There isn’t much of a connection between Nelson Mandela and Brian Wilson, aside from the fact that Brian commented on the occasion on his Facebook page, and that they are two of the people who I most admire. But as a South African, it would be remiss of me not to pay remembrance to Mandela on this blog.
Indeed, my life would have been very different without Mandela’s compassion and forgiveness at a critical time in South Africa’s history. While South Africa today is by no means a perfect society, what South Africa would be without the negotiated settlement in 1994 and the spirit of reconciliation from Mandela is, in the words of a much less loved South African politician “too ghastly to contemplate.”
I had two personal encounters with Mandela. One was in 1990, shortly after his release, when we both happened to be in the departure area of Port Elizabeth airport. He was giving out autographs then, and I managed to get one, hence the attached picture. It is a mark of the man that he was able to sign autographs at such a critical time -and that he was even out in public. A few years later, when he was President of South Africa, I saw him going out for an evening stroll -again , he was giving out autographs and had time for the crowd gathering around me.
And so, Mandela passes away in December, which becomes even more a month of remembrance. My late parents were both born in this month, my dad passed on the 11th December 1979. For Beach Boys fans, Carl and Dennis were born in this month, and Dennis passed away on 28 December 1983. And Lennon was assassinated just under 23 years ago.
So the end of the year, the end of a massively influential life, time for reflection. There is sadness, but also celebration, and a sense of responsibility not to waste the legacy. We still have the warmth of the sun -let it never burn out.