I’m one of those infuriating people that struggle to give a straight answer. This is only because the things I’m asked are often way more complicated than a mere yes or no can satisfy.

Take religion for instance. I’m not a Christian, though I’ve attended church frequently this year and gained great insight. Of my meditation practice, a friend, with no malice, asked if that was connected to witchcraft! And because I insist on making things even more interesting, I’m observing Kwanzaa this year. And I do mean observing in a strict sense. I’m reading about it. I’m also attending a local Kwanzaa celebration later this week. All this is hot off the heels of wishing people Merry Christmas. This isn’t odd to me, despite the sanctimonious cries of some Christian brethren.

Yet, as an ever evolving being, I know I am here to learn. I learn from life. The humble bee buzzing along can give me as much insight as an inspired sermon by a sweat drenched bishop. Most of my life has been centered around one viewpoint and its teachings (Christianity). I now, more than ever, give myself permission to learn from other sources. One of the core tenants of Kwanzaa is Kujichagulia (self-determination). Before I am anything else, I am my own, and to understand myself I must be willing to listen to my inner voice and act accordingly. I greatly dislike being tethered down and, unfortunately, it has been my experience, in matters of faith and spirit, that religious people and institutions require a commitment that I shall bear the name of said religion, and profess it by mouth and on application forms. I’m not for that.

By sealing my ears and mind off from the plethora of resources available to me and feeding on a steady diet from one branch, I do myself a disservice. Carbohydrates are great, but I also need protein, good fats, vitamins etc. to have a balanced diet. And so I look and learn, then ruminate, over what’s been looked at and learned. And like the digestive system, I absorb what I need and expel the rest out of my system.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), creativity (Kuumba) and faith (Imani). Without mentioning the word “Kwanzaa” or the Swahili translations, most people of sound mind agree that all seven values are worthy of pursuit. This is because the seven principles are LIFE principles, applicable to anyone seeking to be a better person. It’s the same reason I can pick up the Quran and find passages of wisdom, despite never professing the Muslim faith. Values and virtue are not the exclusive domain of any one religion or life path. The magic is in neither the book, the buzzing bee nor the prophet. The magic lies in the words, their message and how we model it.

Happy Kwanzaa and a prosperous 2018 Blavity Fam!