First 30 Days Blog

17 dec

Mandela and Perspectives on Time

RobbenCellsAs many of you know who follow me on Twitter and Facebook—@clickariane and arianedebonvoisin if you would like to—I am currently in South Africa, one of my most favorite countries, writing my next book.

Today, I took the ferry to Robben Island, the maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners (including Zuma, the current President), were imprisoned. Robben Island is about 40 minutes by boat from the gorgeous city of Capetown, which is a real paradox. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and yet a few minutes away on an island stands the former site of one of the harshest places on earth.

MandelaCellWe were taken to Mandela’s cell which is about 6 feet by 7 feet wide. He had no bed, a simple rough blanket on the floor, and a red bucket to use as a toilet. He worked eight hours a day in the harsh sun in a limestone quarry that nearly made him blind. Here is a man who slept on the floor, ate the same food every day, and was kind, graceful and patient for 27 years!

I found it nearly impossible for my tiny limited mind to comprehend those facts. My mind had an even harder time with the fact that when he was released from jail, he had already forgiven his wardens, those captors who had tortured him for close to three decades. Reconciliation started while he was still in prison. The depth of his forgiveness towards someone who took 27 years of his life away completely, is simply stunning. It made me really face a few things. Who are the people I still need to forgive? Do I really have a good reason not to have forgiven them yet? Please ask yourself that. If Mandela can be in jail for 27 years and come out not holding a grudge and with a heart full of love and compassion, we all can as well.

And secondly, why is it that I am so impatient, as if time is running out? Am I having trouble adjusting to getting old, or somehow haven’t I done things fast enough? My visit today put a good perspective on what it means to have a bad day, week, month or even year. Mandela had 27 years of bad days. We need to enjoy every moment we have. We are free. We need to look at our “little me” problems and maybe think bigger.

Not once did he ever think he would be free, let alone vote, let alone be president of the country, win the nobel peace prize, and so on.

Here’s a question for all of us: What is it that we’ve decided will and can never happen? Let’s invest it just a tiny shred of possibility. Really we have no idea what’s around the corner.

And never ever underestimate the power of the human spirit. I truly have no words to describe what I saw and felt today. So forgive me.

I’ve added two photos to my blog this time. In the long shot, the window to the far right is Mandela’s cell. Plus, I’ve included a photo of the inside of his cell.

Posted by Ariane de Bonvoisin on December 17th, 2009 in Ariane, Personal Stories | 3 comments Read related posts in

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  • Ahhhh. Ariane, first, I thank you for taking us along. Secondly, thank you for putting perspective on our lives. Yes, we should forgive. And it seems insignificant, the amount we have to forgive those around us as we compare the amount of forgiveness he had to give to his captors. Perhaps, if he hadn’t, then truly, he would have been a prisoner.

    — Added by TayibMedia on December 19th, 2009
  • Ariane,

    Very good post. Thanks for the encouragement to your readers so that they’ll release the anchors of past wounding that they might be carrying. This is so important to wellness, as you already know.

    I am glad that you are blessed with the opportunity to learn of how others have conquered the binds that sought to crush their spirits. I pray that you will exceed all your goals for learning during this trip and share the lessons with us all.

    Have a blessed day.

    Martin Drummond

    — Added by MartinDrummond on December 19th, 2009
  • Ariane, thank you deeply for giving of yourself in this way. There are so many people who benefit from your clarity and humanity.

    When I was about six years old, two men broke into our house – a modest and sparsely furnished house – and took away the things we counted on every day; things that gave us pleasure and security. The men were caught, some broken things returned, and the two men went to jail for a while. My Mom promptly wrote to them, baked them cookies, and went to the prison to pray with them. To this day, I’ve wondered how those two did after they were released; how Mom’s rehab worked out for them.

    Be Well,

    — Added by PGonzales on December 19th, 2009

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