I love films that make me think.
Don’t get me wrong, I also love films where I don’t have to think, where I am open-mouthed or on the edge of my seat. But, when push comes to shove, my favourite films are poignant and have a touch of pathos. I guess it is because they are about real life, rather than momentarily escaping into another world.
Usually these films are about circumstances that are beyond my own experience, but I can identify, at least in part, with some of the characters – good or bad.
I recently saw “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” It didn’t make the Oscars, but what a film! Idris Elba and Naomie Harris were brilliant.
It is based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, chronicling his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild South Africa’s segregated society.
Although I have black and white South African friends who lived through those times and tell me their stories, and yes I saw the 1990 Mandela Wembley Concert (albeit on TV!), the events the film portrays were a world apart for me. The issues, however, still pervade every tribe and nation.
What really surprised me, however, was that the person I came away thinking about most was Winnie Mandela. I came away reflecting “I can understand, in part, why you did what you did.” A lot of those things I would oppose, but I felt that I had an appreciation for the first time.
The second thing occurred to me was how the two key characters underwent similar, unspeakably dreadful, circumstances and yet one seemed to come through them better, but the other one bitter.
Why was that?
I don’t pretend to have the full answer, but a substantial part was the use of a phrase…”But I want something more.”
When questioned whether he would take revenge if he gained power, Nelson Mandela replied:
“I admit I want revenge, BUT I WANT SOMETHING MORE than that…… and that is to live without fear andhatred.”
By saying “but I want something more” he acknowledged his natural human feelings and responses to a situation, but the desire for something better. His response acknowledged the circumstance, but also the ability to choose something more. It acknowledged the wrong that had been committed, but opted for the right.
Our choices, not our situation, determine our character.
President Abraham Lincoln said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
We can also take a view from U.S. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf: “Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
Fascinating observations on power, strategy and character.
Returning to the theme…..what is your “But I want something more.”? And what does that choice say about your character?
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