During the course of the impeachment process against President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela paid a visit to the White House in support of his friend. Mandela believed that the whole process was a politically-inspired witch-hunt, and wanted to give Clinton his support. The kernel of the message was one Mandela had learned during his imprisonment at the height of Apartheid’s turbulence. During the early years of imprisonment, Mandela had found himself consumed with hate for those who had imprisoned him. They had taken away his liberty, taken his family, all his possessions, and his dignity, and left him breaking rocks. It was at that moment that he realised that there were two things his captors could never take from him: his mind and his heart. This discovery released Mandela in a way that could never be exceeded. It was this piece of advice which he passed on to Clinton in that time. “Never let them take your mind or your heart. Don’t give them away.” During an interview with Andrew Denton last week, Clinton reflected that, in the eyes of the American people, the two years subsequent to this time were the best of his presidency. It seems that he had, in some respects found a new focus – flowing out of his heart and mind.
For many people a catastrophic moment often becomes the source of inspiration for a greater future. Whether it be moral failure, business, marriage or other failure, there is something to be recovered from the loss, something which provides an integral focus and acts as a source of energy for the future. And this regardless of whether the loss was self-inflicted or unjustly imposed. In that sense, Mandela and Clinton both found their hearts and minds amidst catastrophic moments.
There is a huge difference between failing at a particular task, or falling at a particular hurdle, and being a failure. Artist Vincent van Gogh sold only a single painting in his lifetime. Edison’s journey towards the light bulb was littered with ideas in their thousands which did not work. Moses’ life left a murder in its trail, and David’s an adulterous relationship and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband.
Jesus was constantly calling his disciples into line, as the things they treasured: power, fame, influence, constantly affected their actions. “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also,” he told them. After Jesus was crucified, Peter was left with a memory of his last exchange with Jesus – denial. But Jesus taught Peter that it was not the end. Peter ultimately found his heart and his mind – and his treasure. It was revealed on the day of Pentecost.. And the results have lasted to this day.
Where is the treasure of your heart and mind?
July 25, 2004