On Writing

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

– Winston Churchill

A memory of a visit to Robben Island

Like so many others around the world, I respected Nelson Mandela.  And like so many, I mourn his passing and am thankful for his life and his contributions.

I thought about Mandela intensely one day each year, on his birth date: July 18.  It is also the date of my birth.   For dozens of years I’ve read about this man who had become icon, and watched the documentaries and film’s about his actions, sacrifices and triumphs and marveling at his grace and commitment.


So, when I visited Cape Town, South Africa in 2001 as part of a delegation of international public television professionals, I took time away from the conference I was attending to visit Robben Island.  There I stood in the prison courtyard and heard the guide’s description of Mandela’s days working in the lime quarry of this isolated locale.  Cape Town and Table Mountain were visible in the distance but separated by waters that were shark-infested and treacherous with currents.   And I stood at his cell.  A tiny space that ultimately could not confine the gigantic spirit of the intellectual and warrior that Mandela was.

Amandla! Madiba.  Rest in Peace.