“[I]f you get into politics, your [law] practice will suffer. You will get into trouble with the authorities who are often your allies in your work. You will lose all your clients, you will go bankrupt, you will break your family, and you will end up in jail. That is what will happen if you go into politics.”
Attorney, friend and mentor Lazar Sidelsky to Nelson Mandela (c. 1943) after Mandela expressed his interest in becoming involved in South African politics, from Long Walk to Freedom (1994)
In line with today’s theme of what my friend Maria A. (@VeganChefAmore) says all the time – “Follow your bliss, yo!” – I thought this Quote of the Day particularly apropos to chasing your dreams.
I first read this passage in 1997 and have never forgotten it. The 20th century was replete with men and women who revolutionized science, the arts, politics, military warfare, and civil rights. In my esteemed opinion, however, there were two titans – just as Sir Isaac Newton had alluded to three centuries earlier – who stood on the shoulders of giants and whose height appeared taller than anything we mere mortals could comprehend. One was Mahatma Gandhi, the other was Nelson Mandela. In fact, Mandela was the main reason I visited South Africa in 2009. (I had the crazy hope I’d be able to meet Madiba himself somehow, some way. Instead, I got to meet Clint Eastwood and watch him and his pals Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon film a movie in Cape Town called Invictus.)
If you haven’t read Long Walk Freedom, do so. It’s easy to become pessimistic/depressed in these times when the world seems ready to implode upon itself at any moment and we balance precariously as a species on a razor’s edge. (Fortunately, I’ve been reassured by the most powerful leader in the world that global warming is a sham, so I suppose we’ve got that going for us…which is nice.)
But then you read an autobiography like Nelson Mandela’s and you’re quickly reminded that there is good in this world and that a young go-getter named John was right a couple of millennia ago when he said, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Perhaps even more eloquently put, this is what Mandela was talking about in his book when reflecting upon his 27 years in prison and the hate and anger and torture and shame he faced on a constant basis:
“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”