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Pride & Envy



The Yorubá Word for pride is ìgbéraga, a word composed of several interesting facets. Ìgbé is usually used in reference to something solid – like bones – which gives way for ancestral imprints. ‘ra’ means to rub, massage and quicken something while ‘agan’ amongst many thing can be both a ladder and a wolf tooth. We can understand pride to be a way of massaging ones bestial memory in an ascending way, the wild and aggressive elements are used as a support for our sense of self importance.

Envy is in Yourbá ilara, the contrast of ‘ilera’, to be of good, stable health’. Ilara is to be in a miserable, unstable condition. Ilara is an elision of ‘ile’ and 'ara’. Ara can mean both ‘body’ and ‘thunder’ and ‘ile’ denotes a resting place, it be house, home or womb. As such ‘ilara’ or envy is seen as a physical state where the body is infused with thunderous tension. Whenever we see ‘ara’ mentioned in Yorubá language it has a physical connotation and it is the material that is object for this thunderous tension.
Pride in our Latin derived sense is ultimately from the idea of hubris, once an act subject for death penalty as it generated so much ill will and social disruption that it was better to finish with the misplaced idea of self that grew out and made life sour for everyone.  

Pride is not the feeling of contentment arising after satisfaction with ones accomplishments but it is a feeling of superiority in ones achievements that takes forms in arrogance and hostility. Pride is the obsessive lover of envy. Because envy is not solely the rays of the evil eye as it seeks to obtain for itself what others have. It is also about this feeling that someone else is undeserving of their own good fortune.  Envy is that ill will, rejection and venom that is projected upon another person’s good fortune and growth – especially material and by renown.

Envy and pride can also take on the masks of truth and justice. We can feel that we have the right of harbouring ill will towards someone else, to judge and to bar their success by any means to our disposition. These judgments always leave out ourselves and our role in the calculation of judgment. This can reveal self loathing and it can reveal hubris of the kind Death has a particular hunger for. What is certain is that this is ultimately the type of venom that leads to one’s own un-doing and annihilation. Pride and envy defies the very purpose of being and operates on a base and profane level of being that is nefarious, misdirected and cruel. It is the map for losing one selves in the wilderness of life and grow sour by each step taken away from the oasis of joy we know as our destiny.    

The odù Òságúndá speaks of the creation of the world and of destiny. One of the verses tells us the following:

Àgìriyàn ni morèrè eèrùn
Asùwà ni morèrè èniyàn
Asùwà dá Orun
Asùnà dàa sílè
Àsekún sùwàdà nígbàtí ìwà se
Àsekún sùwàdà nígbàtí ìwá gún
Asùwà nìgbà ìwà ròò
Ir´r gbogbo wá d’àsùnwà
Irún pé sùsù wón gborí
Irún àgbòn pé sùsù wón di òjòntarigi
Ogí pé sùsù wón di igbó
Erúwà pé sùsù wón dòdàn
Agbon pé sùsù fówó tilé
Ìtà pé sùsù bó ilê
Aàsùwàdà a pé ó
Kó O rán ìwà sùsu wáá
Ki won kò ire gbogbo wáá ba wa

In Maulana Karenga’s poetic rendering it reads as follows:

Dews pouring lightly, pouring lightly
Were used to create the world
And likewise was done to create the earth
So that goodness of togetherness could
Come forth at once
Indeed all goodness took the form of a
Gathering together in harmony
Now, if one mind in alignment with heart encounters good
It will spread out and touch two hundred
If my mind and heart is good
It will spread out and touch you
And if your heart and mind is good
It will spread out and touch me
For if just one mind and heart experiences good
It will spread out and touch two hundred. 

Ifá relates this process to the presence or absence of wisdom. This is the wise approach towards the world, it is what accumulate what is good, conveyed in the simple message of Baba Falokun that ‘if your life gets better, my life gets better’. The powers of pride and envy follows the same accumulative principle, but instead of accumulating what is good we accumulate what bars us from happiness and destiny. Ifá speaks about this as throwing ashes in the wind – it will stain the one who throws the venom until the humanity is all clad in ashes and decay.

The good deed, the contentment of a well meaning heart and mind projected outwards into a happiness and joy of seeing our fellow men grow and achieve accumulates goodness in us and others; It is all about being gentle and soft and allow this to touch other people in remembrance of the primordial state where we gathered together in harmony and goodness.    

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