I’ve cried today, several times. I don’t cry often, or for no reason. I do it when someone or something touches my very soul. Those are special times, when life runs through every bit of myself so strongly that my body can’t contain it and tears escape into my spirit, spreading its wings to infinity.
Today has been one of those days. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela -Madiba- passed away yesterday, and the man’s monumental grandness has hit me hard today, in the best of ways. I hadn’t felt this alive in a long time, and that must surely be Madiba’s flame reigniting mine.
I remember a conversation with some friends of mine from a few years ago. We were discussing about eternity, no less. While some argued that the mere mortality of humans is the ultimate end to life, I didn’t, at all. I firmly believe, and will always do, that there is much more to it. That life is not just biology, but energy. That in this Universe of ours where everything is intrinsically and intimately connected, and life is the color that paints it in fun, nothing dies or vanishes, but transforms and flows.
Madiba is not dead, his spirit, the core of the man that he was, will forever lie in the hearts of the millions he has inspired, across countries and generations. We will carry the light of freedom he so valiantly fought for up high, in his honor and of the many that dedicated their lives to the greater good of all. We will pass it to our children, and these to theirs, and so it will live, on and on.
Madiba, the man, was one of those unique persons that did not just embody the very essence of humanity, but improved it. He sacrificed 27 years of his life in prison (yes 27!) for “an ideal for which I am prepared to die”, in his own words. The ideal that we are all equal, regardless of the color of our skin, sexual orientation, religion, beliefs, place of origin or any other senseless circumstance in the broader picture of the Human Race. And so, that theoretical equality has to translate into practice by means of equal opportunities, of universal education, of respect and mutual understanding, of love, the almighty engine of Madiba’s life.
Madiba, the forgiving fighter, the leader in peace. 27 years, a third of his lifetime, in a prison on an isolated island, for no crime, under unjust laws; and yet he comes out and decides not to feel any anger, to leave all resentments behind him and forgive his persecutors, in an act of love that goes beyond the descriptive power of any word, that redefines the capacity of a human’s heart. A FREE man.
Madiba, the imperfect being, the humble chap. Aware of his limitations and shortcomings, he always searched to improve himself, to become a better fellow, a more loving father, an ever-more smiling dude, knowing that one’s example is the only legitimate way and one’s attitude its driving force. In so living he became much more that just a role model to all of us, he become a down-to-earth hero for our kids to look up to.
Yes, I have cried. I have cried of joy, I have cried of freedom. The joy of having lived alongside an extraordinarily ordinary human being. The freedom of knowing that it is possible, that we can change the world. From the bottom of my heart, from the depths of my soul, THANK YOU, Madiba, for everything. You are me. I am you. On we go 😉
Some of his best quotes:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
“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.”
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
“Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”
“ As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
“Where you stand depends on where you sit.”
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.”
“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
“Appearances matter — and remember to smile.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear — it s inspiring others to move beyond it.”
“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
“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.”
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
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