This African American Heritage Month, exploring the received wisdom of the ages, we look to the West African image of Sankofa: the bird forced to fly hastily from its home, yet who carries an egg nestled within its back feathers. Literally “Sankofa” is a Ghanian word that’s usually translated as “reach back and get it.” It is a call to ancient and traditional wisdom in the service of a better future.
Unitarian Universalism famously reaches back to get all manner of wisdom from all manner of sources to serve a better future. The spiritual practice of deeply engaging with received wisdom necessarily includes the process of discerning what is or is not, after all, wise. Plenty of wisdom is ancient. Yet not everything ancient is wise. More important than venerating or making dogma of wisdom is to apply wisdom in the present, discover new insights, new understanding, new interpretation, and even new wisdom that can be given birth through deep engagement with the old.
Like the Sankofa, we carry within our being these ancient scripts. On the opposite extreme of veneration is ignorance. Ignoring ancient wisdom piles arrogance upon ignorance, even ignorance of our own being. As Adrienne Rich wrote, “Until we understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves.”
Engage deeply the wisdom of the ages in community and discover new insights: insights borne through a living, diverse community of compassionate caring for one another, the neighborhood, and the planet. See you in church!
– Rev Dave
Sankofa image by Damiyr Saleem Studios