Welcome to the Inukshuk Blog!
Our “business” at the Imago Dei Fund is philanthropy, a word that means “love of humankind.” It is derived from the Greek philanthrōpos: philos meaning love and anthropos meaning humankind.
I don’t know about you, but after the divisive and polarizing election season, I could use a little philanthrōpos. How about you?
Many are still seeking to come to terms with the election results and are feeling discouraged and deflated. But maybe through this desolation and reflection on the realities we all face in this world, we can experience a renewed solidarity as human beings and as Americans that will make us stronger for the wear and tear we have been through together.
For our foundation’s logo, we chose this stone “inukshuk” symbol, which means “in the likeness of a human” in the native Inuit language, because we thought it captured well this human solidarity and shared purpose that lies at the core of the work of philanthropy.
Philanthropy is essential to any healthy democratic society, as all deserve the opportunity to live into their fullest potential and exercise their God-given inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To this end, if we truly seek to create a healthy democracy—e pluribus unum, out of many, one—we cannot rely on the vagaries of politics or the “trickle down” of unfettered, cold capitalism. We need to work to make the political and the economic structures work more equitably and better for all of us. But in the post-election rubble, even just the smallest act of philanthrōpos, the teeniest gesture of human connection—listening deeply to someone else’s pain even when you don’t feel it yourself, eschewing an unfair social advantage for the good of another, standing with someone in their vulnerability when they have been demeaned or marginalized—these are powerful reparative acts that can renew a flagging spirit, restore our faith in humankind, and bolster our shared work of mending the fabric of our torn democracy.
Philanthropy is not just about money; it is enabled by investing all of our resources, financial and human, into this endeavor of shared purpose. We must resist the selfish side of our human nature (which can be all too content with unfairness when it goes in our own favor) and instead live into and act out of our more spacious philanthrōpos side, which by virtue of something sacred exists within each of us. The ancient Hebrews called this sacredness the “image of God” (Hebrew: צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים, translit. tzelem Elohim; Latin: Imago Dei) where we know in our heart of hearts that no matter what our external differences, we are all brothers and sisters and are indeed (pun intended) stronger together.
Philanthropy at its core is different than mere charity or “noblesse oblige” in that it signifies a sense of solidarity between giver and beneficiary: both are part of the same human family. What affects one of us affects all of us. In this vein, philanthropy seeks not only to ameliorate the suffering of injustice, but also to uproot and transform the underlying social structures and forces that create and contribute to it.
In this blog, we will spotlight voices and efforts in our world that are putting philanthropy into action to mend and repair the “imago dei” where it is most threatened and vulnerable. Using the inukshuk as a prompt, our writers will share something that has served as a marker in their spiritual and humanitarian paths, something that says keep going, someone else has been here, you are heading in the right direction…
While visiting Vancouver in 2009, the year of the Imago Dei Fund’s inception, these quirky inukshuk structures that decorated the city caught my eye. I noticed them everywhere I looked that summer as we traveled to various national parks.
According to inukshukgallery.com, the inukshuk figure conveys the message: “Someone was here” or “You are on the right path.” Inukshuks and cairns have been used by people on journeys the world over to signal migration routes and offer tips for survival. Interestingly, inukshuks sometimes appear alone but often are arranged in sequence to guide pilgrims over great distances from wilderness to safe harbor. Every step taken is part of a larger path, every ripple of change part of a larger current.
An inukshuk can be small or large, built from whatever stones are at hand. They have a playful and childlike look. Each one is unique and says something different, yet they evokethe same sense of the journey. The arrangement of stones can indicate a particular purpose, pointing to the direction of safe passage or to an open channel for exploration.
The inukshuks all over Vancouver connected me with a spiritual truth I know in my soul yet easily lose touch with: that we are more alike than not alike and that we need one another to survive and grow and evolve as a species. The inukshuk reminds us that though we hail from different tribes, though our individual journeys are unique, as human beings we are part of a collective human migration.
On this human journey we are all on, we can so easily lose our way… we can all too easily live by fear and regress rather than move forward. We need one another to warn us when we are veering off into dangerous terrain to help us get back on track, to say keep going, someone else has been here, you are heading in the right direction…
Our hope for this blog is to capture inspiring voices and acts of philanthrōpos that near and far are mending the imago dei where it is threatened and vulnerable and provide needed inspiration to all of us to keep doing our part to restore one another’s faith in our shared purpose and connection as human beings.
So, if you have love in your heart and an inclination to promote the well-being of humankind in this holistic sense, then consider yourself a philanthropist! This blog is for you! We invite you to subscribe to the blog and join us in this dialogue on the journey of creating a more just and kind world where all can flourish and see in each other the face of God.
Stay tuned for our next post spotlighting the faith back-story of the founding of one of our partners, Lwala Community Alliance.