Presenting Ubuntu Stoicism – meditating stoically with African Proverbs

I was stressed. My heart was strained. I don’t know if I could have got a heart attack. But I imaged such stresses could do such. I felt it.

My strain was caused by, well, a disagreement with a work colleague. They could have been wrong. I could have been wrong. What strained me more was that the situation might have forced me to go the court route.

Anyway, I was stressed by that and everything.

Everything always piles up.

And it gets you at some point.

At that point, it had got to me.

My refuge for hard times is many other things but particularly stoicism. It is my hit refresh code. Or else ego or victimhood takes over.

I then read many stoicism quotes. They helped relieve my strain, as they do most times.

I realised ‘the obstacle is the way’ as fellow stoic Ryan Holiday wrote – also it is the title of his amazing book.

The obstacle is the way.

As I read the stoic quotes, a thought that African Proverbs also speak in line to stoicism hit me.

That is creativity. I followed it. Hence I am writing this article.

Here I am interpreting African Proverbs in a stoicism sense. I am meditating on them stoically.

My creative mind told me to call them ‘ubuntu stoicism.’ Maybe I will make t-shits of them one day.

Definitions of stoicism and African Proverbs

For definition’s sake, stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy, written and practised by people who played different roles in their society: slaves, politicians, businessmen, soldiers, emperors and artists.

The intended benefit, among others, is to practice virtue – as it can’t be lived just in words – and to not be adversely affected by events in life. It is also to manage our reactions, as this is what hurts us much of the time. A simple example is this quote, by Marcus Aurelius, telling himself the following;

“Remember that it is not he who reviles you, or strikes you, who insults you, but it is your opinion about these things as being insulting. When then a man irritates you, you must know that it is your own opinion which has irritated you.”

African Proverbs. Well, proverbs are an integral part of the African culture. … Proverbs are used to illustrate ideas, reinforce arguments and deliver messages of inspiration, consolation, celebration and advice.

The great Nigerian author Chinua Achebe once defined proverbs as “…the palm oil with which words are eaten.”

And this is what the African culture does, it uses proverbs to oil, reinforce sanity, motivation, inspiration, meaning and cautionary discipline – just as stoic individuals meditate on their stoic words.

All this is a code of philosophy to refresh meaning and sanity into our lives – code in the literal sense.

Ubuntu means good and essential human virtues; it is compassion and humanity.

Presenting Ubuntu Stoicism – Stoicism meditations with African Proverbs –

“Teeth do not see poverty”

Think about it. A smile is a smile is a smile and it is a good thing. So smile. Be to yourself a force of meditating smile. Smile by yourself brother, and sister.

“No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams”.

Yam is an edible tuberous root. Sweet potato is also a tuberous root for example – yams and sweet potato both need hot cooking to soften up.

So anger however called for, can never cook yam. You cannot eat the fruits of your anger.

But maybe the people you are angry with will know how you feel. Maybe. Maybe not. Nonetheless do not be angry for long. Find peace for you to live with. Maybe even without those people. For a life lived with anger is a waste.

“The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces”

Maybe your problems cannot be solved in a day. 30 minutes daily is also enough in solving them. The rest of the hours can be directed at other things like smiling, showing teeth and laughing with friends and family. Or they can be spent on hobbies, meaningful creations or meaningful work.

Problems cannot be solved with the same consciousness that created them. Anxiety defuses creativity and creativity defuses anxiety. This is the subtitle of my book The Anxious Entrepreneur. Anxiety and creativity (add productivity and peace) cannot reside in the same house.

“Do a good deed and throw it into the sea.” — Egyptian proverb

Expectations beget disappointment.

Are you doing a good deed out of responsibility? Like maybe to your children or loved ones?

Do it and throw the expectation of reciprocity in the sea. And do another one. And that is then your character. But also leave a big room to do stuff for yourself.

“Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs.” — African Proverb

What songs do you make? The songs you choose to make are your character. Choose a song to make. I mean choose a deed or deeds to make out of love and discipline. Those will be your character. Live with your character daily. Have a character.

“One who bathes willingly with cold water doesn’t feel the cold.” — Fipa proverb

It is like Seneca said: “Set aside a certain number of days during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while, ‘Is this the condition that I feared?”

Go hard on yourself. Practice hardships. Run. Jog. Work hard. Build your tolerance threshold. Check this article about thresholds: Pain Transmutation

“Anger and madness are brothers.” — African Proverb

You cannot choose your family. But you can choose and rectify your brotherliness.

Don’t lie to your brothers. Don’t lie to yourself about your anger. I repeat this proverb: “No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.”

Do not be a bad brother to you. Put sanity in your internal family (yourself).