RIP to a man who lived a life that we all wish to emulate (though few could have endured it as he did). Nelson Mandela was a leader like so few who walk with us in life. His trials and tribulations were so like and yet unlike ours. He lived them with the convictions that the world could be a better one, and showed us the change that we were capable of.
A poem that helped him survive his years of imprisonment which led to a change that we see too little of: freedom for a people.
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.
- Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Today, another great man left his earthly bonds, though he will never leave us. Nelson Mandela has been on our watch, as his frail body continued to remind us that our time with him and with this planet is finite. I can’t claim to have known him, but have tried to learn from his courageous actions that stand as a shining example of hope in a world that is so often dark with intent. It’s examples such as his that remind us of our own destinies that await us from our birth.
We are all searching for a raison d’être. We all hope that we will feel it like those few true leaders who understood what it meant to feel the meaning of our existence. They build themselves up by acquiring the tools needed to wield their dreams. But they do so with a humility that is so rare in those who choose to lead. It’s not about the power for them. It’s about the purpose of their lives. They don’t do things for golden accolades or fruitful treasures that build into thrones to their greatness. They do things because others need them to complete these actions. To remind us that we all have obligations to one another. To tell us that love is so much more powerful than fear or greed or selfishness.
When there are insurmountable walls that keep us from greater opportunities, there are ways to get around the barriers. Those true leaders we choose to remember understand that a helping hand builds a much stronger ladder that will scale these walls. They help us envision a land of wealth that has little to do with material things. They listen and they encourage. They acknowledge when others provide better examples. They give wind to our sails when there is no wind to be found. They argue against the norm when the norm becomes dangerous to the greater good. They have no problem being wounded if it means that others can be safe.
The legacies that live on are those that make us think twice about who we are and what we choose to do. In a world where emptiness in our souls yearn to be filled, those whose legacies serve as examples to the rest of us need to be exalted above the vacuous pageantry that dominates. The legacies that survive bring us together. The legacies that survive give us hope. The legacies that survive push us to be better. The legacies that survive deserve to live on in our hearts, minds, and souls. They live because they are alive in all of us.
Speaking upon his release (courtesy of CTNews01):
We need no reminder because we always remember those important to us. That is a true legacy.