Pure Heart

In college, I took a Congolese dance course taught by two elders from the Congo. One of the things they discussed with us was how the African borders drawn by European colonial powers essentially disregard the traditional nationalities and ethnic groups in Africa. For example, the cultural region of the Congo overlaps several modern African states.

I asked one of these wise men what seemed like an obvious question. Why were the borders not re-drawn after those countries gained independence?

He squinted at me and said, “What is your name?”

I answered hesitantly, “Robin…?”

He looked at me piercingly. “Robin, you have pure heart.”

“Um, thanks, I think?”

He went on to explain that power, once held, is not easily taken away. These countries had gained independence, but re-drawing borders would mean giving up power by losing land or even whole countries. The new independent rulers were no better than the colonial powers in this regard.

For some reason, this interaction has stuck with me. I don’t want to be totally naive. But I do want to be a little naive. To view the world with a “beginner’s mind” and approach tough problems with the optimism that people are capable of doing the right thing.

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