The 5 Lessons I Learned From Madiba

Nelson Mandela motivational quote

There are many magical places in the world, spaces where nature and time seem to have a place of their own. Where the earth is so fertile that even the people living there seem to draw energy out of it and where time has a different pace and a deeper meaning. For what is a man’s life, but a stepping stone on which his children’s lives and his grandchildren’s lives are built upon.

 Such a man, with a spirit as fertile as the rolling hills of his native land and a will power as inexhaustible as the wind’s, was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man upon which a whole new nation was built.

This tall man with a bright, friendly smile and colourful shirts walked with the crowds and stood near the kings, listened to by all. Always one to speak of forgiveness, of dialogue and freedom, he had been an inspiration for many. Here are a few of the lessons he had taught us.

1. Focus on your goals and keep on going.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela.

For the most of his life, Mandela fought to bring an end to apartheid. This was his life goal and although achieved through heart ache and much sacrifice, Mandela never gave up. Staying focused on your goal is a vital skill for a leader. By doing so, Mandela was able to keep the fight for freedom going and to keep a whole nation focused and fighting for the same goal.

2. If difficulties arise along the way, don’t avoid them, face them.

It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela.

Never lose hope on pursuing your dream. If something stands between you and your goal, be it health, hardship or discomfort, work out a strategy but keep your morals and work ethic intact. Accept the difficulty as it arises, all the time remembering that it will go away – or that you can make it go away. It is okay to sometimes feel sorry for yourself, but don’t procrastinate, step back and think of a solution.

3. Be kind and forgiving.

“If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” – Nelson Mandela

When harm is done by a group of people, the individuals in that particular group seldom take responsibility for their own actions. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, yet when he was released he spoke of forgiveness.

By forgiving, we open our hearts to compassion. Research has shown that compassion makes our heart rate slows down, thus helping us focus which in turn helps us better understand other’s actions and finding the answers and clarity we need.

4. Let go of your past, you CAN do better.

“Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela had many reasons to stay bitter, yet he stepped away from answering violence with conflict. He chose closure and to share his experiences as well as to learn from others. He opted for negotiation and reconciliation instead.

The past cannot be changed, it is over; it isn’t who or what you are anymore. Rather look at your past as something you had to overcome to become a better you. And then stop thinking about it. Focus on the present by trying to be a better you as this will only improve your future.

5. Education is for all, but it involves responsibility.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela was an active and curious learner throughout his life. From the informal, oral and tribal teachings of his childhood which most probably gave him his democratic leadership style, to the formal, law schooling later on and his political education, Mandela never ceased to learn. Be it from books or as from those around him, through dialogue or by listening, through self-reflection and by observing the times and the masses, he was a life-long learner.

Mandela never took education for granted, for education is a give and a get undertaking. It is being offered and it should be available to all, but one must also assume the obligations and the responsibilities that come with being educated; learn, ask questions, think, communicate, respect your school and your teachers.

This article was initially published on the Huffington Post SA.

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HuffPostSA

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5 Medical Symptoms Named After Literary Characters

Fairy tales may be full of charm and enchantment but they certainly provide valuable lessons. Identifying oneself with heroes from literary works is a healthy stage in one’s childhood as children’s imagination is one of the ways in which Mother Nature protects them from the harsh realities of daily life.

The tricky part arises when adults find themselves tied up to literature, whether they like it or not, as several physical and mental disorders are named after literary characters. Here’s a look at five of them:

  1. Sleeping Beauty Syndrome
Sleeping Beauty painting by Victor Gabriel Gilbert
Sleeping Beauty painting by Victor Gabriel Gilbert

 

 

 

 

 

This classic fairy tale, first told by Charles Perrault (17th century), retold by the Brothers Grimm (18th century) and made popular by Disney, is much loved by one generation after the other. The medical condition is also known as Rip Van Winkle Syndrome, after the title of a short story written by Washington Irving (19th century).

 Without even going into the symbolism hidden inside this story and leaving aside the medical and hygienic implications of a human body asleep for 100 years, let’s just look into the neurological syndrome named after it. Also known as the Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS), named after the medical doctors to have first mentioned and studied it, its first known case was reported in 1862.

