Ubuntu and Shalom: An Octogenarian, Psychiatrist Looks Back, and Forward


“…Have We really Changed after Lo, these Many Years?”

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I wrote this very personal poem, not so much as a coda on my own life, although it is that too, but as a reflection on the complex processes and variegated trajectories, loves, successes, losses, challenges of living over 8 decades, and a reflection on the meaning and essence of life.

Innocent Youths in Our Early Days’ Dawn,

Eagerly Awaiting Our Time in the Sun…

We had Plans, Dreams, Supports, Benedictions,

Yet Lives Evolved Uniquely, Despite Predictions...

Teachings of Wise Elders, Lessons and Homilies

Could not Predict Paths, Careers, Loves, Families,

Neither Achievements, Joys, Successes,

Nor Losses, Regrets, Sorrows or Excesses…

As Young Women and Men, We Knew It All,

While Existential Doubts at our Beck and Call…

We Discussed, Debated, Conjectured with Obsession,

Yet always Remained the Seminal “Ultimate Question”:

Whether Lives are Mere Happenstance, Serendipity,

Or Guided by God, Fate, Bashert Synchronicity?

Parents, Grandparents, Careers, other Achievements,

Joys and Celebrations, Sadness and Bereavements…

Have We really Changed after Lo, these Many Years?

Have We Learned from Our Lives, Laughter, Tears?

Are We Still Aggressive, Selfish, Rapacious,

Or Are We Now Caring, Respectful, Sagacious?

Endured Pandemics, Global Warming, Hates, Insurrections,

Yet Enriched by Science, Arts, Nature, Cosmic Expressions...

Our Lives Enhanced by Loves and Old Friends,

Giving Purpose and Meaning with No Finite Ends…

Our Personal Odysseys Continue, By No Means Over,

Still Many People, Ideas, even Ourselves to Discover.

Ennobled by Lofty Thoughts, Ambitions, Creativities,

We could use our Generous and Generative Proclivities

To at Long Last End Our Destructive Hostilities,

Utilizing Our Cognitive and Benevolent Abilities

For Humane Behaviors We Could Do Unto,

The Spiritual Zulu Sentiment called “Ubuntu.”

Hatred, Conflict and Violence Could in Our Time Cease,

Humanity Would Thrive in Harmony, Love and Peace.

We Could Then Celebrate, Sing Out, Engrave in Stone:

“We have Achieved ‘Communitas,’ Ultimate ‘Shalom’!”

Dr Levine is professor emeritus in psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, as well as the author of more than 100 professional articles and 6 books.

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