I recently finished “Long Walk to Freedom; The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela“. This book was a suggestion to me by one of my coaches. Nothing in particular that I needed to learn, just an “it is a really good book” and I am a sucker for good book suggestions. I had no idea what I was approaching while digesting this book.
This Book is Long
Like, way long. There are over 100 chapters in this book. It took me all summer, and then a few more weeks to finish it. This book is not for the faint of heart and the uncommitted.
Looking back at the whole experience I was eagerly digesting all the stories and minute details about Mandela’s childhood and upbringing. I knew of Mandela in my late teens and early twenties, which is to say I was more concerned with me than icons of the global community. I knew loosely the parts he played in bringing about change to South Africa. With that, I was consumed with knowing ‘how he got to that point’. Trouble was, Mandela in his long walk shares so many finite details of stories, singular emotions, and everyday thoughts one wonders if that change is ever going to come.
It was somewhere in the middle of all this that it hit me. This road to freedom, this fight for justice is actually very long. So long that many people will be willing to abandon ‘the struggle’, give up altogether, change how they are fighting, die, leave, or fight back in frustration versus a calculated effort for their cause. He is, was, remarkable in his dedication to his vision for a unified and free South Africa. That vision and the hope it could happen pressed him onward for decades. I fold when I cannot get my coffee in the morning. This I admire.
The endurance of the book is a metaphor for life. You need to be committed and see the whole thing through. Now, some books are terrible, and you should stop reading them. This is not one of those terrible books. If God has put a vision in your heart and mind to fight for justice, create music, write books, build a business, make laws, and change the world then you need the vision and an understanding of deep time, where change is slow yet permanent. We, as an American people, need some understanding of deep time, whether that be government, science, religion, parenting etc.. So much of what we do has become reactive to the moment and lacking in reflection for what actions might cause. We need to find leaders who have visions and dreams for us as a people, not stump ideas they can hash out in 15 seconds.
We need to understand that our villain today may, in fact, be our hero tomorrow. Often we use this the other way around in talk about the second coming of Christ. Would we welcome the homeless guy that miraculously has a band of dudes following him around, hangs with prostitutes, associates with unsavory types, was born to a teenage (un-wed) mother, you get that picture. Look around today, who are those in the world that we see at villains, anti-(insert position point here) and seek to understand why they do what they do. Maybe with some of that, we do not buy into the ‘spin’ we warn each other about having succumbed to. They could still be villains, but it could be we are in fact on the wrong side of a long history.
Mandela had a strength that comes from knowing himself and knowing his brother. Often, so often it was almost annoying, whenever he had ideas of changes of opinions he sought group discernment and decision making. It was known to him that he was not the leader to freedom, but that it took a village. All needed to be participants and contributors and he was strong enough in conviction to know where he stood and let others stand where they did. Refreshing idea amidst our current climate where many want a credit point for their constituents.
Nelson was not perfect. He had virtues that made him ideal for the position he was placed, but it in no way made him some perfect person. He does, however, own his imperfections. He does not blame them on others or ‘the system’. They are his. Again, refreshing. May we become better at
Lord, help us in the ways to become better at being ourselves, and owning our failings. Amen