Into each lifetime or generation of lifetimes, a world-wide hero emerges. In my life-time that hero was Nelson Mandela. No taking away from Dr. King or from Bobby Kennedy or others but my adult frame has been shaped greatly by this simple, genius, loving man who went through hell and came back strong. Most humans who underwent the torment and suffering that Mandiba (his tribal name and one spoken with great honor) felt either cave to the pressure or live in pool of anger and desire for revenge. He did neither.
Reading A Long Walk to Freedom (or seeing the film which sadly I have not yet done) which is Mandela’s auto biography written after his freedom from decades of incarceration for who he was is mandatory. It is a beautiful piece and one that effectively proves Mandela’s genius. He rejects revenge and anger but chooses never to forget the pains that were inflicted on him and on South Africa’s whole. He caused the nation to reflect, remember and as much as possible to move on. What a beautiful man.
I have felt his power often and have humbly visited that cell on Robben Island that he lived in three times. The first time I think I felt the horror of his pain and wondered how he could not leave such a place embittered. The second visit allowed me to try to understand the man who wrote the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in stones in a rock quarry made for punishment of inmates because they simply wanted to live free and equally. By the third visit, Mandiba’s eloquent quiet gentleness that made him the world statesman and hero of our time became clear. He was a true leader. A man willing to suffer for what was right and one strong enough not only to handle that suffering but to move on from it so as to make the world a better place. Never forget but move forward. What genius. It was an honor to stand where he stood and I look forward to that fourth visit to remember him even more and try to understand a fraction of what he understood.
A Long Walk to Freedom, indeed. I pray that his soul is now truly free and that we never forget this great man!