There are no words for love

When a great man dies, as Nelson Mandela did last night, it is tempting to share your feelings and say what you think about it. You want to honor a great hero, a good man, and an inspiration for our times. Immediately after the news, social media was awash with touching tributes. Memes with Mandela’s face and a quote were hastily assembled and posted.

It is normal human nature to express what we feel, and to a large extent, of course it’s good for us. It helps us stick together and support each other, as the human community that we are.

And it isn’t for me or anyone else, to tell you how to grieve. Grief finds its own expression, unique to each person. Some people crave silence, others need to wail; most of us do both at different stages of our process.

But I want to say please remember, that expression is not the only way to love and honour a man.

Expression is, in fact, one step removed from feeling. It may feel simultaneous, but if you were to slow things down, it would become clear that you cannot fully go inside to connect with feeling, and direct expression outwards, at the same time.

Fully connecting with feeling takes everything you’ve got. It takes your whole heart. It’s why every religion worth its salt emphasises silence and contemplation.

In a subtle way, we in fact often use expression as a way not to feel. It’s a way of keeping ourselves busy, side-stepping reality, while still thinking that – and looking to others like – we are engaging with it.

Today and maybe tomorrow too, I want to lower the flag. I want to honour his memory by feeling fully what his impact on my life was. My heart feels full and overpouring, grateful that he gave himself to us and showed us what a worthwhile life looks like. There are no words for love.

06th December 2013

Comments (3)

  1. Struck a chord with me this. I reacted almost instantaneously with the news that Mandela had passed with a farewell post on Facebook, after sharing the moment of grief directly with Laura. It wasn’t until a few moments after the reading of other posts I the. Started to read more about him. Almost as a doff of the cap as it were, I wanted to grasp more understanding about who was unquestionably a great man. As with all matters Facebook and the opportunity for some to be controversial and incitable, some chose to make reference to his pre-incarceration actions; murderer/terrorist etc were banded about. When to me, they had missed the essence of this man’s life. He was after all, human, and bound to the same imperfect nature to which that entails and applies to us all. He would have been an entirely flawed man had he not grown, enhanced and reflected upon the these times and an overwhelming principle that he championed was the power and grace of forgiveness.
    I wonder what things I would do should my beliefs and soul etched passions be threatened and need fighting for. A terrorist in times gone by, perhaps, but the atrocities of war are often dual sided in conflict and therefore he was also a freedom fighter. His atonement for the past, whether intended or not, have left a legacy of ethnic cohesion, global respect and the hope for harmony. I feel what I can only describe as love for him. I am, in my perhaps my ignorance of those who were possibly effected negatively by his life, in total awe and respect of Nelson Mandela.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I don’t know if I agree completely, but it is definitely something I will think about. Thank you Ms. Livingston

  3. Thank you, a useful reflection

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