If there ever was a human being who could embody the seemingly impossible, who could be steeped in ugliness but never allow it to touch him, that would be Nelson Mandela. I like that picture of him, rising above the fray, both physically and symbolically.
Here’s an excerpt from his 1964 speech:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
The lessons you can take away from Mandela and his life are potentially legion, so I will just point out a few:
- release yourself from the burden of hatred
- embrace humility
- speak with eloquence
- accept all people, equally
- hold passionate ideals and be willing to fight for them
Mandela encapsulated that quality of transcendence – when you become more than who you are, a man, and you become that instrument whereby others can recognize their own potential, for the qualities that you exude: acceptance, compassion, and change. You become that enduring mirror that others can hold up as a reflection of themselves and as an outward projection of hope and all that is good in the world.
Whenever I think that I was alive at the same time that Mandela was alive, whenever Mandela makes a cameo in my subconscious, he leaves behind him the residue of a smile.