Searching for Ubuntu

Month: March, 2013

Heart’s Dwelling…

by Ryan Dalton

Dear Cirvant,

How are you faring in Nashville? I know you miss South Africa dearly; there are probably few who understand that as well as I do.

The year-and-a-half I was in Tennessee, in between living in Cape Town and living in Brooklyn, was one of the hardest seasons of my life. It did, however, feel somehow necessary, though I maybe don’t understand the fullness of that necessity even now. Necessary nonetheless.

It is so strange living somewhere when your heart is somewhere completely different. Cape Town was my home for so long. Cape Town was my heart. They say “home is where the heart is,” and that year-and-a-half in Tennessee often left me wondering if I was homeless or heartless; though I was probably a mixture of both, as dramatic as that sounds and is.

All of that to say, I get it. I can imagine your deep longing for South Africa; I can see it in my mind, feel it in my stomach.

My laugh is too loud for America, my eye contact is too strong, and my smiles-to-strangers are too frequent.

I think the laugh was invented on the continent of Africa, and if not, it was most definitely perfected there. Most Africans I have met, from all different countries, from old to young, have learned how to laugh from the gut, from the heart, from the soul. There is nothing better than a whole-hearted, unapologetic, uninhibited, booming laugh. Musical. Poetic. Beautiful.

I digress.

But not really.


As blasphemous as it might sound, I miss Cape Town less than before. And that has nothing to do with Cape Town, or Tennessee, or Brooklyn. It has everything to do with me. You see, that year-and-a-half in Tennessee, I didn’t really make many major attempts at seeking out Ubuntu, that sense that we are all in this together. I just kind of sat in my own misery, with the occasional wallow, and waited for a savior; forgetting, or maybe not realizing, that I am my own savior or oppressor in those times.

I was rarely living in the moment, and spent more time resenting the past and longing for the future. But rarely just being. Not a healthy place.

I snapped out of it when I moved to Brooklyn.

I started giving of myself again, allowing myself to really be in the moment and not wish for something far off, and I started allowing others in again. I have made such wonderful family here in Brooklyn. I feel so content. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely miss Cape Town, but I am slowly making my home here in Brooklyn, and it feels good, great even.

Enough about me. Please let me know how you are doing. Have you managed to find any favorable signs of Ubuntu where you are?

Say hello to Woodie and the nephews for me. I miss them very much.

Positivity and love from Brooklyn,


Unwanted Skepticism…

by Ryan Dalton

Dear Jesse,

I hope this letter finds you well. In general, I am working hard and exhausted, but feel better than I have in a long, long while. I’m in a very good proverbial place right now.

There are, however, some things that have been weighing heavy on my mind; mostly us. No, not you and me specifically or necessarily. But “us” as in humanity. What are we doing? Have we lost the plot? And if, in fact, we have, is it possible to find our way back to it?

When I first moved to Brooklyn, I would ride the subway with a big smile on my face, greeting every person, making eye contact, and sometimes even attempting to strike up conversation. Most people on the subway looked miserable, and I was only sometimes met with warm reception. For the most part, people merely tried to avoid eye contact with everyone. I hated it; so many humans, all piled on top of each other in one city, yet such few human connections.

But city life is fast, and the days can feel longer and more abusive than days in other places. And after a particularly long day, I sometimes find myself assuming the avoid-eye-contact-at-all-costs-and-look-as-miserable-as-possible subway pose. Sad but true. I still hate it.

Tonight on my train ride home, a random stranger tried to befriend me. I’m not sure what about me caught his attention, but he kept making eye contact and smiling at me. I thought I was mistaken at first. But after several stops passed, I realized he was trying to make connection. Even though the hardened, citified version of me told me to be suspicious, I smiled back.

He immediately asked how I was. I responded with something simple, like, “Tired.” With growing skepticism, I didn’t ask how he was doing. I felt like a horrible person, but was obviously conflicted. He asked me where I lived, and voluntarily told me where he lives. He asked what I do on my free time, and I told him between teaching high school and attending grad school, I have no free time.

He said he was trying to be more social, make more time to enjoy the company of friends, because that is the more healthy way to live. I agreed with him fully, but felt my cynicism growing by the second. I went back and forth in my head whether or not I was being realistically skeptical or unrealistically overly paranoid. I never came to any conclusions.

Did I mention he had a kid, maybe 10-years-old, who sat beside him and played a video game the entire time?

They had Whole Foods bags between their legs. That’s normal, right? Not really serial killer vibes, huh?

I noticed a loaf of multigrain bread sitting at the top of the bag.

Right before he reached his stop he gave me his card. I took it, looked down at it, and looked back up at him. He repeated the name I had just read. I only gave him my first name. The train pulled up to his stop, he smiled, said it was nice to meet me, and him, his kid, and their Whole Foods bags were gone.

What is wrong with our human condition that he had to be a rapist or a murderer or a sociopath in my mind? Do you think he might just be a single dad, in a great big city, a little lonely, with no one to talk to, just wanting, no, needing a friend? I don’t know.

Anyways. I have rambled on. Have you had any recent signs that we are part of something bigger than our individual selves? Please let me know how you are doing.

Warmth from cold Brooklyn,



I kept the man’s business card. So, if you think I overacted and should make contact, let me know.