December 7, 2013

I don’t really know how to start this… my first recollection of the apartheid situation in South Africa is a discussion in school – I want to say it was in primary school but more likely in senior public – of the economic sanctions Canada had imposed on the country.  I don’t know if the name Mandela was mentioned or not but by the time he was released in 1990 I certainly did.  Just a year after the fall of the Berlin wall, it seemed the world was taking a good turn.  But I still did not know much about the human being Mandela, and I didn’t know how he would demonstrate just what we are capable of.

“Many leaders are, in the end, respected, but very few are loved.”  Mandela was loved, and he was loved not for what he accomplished, which, to dwell on it for a moment, was remarkable.  Like Desmond Tutu he deserves every ounce of his Nobel Peace Prize.  To integrate a country where four factions were close to civil war and not have it go that way, preventing mass revenge, stepping down after one term in a peaceful transition and not making himself a despot, and most of all setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that paved the way in so many ways.  Remarkable achievements all around, yet not why he is loved.

He is loved for who he was being.  He chose to not follow his bitterness and to not let his anger and anguish take root.  He chose not to seek punishment, retribution, fiery damnation, or expulsion.  He chose to not look at any other human being as anything other than a human being, full of life and desires, the same desires that ran through his heart.  He chose his humour and wit and empathy.  Few would not understand if he had chosen otherwise, but he didn’t choose otherwise.

He is loved for he reminds us of our capacity as human beings.  He himself consciously advised against turning him into a saint, turning him into a unique individual.  He was not blessed with a lack or even an absence of resentment, upset, anger, bitterness… he had those.  Maybe even in spades.  Yet he did not have that define him, define his thoughts, define who he chose to be.  And as I heard Jack Kornfield once put it, “[he] was an extraordinary human being, but his capacity was not extraordinary.”  He is loved for he represents who we truly are, and can be.

He is loved as he saw that we really all want to just dance together, and he placed his aims and his energy into that.

Let’s get choosing.

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