This condition is characterised by frequent episodes of hypersomnia and behavioural disturbances. Individual episodes last more than a week, but less than a month. A normal lifestyle is out of the question as these patients tend to be bedridden. Patients experience approximately 20 recurrent episodes during more than a decade. Unlike the fairy tale that borrowed its name, the condition seems to affect predominantly male patients (68 percent) worldwide. It is a very rare disease, occurring one in a million. The onset of the condition seems to follow a viral infection. There is no known cure yet.

2. Munchausen Syndrome

The Baron Munchausen, illustrated by Gottfried Franz.
The Baron Munchausen, illustrated by Gottfried Franz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favourite stories as a child was that of The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen by German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe (1785), based on true stories of a real baron.

The medical condition itself has nothing to do with the social satire depicted in the fairy tale, but rather with a desperate call for sympathy. The patients suffering from Munchausen Syndrome are not sick, but fake the symptoms in front of family and doctors, often secretly injuring themselves to maintain the illusion of illness. The Munchausen Syndrome is a mental disorder caused by childhood trauma, poor self-esteem, emotional or personal disorders. More common in men than women, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics because lying is very common with this illness.

3. Dorian Gray Syndrome (DGS)

Portrait Of Dorian Gray painting by Mercuralis
Portrait Of Dorian Gray painting by Mercuralis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This medical condition is named after the classical story by Oscar Wilde in which the main character sells his soul to keep his youthful appearance and beauty until the very last moment of his life. The patient suffering from this condition will be overly preoccupied with keeping his/her young look and a “perfect” appearance.

Dysmorphophobia, or excessive dislike of a part of one’s body, will often manifest, therefore these patients will abuse cosmetic surgery to the point where depression sets in. In addition, they will often abuse weight-loss products, mood enhancers and even their gym membership card. A sufferer of DGS shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although a lack of self-esteem or a narcissistic personality might be the cause, the syndrome itself often conducts to physical disorders as well as causing social and mental health issues (depression, even suicide).

4. Othello Syndrome

The_Return of Othello, from Othello,_Act_II,_Scene_ii painting by Thomas Stothard
The_Return of Othello, from Othello,_Act_II,_Scene_ii painting by Thomas Stothard

 

 

 

 

 

Named after the main character in the Shakespeare tragedy ‘Othello”, the patient affected by this malady lives with the constant obsession that their life partner is cheating on them. Psychiatrists John Todd and Kenneth Dewhurst were the first to name and study this mental disorder in 1955.

Within limits, jealousy is a normal human feeling. But when it leads to repeated interrogations of one’s partner, searches for nonexistent evidence, stalking, even violence, it becomes a “dangerous form of psychosis” (Todd).

The Othello Syndrome is believed to be caused by a stroke, a tumour, or some other injury, especially to the right frontal lobe but also by substance abuse like dopamine prescribed in the treatment of Parkinson disease. Alcoholism and cocaine abuse can also lead to the onset of Othello Syndrome. Not to be taken lightly, this syndrome can affect both men and women and it can lead to disruption of marriage, homicide or suicide.

5. Peter Pan Syndrome

Peter Pan
Peter Pan

 

 

 

 

Named after the main character in the book with the same name by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie, it was first made popular by Dr. Dan Kiley in 1983. This syndrome defines men who refuse to act like grown-ups and assume responsibilities. They prefer to live in a juvenile world, are enthusiastic and like to have fun, but never settle down in a relationship because they dislike restrictions. They lack decision making skills and the ability to assume responsibilities. To disguise this, they act overconfident and arrogant. Women found in the same situation are affected by the Wendy Syndrome.

These people, although having developed intellectually and having above average IQ’s, have not developed emotionally past adolescence. The main cause is, probably, a lack of affection during childhood. With the aid of psychotherapy these people can learn to overcome their fears, to assume responsibilities and lead a fulfilled, grown-up life. However, this is not a mental disorder. The Peter Pan Syndrome is closely linked to Carl Jung’s theory of “Puer Aeternus” (eternal boy).

