[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
See also: Henry Rollins: The Glorious Cold
With only two more shooting days to go, I am almost wrapped on He Never Died. Soon, I will be staggering onto a jet and returning to Los Angeles.
It has been one of the best work experiences I have ever had and has given me a lot to think about. We were in the middle of the day when we got word that Nelson Mandela had died. There was a pause as the news sunk in, but soon work resumed, as it had to.
It is a sad passing, but everyone has to go sometime. I am glad he got so many years, post-incarceration, to enjoy his freedom and stand as an example of strength. As you may recall from a previous column here, a few years ago I was able to turn the pages of Nelson Mandela's first passport after his release from prison. He took quite the victory lap. Rarely can a person be such a single point of light for such a huge part of human history and, with one voice, speak for so many.
Unsurprisingly, Nelson Mandela had and still has many detractors. This is a fact that should not go unnoticed, because I think there's a lesson in it for everyone.
After his passing, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly noted that while Mandela was “a great man,” he was also a communist. While O'Reilly provided no evidence to the communist claim, his checked-swing tribute is really not what's important. I have no idea if O'Reilly and others who give Nelson Mandela the thumbs-down are aware of what was happening in South Africa in the time leading up to Mandela's incarceration.
See also: Henry Rollins: Nelson Mandela's Legacy
Like almost every major historical event, context is of the utmost importance when trying to connect the dots. I am not a history teacher, and it's up to you to do your own research. There's a lot to know about apartheid-era South Africa. I am a fair way into David Welsh's massive book, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, which I bought in South Africa a few years ago. It is dizzying to try to arrange what was in place there at the time, what other countries' political leaders made of apartheid, and South Africa's place in the world — and what they did or didn't do. The Bang-Bang Club by Greg Marinovich and João Silva is an eye-opening read on the subject, as is A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela.
The museums and exhibits available for visitation in some South African cities are incredibly powerful and allow some valuable perspective. Just walking around in modern-day Soweto in Johannesburg is moving. I have made four trips to the country and always schedule time to learn more about its history when I am there.
As to the lesson to be learned, in the days since the passing of Nelson Mandela, I have been thinking a lot about time management and how important it is for me to get things done. After all, Mandela's legacy has come under attack and been marginalized, such as when Rick Santorum, when commenting on Bill O'Reilly's show, equated the “great injustice” Mandela was fighting against with “a great injustice going on right now in this country, with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives. And Obamacare is front and center in that.” When something like that is happening, there's not a lot of time to worry about what others think about what you're doing.
Thankfully, you or I will probably never have to put a fraction of our asses on the line for what we believe in, or pay the price that Mandela did. This is perhaps one of the reasons why millions of people all over the world hold the man in such high regard. It is also the reason his legacy will also be met with acrimony.
What, you don't think John Wilkes Booth has fans who are still breathing? They send me letters. From 11/02/13:
“Come on man, Booth was a hero, Lincoln was a freak!!! Don't be so blind. I used to really like you.”
Again, the point is made. No matter what you accomplish or get put through, there will always be someone there to remind you that you're not all that much. They're right, you know.
So what do you do about that? The next thing. And then the next, and so on. If criticism, good, bad or otherwise, is inevitable, that tells you all you need to know about how much time to spend dwelling on it.
As monumental as Mandela was, mortality did the same thing to him that it's going to do to you and me. If anything, Mandela's life is a lesson that there is not one bloody second to be wasted. The idea of “killing time” is repellent to me. You will never kill time — it kills you.
Speaking for myself, I am not all that interested in what I did, unless I can learn from the countless mistakes I made. I am only interested in what I am doing and what I plan to do next. That's it — that's what I live for. Doing is the greatest motivator and antidepressant in my arsenal to kick my ass off the couch.
This no-budget film I am currently working on is completely interesting to me, and working to exhaustion on it is like winning the lottery. We are the Thor Heyerdahl gang, building our own Kon-Tiki and dragging it to the sea!
The film's reception is of little importance to me. If I had to live my life in anticipation of what others thought of me, little would get done.
We are doing this, and this is what we are doing. We roar in the totality of that.
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