As pixels of enlightenment glacially rise above a desolate landscape of misery, grace merges with our hearts, revealing love’s universe. We are astonished by modesty’s iron will appearing before us, never diminished despite all the bulk of ignorance, brutality that have conspired to snuff the light of one Nelson Mandela; the people of South Africa. Into that caldron stands this serene persona committing him to being the bond around which his country would ultimately savor mercy.
At first, with the world’s noses pressed against apartheid’s steel glass western corporate puppeteers, he was perceived a terrorist who would not stop until his people’s yoke dissipated into the wind of history. They were right. Nelson Mandela’s vision threatened hatred, exploitation. A land where Gandhi had previously disseminated the bondage of the South African Indian once again yielded to a greater truth – the potent denial of Black South Africa would not stand. Gandhi’s journey to this reality was slowly realized. Only at the end of his soul’s 21-year apprenticeship in South Africa did he understand that South Africa belonged to black families who were ancient settlers.
Gandhi was a lawyer. Mandela was a lawyer. They were grounded in the rights of humans. They ultimately were elevated by the power of compassion. Mandela embraced non-violence in his early years as long as it served his goal, but did not hesitate to transmute to an appropriate weapon in response to an oppressor who vacuumed air from the sky. As he said himself, he was not a saint. Anger heated his iron. And this is what took root in the fire of apartheid. When he was finally forced to publicly manifest his tempered soul at his trial in the center of his culture’s beast – Pretoria – he said, “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.” Then, against his attorneys’ advice he proclaimed his willingness to die for his immortal cause. He announced his essence knowing that the penalty for the state’s charges made against him was death.
History’s river gently enveloped justice that day and the judge unexpectedly rejected the death penalty and instead chose life imprisonment for Mandela and his eight co-defendants.
Mandela’s story is well known. His story is a stranger. Who amongst us would choose to befriend a sentinel devoted to inflaming our suffering? Which human amidst the billions can stand up and confidently traverse agony only to forge a vision of unconditional love that remains a shadow for most of us? Yet, this is precisely what Nelson Mandela did. When he was finally released from Robben Island, Mandela emerged a mandala. The Hindus/Buddhists define that sacred geometry as “a spiritual and ritual symbol [that] represent[s] the Universe.” This man, this revolutionary, terrorist, threat to racial dominance soared into the sun radiating justice and compassion, an iconic marriage that can only exist together. Unlike Icarus, Mandela did not melt when approaching pure light. He maintained his balance and taught his country, the world, that peace only arrives on the wing of reconciliation. Imagine any other destination and South Africa is quickly submerged in blood. Forgiveness liberated the dark landscape that nourished the breathless atmosphere of the oppressed and oppressor.
Life birthed this one man many times in his unique existence. It is easy to elevate him to the realm of illuminated messenger, but as he reminded us so many times, his is a human story. Mandela raised the curtain of ignorance unveiling elegance of Being. Into the resulting maelstrom of hurt, anger, fear and hope, it was the many hues of South Africa who were tasked with healing the fabric of their humanity.
As we witness this ongoing revelation, we are forced to look into our mirror searching for both iridescence and deceit. For we are all that. Is it no wonder that an entire country danced upon the passing of such grandeur?
In 1964 Martha and the Vandellas chanted “Dancing in the Street.” In 1964 Nelson Mandela prepared for his journey through 27 years of imprisoned hell painting his dream in the depths of Pretoria. Motown sang it, Mandela allowed us to truly live it.
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