Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

For Nelson Mandela, greatness was not the province of a few. For him, every man and woman who walked the earth had the potential to be great. "We ask ourselves," he said, "who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"

Actually, who are we not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

He believed that the true mark of greatness is a person's ability to tear down barriers and heal divisions. As Michael den Tandt writes in this morning's Ottawa Citizen: "His appeal crosses all party lines, from left to right; all political persuasions, from libertarian to communist; all races; all creeds."

Greatness does not imply perfection. Mandela freely acknowledged his shortcomings. He knew only too well that to err is human. But he understood in the deepest sense that to forgive is divine. His life reminds of the potential divinity -- and greatness -- that is within all of us.


Lorne said...

Well-expressed, Owen. My only true hero, Mandela made an indelible mark upon the world. I couldn't agree more with the sentiments your post conveys. May he rest well.

Owen Gray said...

He has earned his rest, Lorne. Our task is to carry on his legacy.

Scotian said...

Nelson Madela exemplified the best of the human spirit and condition. What more can one say than that?

Owen Gray said...

You can't say more than that, Scotian. He was what we all wish we could be.

Scotian said...


When I think of anyone I see as best showing the positive side of being human Nelson Mandela is always at the top of my list. This is a man who came from nothing, fought for his beliefs about freedom and human dignity, suffered greatly for it, yet persevered and achieved them, and yet still retained his essential positive nature, his ability to forgive and accept, and never lost sight of his own basic humanity, warts and all while changing his society and the world at large. I really cannot think of a better example of a person who we know existed that demonstrated that with not just his words but with all of his deeds throughout his life. A more remarkable achievement for any human being I cannot believe exists.

I am leaving my first two sentences whenever I comment on his death at blogs today because I really believe what they say...he really was was he was, and what more really can be said than that. It is his example that has kept me from despair and bleak cynicism more than a few times in my life when watching some of the things I see, and his example that one man can truly make a difference and change the world through his positive beliefs, and not just with the use of force as so many others seem to believe is the only way to make change always gives me hope.

Nelson Mandela is the closest thing to a real life saint in my books, not because he had no flaws, not because he made no mistakes, but because he did have flaws, did make mistakes, yet accepted and acknowledged them while still being as virtuous (without any sanctimony, truly a humble man in the best sense of the word) as he was while living his life to the best of his ability and by doing so setting the example for all the rest of us.

His was one of the truly great souls, and I hope it returns in a new incarnation as soon as may be, this planet really needs people like him.

sinned34 said...

"His appeal crosses all party lines, from left to right; all political persuasions, from libertarian to communist; all races; all creeds."

Bullshit. The Right did everything they could to tear the man down and support apartheid in South Africa. Don't fall for the whitewashing attempt and believe the false admiration they're heaping up on him after his passing.

Owen Gray said...

When we despair over human nature. Scotian, Mandela provides an antidote.

If he -- with his flaws -- could accomplish so much good in the face of so much evil, surely we can do our part to improve our present state of affairs.

Owen Gray said...

When we consider the Right and Mandela, sinned, it's not a monolith. Certainly, Margaret Thatcher didn't understand what Mandela was all about.

But, as den Tandt writes, Brian Mulroney's push to have the Commonwealth sanction South Africa and support Mandela was perhaps Mulroney's finest hour.

As for Stephen Harper's praise, his career has been built on fostering divisions and building firewalls. As usual, Harper is an utter hypocrite.

sinned34 said...

"When we consider the Right and Mandela, sinned, it's not a monolith.

You are absolutely correct. And while many on the Right would not afford us the same courtesy, we must take care to not act the same way. Mr. Mandela was a great example of this.

The world is a poorer place without him, but hopefully he's done enough to inspire the next Nelson Mandela, if not an entire generation of them.

Owen Gray said...

Mandela's whole life was a rebuke of what the modern Right stands for, sinned.

One can only hope that his example is more influential than, say, Rob Ford's.

Scotian said...

Indeed. Mandela's entire life was and still is a rebuke of Harper's I would say. Harper embodies division, anger, revenge, and vindictiveness against all he perceives as having wronged him, a true antithesis for Mandela if ever there was one in our political culture. Where Mandela created, Harper destroys. Where Mandela forgave, Harper seeks revenge. Where Mandela sought truth and openness Harper seeks secrecy and lies. Where Mandela had warmth even for those he opposed Harper has nothing but contempt, bitterness, and spite. Seriously, it is hard to find someone more a dark reflection of Mandela in the political world than Stephen Harper. What is really galling about this is that this is not meant in rhetorical flourish, it is really how things are in truth/reality, which again underscores just how bad it is for Harper to be our PM and why everyone that could have prevented it but didn't has a lot of responsibility/guilt on their hands for doing so. It is not like we didn't have all kinds of warnings about what we would get with Harper beforehand, he hardly kept it a secret before the decision after the 2004 election loss when he finally figured out Canadians would never elect him on his true values, beliefs, and ambitions for Canada.

Owen Gray said...

As you wrote in an earlier comment, Scotian, what more can one say than that?