In my mind, Nelson Mandela is a man who stands for freedom, equality, and resistance. As I saw the news of his passing on the televisions at the gym this evening, it occurred to me that, though I know he was one of those larger than life people who had a disproportionate impact on the world, I would be hard-pressed to tell the story of his life. Yes, I have a vague sense of what he did and when and how, but his memory lives inside me more as a concept than as a story. So instead of talking about his life, I will share some of what I read on my Facebook timeline this evening.
So far, about a dozen of my friends have posted about his passing, with statuses ranging from “rest in peace” to paragraph-long reflections. Many talked about his accomplishments. (Later on, after I first posted this entry, other friends brought up some less favorable elements of his past, including ties to some less than savory world leaders.) What I found more fascinating and more powerful, however, was that about half of them posted Mandela’s words alongside or even instead of their own, whether typed into their statuses or printed across photos and images. The fact that half of the friends who posted chose to quote Mandela’s words instead of merely sharing their own is significant. So is the fact that not a single quote repeated. Mandela was a man of many words and many ideas, and he used them to bring positive change to the world.
Here are the quotes that I read this evening on Facebook:
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.”
“No one is born hating another person… if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
May his memory be for a blessing.