While it is to be understood that South Africans and the World are filled with mixed emotions upon the knowledge of Madiba’s passing, it is still worrying that the brilliant Nelson Mandela is still an enigma to many – with each news clip of past and present, I am finding deep deficits in my own knowledge of the man.
Many of our reflections on the life of Nelson Mandela are deep insights into the obvious, often described in sentimental terms. But few understand, not only the ideas, but the origin and vibrant processes of the ideas of Nelson Mandela. Few of us fully comprehend the secrets to how trials and struggles shaped and sharpened those ideas and even fewer grasp the difference that it is suppose to make, or supposed to have made in all of us in South Africa and in this world.
It is so that the goodness, the kindness and reconciliatory spirit of Nelson Mandela are the reasons why we admire him. It is sad, however, that not more of us understand the mental, academic and intellectual strain it took to arrive at such a disposition. We hardly reflect seriously over Nelson Mandela’s disciplined mental spadework, during the times where and when no one was around and how those “habits of the heart and mind” formed the pillars of his brilliance and impact.
We love the story of a forgiving Nelson Mandela, but know very little about the logic behind that forgiveness. We are blind, thinking that forgiveness is illogical. Maybe, at some level it is, and I suppose we mean that it is incredible, surprising and unexpected, especially given the fact that revenge was an expected reply in 1994.
But I am beginning to see that the incredible, surprising and unexpected response of Nelson Mandela was not a blind sweeping of transgressions underneath a mat. It was, rather, a deliberate intention to not hold it all against the perpetrators. Such a thoughtful, deliberate, calculated and volitional response reflect his wisdom and soundness of mind.
While we mourn, may our admiration clue us all to the value of learning from the wisdom of Nelson Mandela.