Positive Light In A Dark Negative World

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I recently took my family to Sydney to experience the New Year’s celebrations. With the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the major centrepiece to the magical firework experience, our eyes feasted on the colours and our ears delighted to the sounds of a spectacular fireworks display that ushered the millions who either watched the event live or by television into yet another brand new year. Though I must say that to see it live was an exhilarating experience.

As part of our time in Sydney we also decided to spend our last day in ‘The Rocks’ area of the city. And within that historical area we stumbled across an art gallery called the ‘Touch of Mandela’. To our surprise and utter delight we discovered within the gallery a limited edition of sketches and original lithographs created and designed by Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and recognised as one of the world’s greatest statesmen, spent 27 years imprisoned as a direct result of his efforts to ensure the freedom of all men and women in South Africa. Eighteen of those years were spent in brutal conditions on Robben Island: an ex-naval base that would later become a penal colony and dumping ground for those the South African government labelled dissidents.

Released on 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela left Robben Island to become not only the president of the recently unbanned African National Congress, but also, on 10 May 1994, the first black president of South Africa.

The ‘Touch of Mandela’ Gallery – http://www.touchofmandela.com.au – features the artworks by the world’s most famous pensioner and Aids activist.

The artworks celebrate a time of struggle – exemplary of an icon who can reach out to a nation to give hope, freedom and above all, a legacy to be enjoyed by all.

“Today when I look at Robben Island,” Mandela states, “I see it as a celebration of the struggle and a symbol of the finest qualities of the human spirit, rather than as a monument to the brutal tyranny and oppression of apartheid. It is true that Robben Island was once a place of darkness, but out of that darkness has come a wonderful brightness, a light so powerful that it could not be hidden behind prison walls … I have attempted to colour the island sketches in ways that reflect the positive light in which I view it.”

He adds, “This is what I would like to share with people around the world … that even the most fantastic dreams can be achieved if we are prepared to endure life’s challenges.”

Reflecting on the latest Tsunami disaster in Asia and as I once again considered this great man’s struggle, I wanted to bring to you something that would bring hope in a time of great world despair, light in a dark period of our world’s history and paint a fresh, positive colourful statement onto the canvas of your personal world that is so often splashed by a brush of dark negativity.

So what lessons can be drawn from this great man?

Let me share my interpretation of FIVE powerful points that I have gained from studying Nelson Mandela’s life; the man who knew suffering and deprivation and yet attained his dream in his lifetime. He forged a fresh and new destiny for millions in his own country and continues to inspire billions throughout the entire world.

1. Fantastic Dreams Can Be Achieved If We Are Prepared To Endure Life’s Challenges

It’s the stuff of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. “IMPOSSIBLE!” is the resounding word sprouted amongst those who are the oppressors. And yet the seed of a dream transfixed in the depths of the heart of one man can transform an entire society. It happened thousands of years ago and it happened in South Africa at the end of the 20th century. And it will happen in Tibet. It will also happen again and again in lands where people are oppressed, as long as there is at least one person who is willing to dream. For there is no oppression that can hold back the fulfilment of a person’s dream for freedom.

What do you do with a man who stated at his 1961 treason trial: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities…if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” That one speech alone heralded the demise of his oppressors. And as surely as this great man’s dreams were fulfilled, so too can your dreams come to pass if you are prepared to endure. Remember, it quite often takes twenty years to become an overnight success.

2. View The Negative In A Positive Light

There is no escaping the negative. However, by viewing them in a positive light, the power of every negative and its oppressive hold over your life can be dissipated in an instant. That is why in his Robben Island Series; Nelson Mandela has used bright colours that “reflect the positive light” in which he viewed his experience of 18 year’s imprisonment in that place.

And as W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill wrote in their book ‘Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude’: “Every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” The harder we look into the shell of a negative experience we will soon discover a pearl of great value.

3. Never Take Another Human Being And Their Friendship Or Their Love For Granted

“The courtyard was an unfriendly, empty and barren place. It was a sombre reminder of where I was.” recalls Mandela. “From the beginning of my imprisonment I asked to start a garden in the courtyard, to change this sad looking place. After years of refusing my request, we were finally given permission to plant a small garden on a narrow patch of earth against a wall. Being able to plant and nurture life in this prison courtyard offered me a sense of freedom and satisfaction that is hard to put into words even today. A garden is one of the few things in prison that one could control.”

“A powerful memory that I have is of a beautiful tomato that I cozed from tiny seed to tender seedling to a strong plant that gave plump bright red juicy tomatoes, but despite my efforts to plant began to wither and die and nothing we did would heal it. When it died I took it carefully from the soil, washed its roots and carried it in a corner of the garden. It would again remind me of the hopelessness I felt at being unable to nourish other relationships in my life. It made me realise the beauty, simplicity and sacred value of family, of loved ones or friends. I swore to myself that I would never take another human being and their friendship or their love for granted ever again.”

4. Persistence Pays Off

“In 1977 forced manual labour was increased after we maintained a two year go-slow strike. We asked to do something more useful with our day instead of the monotony of mining lime and stone from the quarries. This action however robbed us of the opportunity to exercise, and after much effort we convinced the wardens to allow us to convert the courtyard into a tennis court. Prior to this, the prisoners were marched round and round the courtyard for half an hour every day.”

“Our persistence paid off and we painted the cement courtyard surface to create a traditional tennis court layout. Being able to exercise one’s mind and body through play was immensely freeing. Playing tennis and attending to my gardening became my two favourite hobbies. It was a strange sensation enjoying such civilised hobbies in such an uncivilised place. It caused me to reflect the strange and perverse nature of opportunities where they wrongly thought that one people’s freedom could only be enjoyed at the expense and oppression of others.”

Persist, persist, and persist.

5. A Quest For Righteousness Can Never Be Repressed

In Mandela’s Struggle Series he drew a series of hands. Mandela says, “I drew hands because they are powerful instruments. Hands can hurt or heal, punish or uplift. They can also be bound. But a quest for righteousness can never be repressed.”

And so too is this true for each and every one of us. Choose to do what is right and use your hands for that which seeks only the good of others. Serve others, always showing them love and respect and you will reap the positive benefits that will arise from your actions.

May your hands be giving hands, ever seeking to give only that which is best to others. For in your giving you will be the recipient of so much more. Pursue your own quest for righteousness in all of your daily affairs, both in personal interaction and in all your business dealings.

Darkness’ power is always pierced by a slither of light called hope.

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