In Memory of Nelson Mandela
December 8, 2013
December 8, 2013
My post today has very few words. Nelson Mandela died yesterday at 95. Here are two beautiful and wise clips about him.
The first video is from CNN and is a retrospective by Christine Amanpour The second, also from CNN, is Mandela in his own words.
Last night, understandably, the media was filled with words remembering and honoring a human being the likes of who appears not once in a lifetime but once every few lifetimes. Some figures genuinely change history because of how evolved, pragmatic, and enlightened they are. Mandela was one of these people. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel resentment and anger and even hate about the years that were taken from him and especially the time as a parent for his children – he was no saint – but he exercised a powerful will to overcome his bitterness. He said that he walked into prison hotheaded and intemperate and came out mature.
It was a miracle that in 1994 rather than a civil war blood bath there was a historic democratic election that united blacks, Indians, and whites. Mandela went from prisoner to President and somehow held together personal loyalty to enemies of the West, like Khadafy and Castro and Arafat who supported the ANC when no one in the West did, while insuring that the post Apartheid South Africa was firmly aligned with the values of freedom and democracy of the West. He was a revolutionary and a traditionalist and perhaps his most profound capacity was his ability to understand and even empathize with the enemy. Mandela is proof that by force of one’s own choice and dignity one can compel even your enemy to respect you.
How do we honor his legacy? Can we be guided by our hopes and not our fears? Can we believe that human beings and countries can change for the better?
Enough words. Mandela once said, “The silence of solitude makes us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”
Jewish Wisdom teaches that the highest form of praise is silence. So I ask this for us to reflect upon: What enables people to become better rather than bitter? Nelson Mandela’s memory will be a blessing but will we be worthy of remembering Nelson Mandela?
Addendum: Not sure you will get this on the mainstream media. My daughter Talia, who lived in Soweto, South Africa for seven weeks this past summer just called me. “Abba, the second I heard Mandela died I felt really really sad and I immediately called my friend Cpho (who lives in Soweto and became Talia’s best friend).” Cpho told Talia that older people who experienced Mandela’s presence and leadership were very somber while the next generation – her generation – were celebrating his life. Such different forms of grieving both of which so respectful and genuine. We live in the very beginning of a world whose boundaries are more permeable than ever in history.
Note: This article was originally published in The Daily Wisdom, December 6, 2013.