Thursday, December 05, 2013

I read Cry, the Beloved Country around the same time most people do--maybe 9th, 10th grade. In Wuthering Heights Catherine Earnshaw says, "I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind." At some point I adopted that as the best way of explaining the books that come to you just when you need them and forever alter the alignment of your brain, and Cry, the Beloved Country was just that kind. It was the first time I had heard of apartheid and it came to me as I was starting to realize for myself the startling breadth of injustice and hurt in the world. And so it was subsequently because of Alan Paton that I read about Nelson Mandela and started thinking deeply about the startling breadth of kindness and light that is also possible in the world. This is the side that I have tried to fall on ever since, and part of what led me to this life as a public servant.

I spend a lot more time thinking about South Africa these days than one would think, but I work in HIV prevention research and that is one of our battlefronts. It's one of those funny through lines that happen in life all the time, how I spend half of my days thinking about this place that was so abstract to me as a young teenager but still, for a while, a place that I spent half my time thinking about. Like wine through water.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

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