“All of his selves and words and decisions were an enactment of the enduring nation he meant to live in some day.”

His improvisations were far more gifted than most, in part because of his disciplined approach to political selfhood. That’s the thing that made Mandela’s strategy and his adaptations stand out. All of his selves and words and decisions were an enactment of the enduring nation he meant to live in some day. I think that is the difference between him and many of his nationalist contemporaries who ascended to power in newly independent African states between 1960 and 1990. (This, too, needs remembering today: Mandela came to nationalism in the same historical moment as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda, and so on.) The difference is that Mandela was always looking through the struggle to its ultimate ends, whereas most of the nationalists could see little further than the retreat of the colonial powers from the continent and the defeat of any local political rivals.

From “Be Nelson Mandela”, h/t Making Light.

Twelve Tones, or, finding shapes in the noise

This is the most… beautiful? existentialist? and therefore beautiful? thing I’ve seen about creating art in recent memory. (Thanks to my boyfriend, who pointed it out to me.)

It’s a nice reminder what the more abstract purpose is, when I’m busy being frustrated at perfectly normal annoyances in the life of a writer. It’s good for my fragile little writer ego that I get pulled out of the minutia to look at the stars once in a while, and maybe it is for yours too.

“‘You have to allow yourself to open up until you are the exact size of the place you live, no more, or else you get restless. No less, or else you drown.'”

She had enough here—had that not been the purpose of this house,
these hives, this place so near to her moss-blanketed father? To have
enough, to grow precisely large enough for this place and no larger?

[…]

She has grown too big for herself, that is all. Terrible things
occur when you outgrow the space allotted to you. You cannot really
circumnavigate Fairyland like September did, not really. It’s too big
for you.

[…]

“Living alone,” November whispered, “is a skill, like running long
distance or programming old computers. You have to know parameters,
protocols. You have to learn them so well that they become like a
language: to have music always so that the silence doesn’t overwhelm
you, to perform your work exquisitely well so that your time is
filled. You have to allow yourself to open up until you are the exact
size of the place you live, no more, or else you get restless. No
less, or else you drown. There are rules; there are ways of being and
not being. This sort of thing,” she gestured imprecisely at the room,
the bed, him, “is forbidden. It expands or contracts me, I’m not sure
which, beyond the … set limitts. I’m not good at that, either.
Expanding, contracting.”

Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente

Today in Other People’s Lives

I’m feeling painfully anti-social today, so here’s an article about a gay couple who found their son in the subway:

Three months later, Danny appeared in family court to give an account of finding the baby. Suddenly, the judge asked, “Would you be interested in adopting this baby?” The question stunned everyone in the courtroom, everyone except for Danny, who answered, simply, “Yes.”

“But I know it’s not that easy,” he said.

People are forever more complicated and more wonderful than we give them credit for.