Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela: From Student to Teacher

A man, a son, a father, a leader. Nelson Mandela was not a superhero, he was not an angel. He was a man. We cannot consider him an icon nor a saint, but we can consider him a true definition of a human being, which is of higher value to us than either of the other two words.

Mandela has left his mark on this world, but it’s a mark he shares with each and every one of us; it’s the ability to embrace your human nature and push forward in spite of your own inadequacies, to transcend your own fears and fight with your own nature. He never said he was perfect, nor did he want to be admired for being perfect. He’s often misrepresented as being an idyllic man who had some sort of magic ability to overcome injustice and oppression and meet it with a smile and a handshake; something his tormenters appreciated and his supporters were awe struck by. Many of those who were closest to him note that it was not the fact that he was not bitter at the end of his 27 years in prison, for he was a bitter as any man would be. But he had simply learned that he would have to relinquish any selfish thoughts of revenge in hope that the ideal of a united South Africa would prevail. If he had taken to the streets in violence and gone after his oppressors the minute he left Robben Island, surely the “civilised West” would have sent mercenaries to quash this “terrorist”. But alas, Mandela, through his own pain staking sacrifice and struggle, saw through to the end what he had once said he would die for: a United South Africa. Our admiration of him lies deeper than simply reuniting South Africa, because most of us cannot relate to that. Our admiration of him lies in the human feats he contended with. Whether it meant denying his personal anger, or overcoming obstacle after obstacle, or failing only to get back up, we saw in him what we hope to see in ourselves. From a student of life, he became a teacher of life. 

His life is the epitome of what a human’s life can be if it is allowed to be. It is not the flash and fortune, nor the glory and fame that we admire. It’s the ability to wake up each day and contend with yourself in the ring of life. I truly believe that his true lesson to us all was that we all have a purpose, but the only person standing in our way is us. The true walk to freedom is the one we make each day, repeatedly, to overcome ourselves, in hope we achieve something greater.

Rest in Peace

“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself 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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

 “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

 “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.” 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Paul Walker - “Outdoorsman, ocean addict, adrenaline junkie...and I do some acting on the side"

You probably knew him as Brian O’Conner. The epitome of a contemporary icon. But unlike a lot of celebrities these days, there was a guy of substance behind the camera. And that guy was Paul Walker. With that being said there’s probably a lot that you didn’t know about what else he was doing in his life, away from the camera – and trust me the list goes on.

His first love was actually marine biology, something that he majored in with his main idol being Jacques Cousteau. Paul was heavily involved in marine life and even featured on the National Geographic channel in “Expedition Great White” catching and tagging great white sharks on an 11 day expedition, he had spoken before about how finally being involved with National Geographic in 2010 was like a dream come true. Having grown up in Southern California he was addicted to the surf life and many of his movies were so rightly correlated to his actual interests as a person – for example the movie “Into the Blue” where he co-starred with Jessica Alba as a marine diver. Alongside helping make one of the biggest movie franchises to date (The Fast and Furious of course!) Paul actually had a genuine interest in automotive performance, outside the movie arena. This passion led him to competing in the Redline Time Attack series as part of the racing performance team. Believe it or not he was the one who actually customized the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R that we all know and loved in 2 Fast 2 Furious - Walker’s Skyline GTR was fitted out with a dual turbocharged, 2.6-liter inline-six engine and a six-speed Getrag manual transmission boasting the best available all-wheel-drive technology. The car was literally reinvented with each detail selected by Paul himself and to say that he took an active interest in what he was doing is to say the least.

From re-watching and reading some past interviews with Paul, his co-stars, friends and people who generally encountered him, its abundantly clear that all those people had one thing in common : they couldn’t stop talking about how much of a great person he genuinely was and how he was largely enthusiastic about everything he did. It probably explains why so many loved working with him in his different ventures. Even in a recent book review we did over here at The GradStop on “A fighters Heart”  Sam Sheridan talks about his encounter on the set of one of Paul’s movies and how much of a contrast he was to the “pretty boy” image that the rugged stunt fighters all had in mind. It reads “As it turned out, Paul was doing 99percent of the fight [scene] because…he could do it” Paul was actually out there, rolling around in the dirt, getting hurt in the process and DOING a lot of the stunts himself, not just being the pretty face on the final cut. He was also known for doing a lot of his own stunts. A brown belt in the art of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu he often showcased these skills in many of his movies. If you’re a fan you probably remember the time when he met long-time friend Tyrese in 2 Fast 2 Furious and kicks his ass.

Being so often described in ways such as “down to earth living style, the actor Paul Walker often wears his heart on his sleeve” was a testament to the way in which even after all his successes and failures he stayed so humble and accessible to so many.  

Further from the limelight Paul was also heavily involved in a charity which he himself had started up (in 2010) called Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW), following the earthquake in Haiti - a mobile, quick-response first aid organization aimed at rescuing people after major natural disasters strike and helping them recover in the aftermath. It was an ROWW event that he was actually on his way to when he was sadly involved in the fatal car accident.

This awesome guy was so many things, actor, philanthropist, friend, son, father and he leaves behind his 15 year old daughter Meadow atop a list of so many people whose lives he was a part of. The description from his twitter account (@RealPaulWalker) is probably a better description of the man than any: “Outdoorsman, ocean addict, adrenaline junkie... and I do some acting on the side”. Ever since watching across the Fast and Furious back in 2001 Paul became a major idol for me personally and I know he will continue to be a major idol for many and although we’ll miss him we know his time was impactful albeit short (at just 40 years old). 

Understandably, never has the saying “The good die young” been more fitting than now.
We’ll miss you, but here’s to a life that was undoubtedly lived to its fullest.

In the words of his co-star and long-time friend Vin Diesel - "Heaven has gained a new Angel. Rest in Peace."

By Nishil Samani