Ubuntu Asks: Do Avatars Really See You? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Call me weird, call me strange, call me anything you like – as long as you see me? So, I started reading some books on organizational dynamics because I observed a few things involving human interactions in an organization that grabbed my curiosity. In starting to read my second book on the topic, I immediately read this:
Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting, equivalent to “hello” in English, is the expression: Sawu bona. It literally means, “I see you.” If you are a member of the tribe, you might reply by saying Sikhoma, “I am here.” The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, I do not exist. It’s as if when you see me, you bring me into existence.
This meaning, implicit in the language, is part of the spirit of ubuntu, a frame of mind prevalent among native people in Africa below the Sahara. The word ubuntu stems from the folk saying Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu, which, from Zulu, literally translates as: “A person is a person because other people.” If you grow up with this perspective, your identity is based upon the fact that you are seen-that people around you respect and acknowledge you as a person. - Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook
Which instantly reminded me of the movie Avatar – and “I See You” – which triggered a thought about avatars in religion – which was followed by some thoughts about avatars being used online as a way of not being seen (or being seen differently than one’s appearance) - which was then followed by remembering the narcissistic wound and the pain of not being seen.
Typically, the narcissistic wound arises when we feel not seen or appreciated for who we are; we feel the absence or loss of mirroring for who we take ourselves to be. This wound is connected with the original childhood hurt about not being seen or admired. At the deepest level, however, the narcissistic wound results from the loss of connection with the Essential Identity. The wound first appears as a rip in the shell, in the structure of the self-identity, reflecting the loss of a certain way that we recognize ourselves, often involving the dissolution of a certain self-image. As we experience the wound more deeply, we come closer to an awareness of the deeper loss, the severing of our connection to our Essential Identity. – A. H. Almaas, The Point of Existence