Does she have lots of hair? Why would that be the most important thing you want to know about your newborn baby? I wondered, but she had just pushed a big baby out of her, and she was entitled to her anxiety and what she did with it. I reassured her that the baby had lots of hair on her head, and she lay back down.
My children suggested that she looked like one parent or the other as we stared at this new arrival from heaven.
Each time a child is born, the world is created for the first time, and it is not only because the child will come to see the world in her own unique way, which would be hers and hers only though there are zillions of people in the world, and so she would be one in a zillion, and this unique way of hers will be based on the combination of her temperament and how it will react with her environment of her home and parents first and then of her larger world, depending on where that is. But also because she has brought to this world great treasures which have never before been seen on earth, and which will never be seen again, and it is hers and hers alone, and I think that this is the question we are all called to answer.
Zenani is a name which, in Xhosa, asks, What have you brought to the world? It is Nelson Mandela’s daughter’s name, and in his book, Long Walk to Freedom, he writes, “What have you brought to the world?”—a poetic name that embodies a challenge, suggesting that one must contribute something to society.” It is a name one does not simply possess, but has to live up to.
The Xhosa do realize that a newborn child coming into the world did not come empty-handed. That child has brought wonderful gifts from the divine to the inhabitants of the world. The Yorubas (my ethnic group) have the same belief, and believe the way to bring these treasures out of the child and assist him in making his contribution to the world lies solely in the names you give the child. Naming a child is a very big deal that involves the oldest member of the extended family meditating for seven days, to confer with the ancestors in the spirit world about the names for the child and at the end of the seven days, the child is given as many as eight to ten names, and each is a metaphor to actualize the potentials in the child.
A patient, who is an artist, described to me how she felt when her husband, who had been away at a medical conference for a week, returned, and she said, “I looked at him and at that moment I truly felt what Rumi meant when he said, ‘Hundreds of thousands of impressions from the invisible are waiting to come through you.’ I looked at my husband, and it was as if a portion of eternity was expressed through this man, and tears came to my eyes. He was so beautiful, and it was like I was seeing him for the first time and I said to myself, this is why I love him.”
|Segi & Mobo 1992|
But there has to be balance. I have had my own challenges of deserts against the lushness of the foliage in my psyche, but the divine is so generous, and it gives you beauty even in that too. A few months ago, I had a dream that I was visiting my mother’s village of origin, and though the dream informed me that was the landscape, it was different. It was a beautiful island surrounded by calm and sweet water, and I felt at peace. On awaking, I told myself that I had visited Avalon (as in Mists of the Avalon). I meditated on this dream for days and concluded that it was an attempt to transform the mother that I have into a mother who appreciated me and welcomed what I had streamed from the divine.
I didn’t transform her, because I cannot—she has the right to her ways of experiencing the world. But I transformed her origins—that which existed before her—and in that way, I went past and beyond her and got the beauty that should have been mine.