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Ubuntu, Nietzsche and a Learning Activity

By Joe Lurie

November 21, 2013

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Osani Circle Game


” Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Like the frog who could not understand the sea because it had never left its pond, so we often cannot see, hear or understand the meaning of behaviors beyond our experience.

So what do you think happened when the following game was once proposed to children in an African community? A basket full of luscious fruit was placed near a tree in the distance, and the children were told that whoever got there first would win the sweet fruits. When they were told to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When asked why they had run like that, as one of them could have had all the fruits for himself or herself, they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

“UBUNTU” in the South African language Xhosa means, “I am because we are.”

Perhaps it was this story that helped me understand the reaction of some Korean journalists on their first field study experience in the United States:


Perhaps, in the spirit of the Nietzsche quote, the Koreans did not hear our

music. But then again, perhaps we often do not hear the music of ”Ubuntu.”


Check out the related blog post: Frogs, Caged Birds, Underwear and Camel Humps by Joe Lurie


What do you think? Email your thoughts to lurie@berkeley.edu or ihalumni@berkeley.edu.