A similar syndrome is the Huckleberry Finn Syndrome, named after the main character in the Mark Twain novel. Developing in children due to a feeling of being rejected by their parents, feeling inferior in school or due to depression, it seems to be a defense mechanism. It manifests by a desire to do anything but go to school; these children will waste their time on the streets or playing computer games. Moving into the grown-up stage of life, these children might be at risk of frequent job changing and absenteeism.

Initially written and published on the Huffington Post SA 28 June 2017

Huffington Post SA
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Kindle Storyteller 2017 Contest Entry “Joyful Trouble” and Some of the Best Book Reviews it Received

Joyful Trouble

I am overjoyed to announced the release of my new children’s book Joyful Trouble just in time to enter it in the 2017 Kindle Storyteller Contest with amazing reviews from all over the world, the best ones written by children!

Here is one of my favorite book reviews:Joyful Trouble Review by 10 years old E from Ireland

Joyful Trouble Book Review by 10 years old E from Ireland 

Talented E, 10 years old from Ireland, left the following 5 Stars Amazon Review:

” This book is based on the true story of a dog called Joyful Trouble. There are three main characters: five year-old Tommy, his nine-year-old sister Anna, and their grandad. When they see a Great Dane in a parade, Grandad tells the kids the story of a dog he loved, called Joyful Trouble. He remembers being in the Navy during WWII and meeting the dog on the way to work one day.

Joyful Trouble was a mischievous but very helpful dog. The seamen got to know and love him and the dog was soon part of the crew. Joyful Trouble and Grandad were good friends and were put to work together. Along the way, the dog meets new friends, loses old ones and still is very happy. He causes a lot of trouble (that’s how he got his name) but also stops fights and commotion. In this book, Grandad is the story-teller and Anna and Tommy are the very eager listeners.

I love this book and it made me happy and, at some parts, sad. It is also a bit funny. The reason I love it so much is because I love dogs and true stories. I hope others will also enjoy it. I would recommend it for ages 8+.”

Thank you, E! Your heartfelt review is exactly what a writer strives towards 🙂

Joyful Trouble: Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy

Available in Kindle and Paperback from Amazon.

Read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling.
A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
Proven to warm your heart, “Joyful Trouble” is a fast-paced, engaging and funny story.
Patricia Furstenberg paints a charming portrait of the bond between a small girl and boy and their much-loved Grandad. This book takes readers on an unbelievable journey, tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.
When a Great Dane arrives in a Navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this four-legged gentle giant?
A charming celebration of innocence.

***From the back cover of the print edition:***

“A superb tale which teaches us the true meaning of love, integrity, and the greatest things of all – a dog’s friendship and loyalty.” Susan Day Author, astrosadventuresbookclub.com

“Nine-year-old Ana and her little brother Tommy are taken on an historical adventure by their grandfather. It is the true story of an exceptional and gentle giant. Experiences that draw the reader in, through touching life lessons about courage, determination, resilience, loyalty, civic duty, empathy, history and a friendship that binds beyond human conception. ‘Grandpa looking into Ana’s eyes—said, ‘You must remember this. Determination and faith Ana, will always get you through tough times. Always.’” Jennifer Campana Lopez, TheJennieration.com – A New Generation of Fearless Thinkers & Learners.

The Storyteller contest is open until 19th May 2017 to budding and established authors.

 

 

 

 

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Spilling The Beans: Why #PayWithAPoem Day Is For Everyone

The Poet-Tree, Robert Montgomery
The Poet-Tree, Robert Montgomery
The Poet-Tree, Robert Montgomery

Spilling The Beans: Why #PayWithAPoem Day Is For Everyone

Take me to Croatia on the 21st of March! I only need 12 hours. I need this time to feed my soul and my body; poetry for the soul, coffee for the body. And if not Croatia, then fly me to Turkey, UK or Romania!

On this day only one can pay with a poem for one’s cup of coffee.

Would you do it?

Did you know that one in five people believe poetry is for professional writers only?

