Mandela died. His life, to me, represents such a strong pull towards origins. An original life. A life that – with whatever relativity or ignominy you want to paint the man – re-membered us all on a more original level, and therefore the (wrong) tendency to turn him into a semi-god. Fortunately Mandela is fully historic – autobiography included – so that there is enough to keep his character humanly grounded. At the same time, his story and person simply managed to transcend so much of our normal pettiness and divisions.
Look “Khoisan” up in Metapedia and you’ll see Mandela referred to as carrying genes of this oldest human culture. In South Africa, we know the Khoisan descendants as “coloureds,” who interbred to quite an extent with Mandela’s ethnic nation – the Xhosa (amongst others). It is no chance that he (and his features) then carry both the emotive spark of this closest group to the original modern humans, as well as the cerebral strength and pride of the cattle-cultured Xhosa, besides of course all the other more specific aspects that formed the man.
Mandela’s death, to me at least, calls forth the question of origins in a time when our collective future is at stake. The times for glorifying (our) origins in terms of some counter-natural impressive event or perfect act is over. That belongs to the era where each isolated clan vied to declare itself the best and the most original. What made Mandela great, was no godliness, but his ability to recognize his own (and others’) human smallness. What caused him to have such a lasting impact, was not one heroic deed or a miraculous feat. No, it was a long walk, evolving step by step, and an acute awareness that the value of the individual cannot be de-linked from the collaboration of the collective.
His example challenges us to engage more deeply with our origins, to find in them the pain of trial and error (no big bang), the insecurity of an open future (no grand design) and especially the meeting point of a complex of strains and tendencies. It is this awareness and understanding that feeds the kind of transcendence Mandela was capable of. It is this kind of origin-ality that brings the individual in balance with the whole and can produce results beyond our fears and narrow imaginations.
Mandela’s life has ended. Fortunately, he was just another human, so we can truly be inspired by it. For we too, are human. And we are the ones still alive.