The Himba tribe in Africa counts the birth date of a child not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind.
When a 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 that 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. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite the child.
And then, when the mother 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 around sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts themselves, someone picks them up and sings its song to theM. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their birth song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing (for the last time)the song to that person.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well. There will be moments in life when we feel a little warbly, but just keep singing and you’ll find your way back on track.