Poetry excites the mind and enlightens the soul. You could say: “Whoa, Babe, poetry ahead!” or “Yay! Poetry!” Either way your eye acknowledged it and your mind engaged with it and your heart, most probably, slowed down its pace. “I know this”, it pulsed. “It is my language.” Because poetry is the universal language of our hearts.

Pay With A Poem Day is a fresh, new approach on literature. In 1999 UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared March 21 World Poetry Day, celebrating writing, publishing, reading and teaching of poetry worldwide, as UNESCO says, to give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.

Pay With A Poem Day has been initiated in 2013 by the Viennese manufacturer and coffee retailer Julius Meinl and all participating coffee sites are supported by a global campaign. If not lucky enough to be in a participating country on the 21st of March, you can follow it on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #PayWithAPoem and #PoetryForChange.

In 2016 over 250 cafes around Croatia gave FREE coffee in exchange for a… poem, 34 countries from around the world, 1 300 coffee houses where over 100 000 poems have been written! This year four continents will be joining in this brewing frenzy – with Netherlands and Singapore taking part for the first time.

From a bartering point of view, does this mean that a poem is worth a cup of coffee? If so, then I would definitely like to know how many cups of coffee is Karen Blixen’s Our Of Africa worth. How about Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None? Christie was a teetotaler. How many tea cups had she consumed until its completion? 500? 1,000?

How about Farewell To Arms?

Pay With A Poem Day does put book prices in a different perspective. And considering just the coffee price today, picking up a book at your local bookstore suddenly seems like a bargain.

Feeling uneasy about that poem? Two genres of short poetry come to mind for this fantastic occasion.

  • Write a Haiku.

Traditionally Japanese a Haiku is a 17 syllables verse formed of three lines with 5-7-5 syllables. Usually a Haiku is inspired by nature. Keep it short and count your syllables.

  • Write poetry of your own heart.

Just put pen on paper smile and listen to your heartbeat.

What Coffee is to Poetry by Patricia Furstenberg

Coffee is brewed for all of my sense,

Hot, steamy like a heart

Pulsating into my cup.

Nurturing me,

Giving me life

Day in and day out.

Poetry grows like a tree of life,

Words covering the nakedness of its trunk.

Cover my heart,

Fuel my emotions.

Coffee and poetry

For eternity.

Pay With A Poem Day around the world

London

A visual image for #PayWithAPoem day is The PoeTree. A red tree trunk with leafs of poems written all over the world on this singular day and planted right in the heart of London, on the pavement on Finsbury Avenue Square.

“We need poetry as much as we need nature. We need it to repopulate the places devoid of emotion with our dreams and our imagination. Poems can change our days for the better. They did it on March 21st. They are doing it now, once again.” (Robert Montgomery, Pay With A Poem global ambassador and artist.)

Milan

A bridge over Navigli River is draped in poems and thoughts written by coffee lovers. Imagine strolling under the Italian sun, taking in the sights and sounds of history, your heartbeat slowing down. The fresh aroma of coffee rises teasingly when a gush of wind makes the bridge hum, a low hum of paper being tossed and turned like the pages of an open book, spread out, invitingly waiting for you. Go ahead, read it, it’s ok, it is La Dolce Vita.

Lucchetti? …no grazie, POESIE!#poesia#emozioni#pontenaviglio#Milano#paywithapoemhttps://t.co/kzqg4oIQHApic.twitter.com/Ln7YxlCvTT

— Patrizia Franzina (@LaPatty1) May 4, 2016

Because POETRY is for EVERYONE.

It is as much mine and yours as it is Shelley’s or Frost’s. POETRY is not a past tense, poetry is NOW, contemporary and ALIVE.

“I love how Pay With A Poem provides a little pocket of freedom, where money is replaced by poetry. Instead of using a banknote or a credit card people can transfer value to poetry, and use it as an alternative form of payment.” (Robert Montgomery)

There’s more to look forward to as Julius Meinl also initiated the Meet With A Poem campaign on the 1st of October:

“An experiment to rewrite the way we show our feelings”

Just go ahead, put your heart on paper and write that poem. I know I will.

This article was written for and initially published on the Huffington Post SA on 21st March 2017.

Huffington Post SA
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