I was thinking today of the famous quote by David M. Eagleman that each person suffers three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.
It’s something interesting to ponder isn’t it? The gap between the first death and the third is for some people very quick, indeed for a few the last time the name is spoken may well be the first or second death, Whilst others such as a tiny minority of ancient historical figures are still alive and kicking millennia after they may have been buried.
It got me wondering if there was anything similar for measuring the life of someone before they were born and whether it is entirely true or not, it’s a very interesting concept.
In Namibia in southwestern Africa, the Himba tribe is one of the few that counts the birth date of the children not from the day they are born nor conceived but the day the mother decides to have the child.
When a Himba woman decides to have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child who wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches him the song. When the child is conceived, they sing the song of the child as a way of inviting the child.
When she becomes pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people gather around him/her and sing the child’s song to welcome him/her. As the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or gets hurt, someone picks him/her up and sings to him/her his/her song. When the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honouring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.
In the Himba tribe there is one other occasion when the “child song” is sang to the Himba tribes-person. If a Himba tribesman or tribeswoman commits a crime or something that is against the Himba social norms, the villagers call him or her into the centre of the village and the community forms a circle around that person and sing their birth song to them.
The Himba views correction not as a punishment, but as love and remembrance of identity. For when you recognise your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when the a member of the Himba tribe is laying on their deathbed, all the villagers that know his or her song come and sing – for the last time that person’s song.