Nelson Mandela, politics and spirituality

Nelson Mandela is no longer with us. I find myself quite tearful, perhaps not from sadness, because he had made the most of his 95 years on this earth, but simply in recognition of the wonderful qualities he embodied. Nelson Mandela will always remain my hero, not because he was an extraordinary person, but because he was an ordinary person who allowed himself to grow into something more.

His journey started when he noticed injustice and resolved to fight against it. This political stance had him joining and becoming a leader in the ANC and taking part in strategies to stand against apartheid. Many people can relate to this need to act politically when the status quo is morally wrong. (I will always remember the passion with which I joined the protests against the Springbok tour in 1981.) But often people become so caught up with fighting for a cause that the fighting becomes an end in itself. A case of ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ where bringing down the enemy is the only focus.

The difference with Mandela is that during his years in prison he worked tirelessly on himself. Rather than embedding the idea of himself as a fighter (which also solidifies the idea of the enemy), he began to ‘be the change he wanted to see.’ He let go of the idea of armed struggle and developed ideas of peace, starting with inner peace. Who would have thought that a prisoner of 27 years could have so much influence on the world outside of himself? This could not have happened had he been simply a fighter or a martyr. Instead he became a leader; people sensed the qualities he embodied and wanted to follow him.

Whether in everyday struggles or in addressing world problems, Mandela will always provide inspiration for me as to how to proceed. The world has lost a wonderful man, but how lucky we were to have had him.

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