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.” 

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