Outside of all media marketing, public imagery, liberal greeting card sales, and so on, Nelson Mandela was most certainly one of the men of the century. One of the great teachers, one of the greatest rolemodels.
I think the image we have of him is distorted, though: This man was not valuable to mankind as an African quasi-Dalai Lama; this man was worth looking up to because he was a fighter, a grinder with balls of steel. This is how I look at him, at least.
There’s this anecdote about Mandela reciting the famous Invictus poem to other prisoners during his incarceration on Robben Island; I am not sure if it’s true or not. It connects Mandela’s life, sort of, at least, to what I do on this blog, and so here I present you, dear readers, William Ernest Henley. Farewell, Mr Mandela!
“Invictus”, by William Ernest Henley
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.