Nelson Mandela “the greatest father there ever was”. Photo from Dylan Martinez, Reuters File Photo
The great man’s marathon is finally run. Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) has entered the pantheon of 20th century greats. Preceded by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela now takes his place alongside them in the great beyond.
I concluded High up in the Rolling Hills with the following words:
Eventually, mountains of baggage that had held us back are removed, and progress is achieved. In taking a stand, slavery was nominally abolished, suffrage was established, and basic universal human rights and freedoms fostered. People can find a true voice, child and spousal abuse can be stamped out, apartheid, segregation and racism can be eradicated, people of different religions can live side by side, biodiversity can be conserved, nature can be respected, and, finally even the shameful stain of war can be wiped off the face of the earth. This can likely only be achieved if the reins of our affairs are handed over to nurturing women, before it’s too late. “If we are going to have a future, it has to be a womanly future”, as Vandana Shiva says. Shining beacons of hope like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela have been rare among men, true visionaries who dreamed such things and acted fearlessly on their dreams. Where are the enlightened leaders of today?
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954)
Nelson Mandela’s selfless life is testimony to the fact that progress on many fronts is indeed possible. His countless words and deeds of conciliation did move mountains. He was an exceptional man who restored a level of hope and belief for people in South Africa and around the world. He has set the table for generations to come.