"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Nelson Mandela

nelson mandela . . .

a white amaryllis (in China, white is the color of death, not black)

a white amaryllis (in China, white is the color of death, not black)

It feels odd to be writing two posts in a row with a person’s name as the title. Each passed away this week.

Today, most people know that Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of ninety-five. What they might not know is how he lived his dignity and showed it towards others. This trait is one of the outstanding qualities he has imparted to the world for those who witnessed his life. Twenty-seven years he spent incarcerated. Twenty-one years he and Winnie, his first wife, never touched but only spoke through a thick glass partition. When Winnie became somewhat of a firebrand, wearing combat attire and boots, they parted ways. Before and after the divorce, Mandela stayed quiet, not uttering a word of criticism about his former partner and spouse. Then, he fell in love again and married at the age of 80.

The most often asked question of Mandela is why or how he came to bear no spite towards those who fought against him, imprisoned him, betrayed his cause, or plotted against him. He has answered thusly:

“Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford hate.”

I was thinking that we can also decide to lay down garments of hate that enfold us, whether it be towards those we feel have done us wrong, or ourselves when we feel we have not done right towards others up to now.

The answer I like the most about why he wasn’t more angry at his captors and about years spent in prison for more than a quarter of a century is this:

“Why aren’t you more angry?”

“If I thought it would do any good, I would be.”

Nelson Mandela was patient, pragmatic and persevering, serving the good of others rather than his ego. He changed the tide of history with dignity and respect. His wisdom prevailed and without him, Africa and the world might be a very different place today.

He has been called the moral center of Africa. I feel his life serves as a moral fable for us all.

Godspeed, Nelson Mandela. And thank you.

“scorpion” . . .

Do you have any friends or someone in your family that you wish you were closer to? A sibling or parent? With a long checkered history of not getting along very well, misunderstandings or competition, at least from someone’s point of view? This may be true for a daughter or a son, an uncle, or a friendship that’s gone off the rails a couple of times.

I’m probably more optimistic than most, reaching out and hoping that this time will be different (or better) all right. Then, something happens, some words spoken in the heat of the moment, an email with a nasty twist and suddenly you feel like that Tarot card, the Ten of Swords. You know the one–the soldier is lying in a pool of blood with ten swords stuck at various angles into his back.
These Ten of Swords hits come along once in a while, maybe even years apart but they are unmistakeable when they occur. It feels like a swift blow to the heart and one is left breathless with the depth of pain that comes suddenly out of the blue. If you’re lucky, you’ll have fewer than the fingers on one hand to chalk up during your lifetime; but if you’re unlucky, there might be more.

Well, this happened to me last night and it caught me unawares because I thought things had been going along rather well with this particular person for quite awhile. Because it was so unexpected, I had to re-read the email a couple of times, close my laptop and stop myself from feeling hurt and furious at the same time.

Instead of obsessing over it (OCD, remember?) and machinating about it all night, I decided to do something different for once. Since there’s nothing that can be done to change the past, why waste time feeling bad about what can’t be altered? I mean, if I felt bad about things THEN, why torture myself with feeling bad about them again NOW??? IF ONLY. Well, there’s no “if only.” It was what it was. And now, it is what it is. That’s all.

Instead of ruining my night, I figured out how to get over it firmly and quickly, without having to escalate it into a confrontation or to ignore it completely. How?

By remembering the Aesop’s Fable about the Scorpion and the Frog. The ever-optimistic frog believes the Scorpion when he promises that he won’t sting the frog if only the frog will agree to carry the scorpion on his back across the pond. The Scorpion stings him anyway, halfway across, paralyzing the frog and when asked “why?” the Scorpion replies, “because that’s who I am.” And that’s exactly, EXACTLY the case here! This person is a scorpion, just being who they are, not being able to go against their character. It could not be otherwise for them to act as they do. So, why take it personally?

There is no point in spending a whit more whiff of energy feeling bad, wondering why, trying to figure out whether to reply or to ignore it, feeling like a fool for having reached out to them before. All that is GONE, baby, GONE.

They are the scorpion. Just being who they are. End of story.

What a relief!

Postscript: I came upon this and thought it appropriate to add to this post:
Nelson Mandela was asked why he wasn’t more angry. And his reply was: “I would be if I thought it might help.”

[Scorpion photo credit: By Mike Baird [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons]
Ten of Swords card image from Rider-Waite Tarot Card Deck