Friday, September 17, 2010

Nelson Mandela isn't THAT good


You've heard of Nelson Mandela, the black African from South Africa who was a political prisoner stuck in some hole for 27 years. He used the time to read and learn about human nature and managed to figure out how to heal his country, so that when he was finally liberated, he soon after became President of the very country which had taken away so much of his freedom.

Most of us would probably be very angry about such a circumstance happening to us. Most of us would probably look for retribution. Most of us would retaliate. But Nelson Mandela built his presidency and his country on forgiveness and enlightenment. He understood that the past need not impact the future, that people can put aside their differences and focus on something much more important.

There are two ways in this world to get ahead, and I'll tell you what they are:

One way is to push other people down. Embarrass them, sling mud, attach negative labels to them, show the world their flaws, prey on them, even ram jets into their builldings. The Bible says "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," which is supposed to be our justice system. Let those who transgress against us suffer the same transgression against themselves.

The problem with that is twofold: first, transgressions are often imagined or perceived where none were intended. Sometimes they're even invented to justify our own selfishness. Killing people who are different from you at the behest of some one who thinks he's above you is the ultimate form of selfishness, and it doesn't matter if they're a national leader, religious leader, or comes into your head of your own accord. Only the people asking for murder gain, and at the expense of both the murdered and those who do the murdering. I guarantee you that the same figure who tells you to kill someone else will eventually tell someone else to kill you.

The other problem is that when we push others down, we ourselves are also lowering ourselves. You can't push someone down without also going downward yourself. It's simple gravity, man!

The second way to get ahead is to help others. Build them up and you build yourself up. Work together and you both win. It's obvious that this works or we wouldn't have countries, or cities, or even families. By cooperating for common gain, everyone wins.

Without cooperation and building each other up, we would've been extinct long ago. We're all born helpless and depend on someone else to provide for us, and our dependence on others never ends. We can't even die without depending on someone else to take away our bodies.

The human body itself is composed of billions of cells which must work together for the common good. Some cells are heart cells or blood cells, and they deliver nutrients to the other cells. Some are stomach cells or lung cells, and they collect and prepare nutrients for the blood to carry. Some cells are muscle cells or bone cells, and they allow the whole body to move and search for food. Some cells are brain cells or nerve cells, and they keep the whole thing running smoothly, even allowing us to think consciously.

What's more, the human body DEPENDS on certain bacteria. These symbiotic bacteria digest foods that we can't, and they produce nutrients that we CAN use. In fact, symbiosis is the rule of life, not the exception. EVERY LIVING THING cooperates with some other living thing to survive. No man is an island, and so too is no bacteria.

Nelson Mandela understood this. When he became President of South Africa, he could've used his position to punish all who had punished him. But instead he chose to forgive them and move past the hate. As a result, South Africa has become a significant power in Africa, and will likely continue to be one for some time.

That's pretty darn good for one man to accomplish. Except he didn't accomplish it alone. He had help. Just as we all need help, so too did he. He was the brain cell, someone else was the nerve cell, someone else was the heart cell, someone else was the blood cell, and so on. He did a lot of good by guiding his country in the proper direction.

So why do I say he's not THAT good?

A couple weeks ago, a friend showed me a book she was writing, and at the end she had a brilliant quote that came from Nelson Mandela's Inaugeration Speech. It was powerful and fantastic, and I'm going to quote it for you now:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This is brilliant, and something I've been learning to live by for the past couple years, so I recognized its value immedately.

However, Nelson Mandela never wrote this. Nor did he read it. According to this page, it was written by Marianne Williamson for her book, “Return to Love” and was never spoken by Mandela. He had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

It's a really great quote, and I'll probably have more to say about it soon, especially if I can find a copy of that book to read.


Other articles you'll find interesting or helpful:
Up to 5.5 Miles, and a Computer Store in a Hairdresser
Ron Riekki - 2010
Maps are freakin' awesome


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