Super Bear is the Ubermensch

I didn’t have the heart to deny Super Bear’s request. He’s only just been placed under my care and his eyes were so imploring when he asked to come along that I just couldn’t say no.  Besides, I figured that if Paddington Bear successfully journeyed  from deepest darkest Peru to London, England, then Super Bear could certainly make the journey from snowiest coldest Canada to Africa. And so, I’ve agreed to bring him along.

Super Bear

The truth is that Super Bear’s name is simply “Bear”. But the solitary and nondescript “Bear” was just too ambiguous and I couldn’t resolve the puzzle of whether “Bear” was his first or last name.  Accordingly, I’ve bestowed upon him the moniker “Super Bear”.  Super Bear came from the home of Nietzsche‘s friend Zarathustra but he’s since taken up residence in Ms. Dallner’s Grade 1 classroom at University Heights Public School in London, Ontario.

I have a lot of questions for Super Bear, my cuddly little Ubermensch.  He has disproportionately lofty goals about many things, including how to bridge the Digital Divide in Africa.

Bridging seems like an appropriate metaphor to associate with the Digital Divide. In the digital sense, the world wide web represents a kind of other-worldly virtual cyber-bridge using a system of hyperlinks as bridges to create an entry into web pages – each link crossing into a new world and reality on its own. It communicates the ability to connect and disconnect as well as an openness to two opposite sites or directions. Thus, as we understand this metaphor, we understand the need to transport an educational solution while retaining two separate educational contexts.

Super Bear and I have a number of letters to deliver from the grade 1 class in London, Ontario to the grade 1 class in the village of Katuba, Zambia. I wonder if these old-fashioned letters will also act as a bridge? Can they also serve as a link crossing into a new world on their own? I’m eager to find out.

I guess this means that Super Bear and I will serve as hyperlinks.  But instead of existing in a virtual world, we will be invading time and space for the purpose of physically pointing to letters from the Kingdom of Far Far Away.

Katuba village is a very poor rural community.  It is located 30 km outside the town of Kabwe and has a population of approximately 500 people. Most of the villagers rely on subsistence farming which is very difficult because farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizer are difficult to acquire.

Education is an ongoing challenge for Katuba. The closest government school is 17 km away and Katuba Village Schoolhence, most children do not attend. As a result the people of Katuba took what little resources they had and used them to construct their own school and provided untrained volunteer teachers to work with the children.

Today, a new school stands (built by “VisionLedd”).  The new school has 304 students who come from four other surrounding villages. The grade 1 class alone has over 100 children.  Because there are not enough desks and chairs, the students attend class in shifts. Clearly the “divide” is not simply
Katuba.Schooldigital. And so here I stand, guilty as charged, for allowing my own Western-based and technologically savvy mindset to attribute the educational ills of our planet’s poorest countries to mere digital access. Clearly, this very real “divide” requires a more holistic solution.  A solution requiring people and infrastructure and transportation. Some Broadband would help too.

***

    “Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman–a rope over an abyss…
What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under

from Nietzsche’s Thus spoke Zarathustra, Walter Kaufmann translation

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Growing More Human

If I asked you what kind of creature you are, what would you say? You might say: Well, I’m a really loving person – in fact, I like to hug elephants.  If I were to ask you instead, what type of creature you were? You would reply: I am a human. Notice, ‘human’ is a type of creature but ‘loving’ is a kind of person. Therefore in this sense, type is used to differentiate one group from the rest (humans vs. non-humans) and kind is used to link the individual to the group (loving person to persons).

Now what would you say if I asked you what links you, as an individual, to the rest of your group – to humankind? In your endeavour try not to reduce humankind down to its basic components. I’m really asking what makes us more than the sum of our atomic parts? And why do we care?

I, for one, care because I want to transform into something better. Personally, I want to grow and collectively, I want civilization to flourish. As the current Reebok #crossfit campaign states – I want to be more human.

The scientific name for the human species is ‘homo sapiens’. The origin of the word is latin: homo (‘human being’) + sapiens (‘wise, sensible, judicious’). Quite literally homo sapiens means ‘wise man’.  Indeed, as a species, we are very wise and we’re ingenious and adaptable and arguably the most influential species on the planet. But I think it is high time for us to shake off an inheritance of neglect and abuse and to use our influence to nurture the world and our relationships in it.  

I can think of no better place to start this journey than on the continent where humankind first came into existence – where we first learned to be human:  Africa.  Africa – that virgin ground upon which our customs, traditions and collective memories first emerged.

During this Africa Expedition I will experience the abundance of nature’s bounty as well as its devastation. My journey will take me from scenes so lovely they must have “been gazed upon by angels in their flight”, as the great Livingstone observed of Victoria Falls to Kabwe, Zambia where the devastating effects of humanity’s negligence has resulted in one of the most polluted places on earth.

I can think of no better way to reconnect with my centre than in focusing on how to be love in a very practical way to those I share kinship with. Africa and I share a kinship not only in humanity but also in loss. This is a journey that I will share with you by focusing on how to be love in a very practical way to some of the most vulnerable in our world: widows and orphans affected by HIV/Aids. In doing so, I’ve no doubt that they will be light to me, to us, and to all of humanity.

***

“The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops, but the kind of man that the country turns out”–Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Shape of a Broken Heart”

(start at 0:45)
Africa has the shape of a broken heart
And the heart of a broken land,

You fell from heaven
Straight to hell,
Now your children are missing

[Verse 1]
I try to understand
Who I am
Years after years
God, it feels the same

Parted favors
Everybody’s gone
Ain’t no war that I know
Anybody won

[Chorus]
Africa has the shape of a broken heart
And the heart of a broken land,

You fell from heaven
Straight to hell,
Now your children are missing

[Verse 2]
Kiss their forehead
And hold their hands
Close their eyes
And put their name on their graves

Dust is dust
And so goes our faith
So goes our faith

[Chorus]
Africa has the shape of a broken heart
And the heart of a broken land,

Fell from heaven
Straight to hell,
Now your children are missing

[Verse 3]
And the wind blows,
And the children roam
Sitting on a side of a road
Watching all the boats, ooh

[Chorus]
Africa has the shape of a broken heart
And the Heart of a broken land,

You fell from heaven
Straight to hell,
And now your children are missing

[Outro]
Now I understand
Who I am, who I am, who I am…

Tell me how,
Tell me how,
Tell me how,
I can accept the thing
Things that I can’t change
Except the things that I can change