One of the great men of our time has passed from among us... but not before making it possible for all of us to become better human beings: and it is that which truly defines greatness.
Like many Americans and world citizens, I too felt the conviction that no race had an inherent right to oppress another race, and so in the ways that I could, I joined in the fight against apartheid: and it was the force of a world united that the brutal government of white South Africa finally yielded and set Mandela free and all the people that he represented. To read his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom" is to be baptized into the revolutionary possibilities of hope, struggle, and justice: everyone who can read should / must read this book!
Having made my way "around the block" quite a number of times now, I find the myths that we men live by profoundly interesting. Perhaps for most of us, we dedicate the first twenty to thirty years of our lives in "building our towers": the myths by which we choose to live. Crammed into these "towers" are our childhood memories -- dominated by our relationship with our own father and / or father figures; our evolving belief systems; our chosen means to the ends of our goals; and, lastly, our interpretation of our mothers. While building our "towers", perhaps most of us establish our "family" -- including intimate relationships, friends, comrades, etc. For someone like Vice President Dick Cheney, his "tower" included a vigorous belief in the rightness of American domination on the world political and economic stage: dominance, in his mind's eye, also meant acceptance of all the associations that maintained this absolute priority: hence his complete support of the structures that allowed for the conviction of Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. (Never mind that "the shot heard round the world" was fired by men not in uniform, in hiding, who fired upon soldiers defending "British" soil and celebrated American revolutionaries like General Francis Marion -- known as the "Swamp Fox" for his effective combat methods of terrorist attacks on the British and fleeing capture by hiding in the swamps of the Carolinas -- could, by Cheney's definition be considered criminals.) Fanaticism is the hallmark of the "tower-builders": one sees it all the time in manic sport affiliations, politics, business, and the "lap-dog-person's" pursuit of power: and most of those the world over who have been considered "prophets" were men in the "tower-building" phase of life: how many seventy-plus year old men have bothered to found a new religion? The sage has de-constructed his tower and learned there are at least a few better things to do than to start a religion: or to kill for one.
The closer that one gets to erecting the "tower" of his youthful dreams -- in other words, the closer one gets to accessing the power that one's station affords -- the greater the impossibility of doing any "tower de-construction": for then the myths that one has chosen to live by have become far more important than people or any one person. These men are the most dangerous men in the world. Old men in old institutions are so used to viewing the world from their towers that those not in the towers are "the rabble", "the uninformed", the "unenlightened" and are always expendable. Men like Cheney, Ratzinger, Trump, and the Koch brothers are just a few of the faces known to us: but there are "tower-brokers" in every clime and culture. But this is precisely what makes Nelson Mandela so important as an example to everyone, men in particular. Twenty-seven years in prison effected his "tower de-construction" has little else could have: and when he walked out of prison a free man, he chose the deep interior freedom of leaving all hate behind and for the rest of his life offered his hand and life in the works of reconciliation. Mandela's "Long Walk to Freedom" is many things, but perhaps none so important as a "working manual on growing up", written by a sage who built his tower, saw it forcibly taken down, and emerged from the rubble a true human being: we should all be so blessed.
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.