The I and the We

For this week’s post I wanted to share this poem by Adrienne Rich which came to me via Nora Bateson’s facebook timeline (thank you Nora), and speaks to me about one of the tragedies of modernity- the fixation on the individual.

In Those Years

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I

Adrienne Rich 1992

Earlier this week talking to a possible WWOOFER from Benin, we learned a new word, Ubuntu, from Nguni Bantu which means ‘humanity’ but in the sense of ‘I am because we are’ . I love the balance that this implies: both I and we are parts of the whole, which suggests that there is no I or we just facets of this dualism.

It goes further though, because rather than the ‘We’ that is the holistic expression of the convening of ‘I’s, it suggests that the relationship or dialogue between WE and I is the emergent property. So I or We are but patterns arising from the flow between these two phenomena. So a refocus on the we isn’t a rejection of the I- in fact, ones relationship with oneself becomes richer if its balanced with the collective. I love people, and being with people, but it involves a lot of energy for me so I absolutely need time for myself.

Dr Iain Mcgilchrist in the The Master and His Emissary ( a book i’m frequently returning to in these posts) proposes that the world is whatever we give attention to. In the past 200-300 years we have been giving far too much attention to I and need to attend to the We as a regenerative act for the wellbeing of the world.


One thought on “The I and the We”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s