhere for decades. I can’t claim to know the American underbelly. I’ve been over here in my little world of beauty and meaning not really worried about America falling apart, and then suddenly the mafia seizes control of the levers of power and everything is in doubt, even the survival of the planet.
I can’t claim to have my fingers on the pulse of the American electorate. I can only guess at how seriously it will take this emergency. I have already voted my two cents worth. I’m hoping America will save itself, partly for America but also for the rest of the planet, because it’s such an outsized player on the world stage.
I hope you will go vote. Let that be the song you sing to remind the world of it’s true self.
- Anima Fire is my pub.