Monday, May 14

On Love and Light

I leaned my head back against the the oversized recliner, easing into the luxury experience of a heated massage chair making magic on the tired muscles of my back. The beautiful aesthetician gently lowered my feet, first one and then the other, into the swirling pool of warm water. I would spend the next hour indulging my feet by way of this birthday present from friends. And by way of relaxation I would also be indulging my soul.

I love to have my feet rubbed. Almost nothing compares to the experience for me. It makes me feel completely comforted and loved. Adored even. It is easy to find the source for that feeling. After hours-long rehearsals with bare feet and muscles aching, I would return home to the strong and steady hands of my Daddy. He in turn would spend hours undoing the knots and soothing the pains of this young dancer's body. It was heaven in the experience and is still heaven in the memory of it.

So still it happens that every once in a very great while I treat myself to this very indulgence--an hour in foot rubbing heaven. They are not my Dad's hands, but still they will do. I made the appointment, carried my gift certificate into the Aveda salon, and parked myself in the chair.

As I drifted in and out of the bliss of extravagance, I chatted with the girl at my feet as she rubbed, and scrubbed, and scraped, and dipped, returning my feet to a state of baby-bottom smoothness. And by association melted my stress level to zero.
When the pedicure was complete, but before the happy pink polish on my toes was dry, the technician left me on my own. And with my small cup of strong Dutch coffee as company, I settled in for some quiet reflection time.

That's when it caught my eye.

A wall hanging in the corner of the salon, dyed in black and red with some characters (Chinese?) printed at the top and the bottom of the fabric. Between the characters, this quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God; your playing small doesn't serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

~NELSON MANDELA, inaugural speech, 1994*

Of course, I immediately grabbed the notebook from my purse and scribbled it down.

And I have spent days reflecting upon it.

My first instinct was to simply post the quote here at my blog page and let the discussion take its course.
But I wanted to say my piece as well. After all, the masthead on this blog is my declaration that I have something to say. So really, how could I pass on making a comment of my own?

In honesty, words like these hardly need the support of my own to punch them home. I wonder just how amazing it would be to think so clearly and to speak so succinctly that my words could be worthy of a wall hanging. Alas, my brain doesn't work quite that cleanly.

But I deeply appreciate the thoughts of those whose do.

And this person, these words, this quote, is worthy of reflection. It is right that a quote like this should take your breath away and cause you to pause, ponder and search.

This is truth and beauty. We are each such remarkable creatures, and to feel or state otherwise is to make mockery of the miracle we are. The miracle life is. Or could be if we believed in it.

I have reflected before about the joy of discovering that this world is full of goodness and sweetness and good, good people. In spite of the ugliness that I know is there, I like to focus on the beauty which stands in its shadow. And I like to believe that this very beauty could ultimately triumph.

Allow me to expound.

Ever since I posted my wish list about the "things" we miss from the United States I have been blown away by the outpouring of generosity from friends and strangers new friends offering to fill in the gaps for us. Tenderly written words of encouragement and support as well as offers to send over comfort foods, books, and special treats have arrived at my inbox. Also the exceptionally generous offer from an in-country reader, to drive across Holland to our home, bearing gifts for me. Reading gifts!

I am overwhelmed. Truly. Overwhelmed isn't even the right word.
Touched. Moved. Humbled. Amazed. Astounded. Dazed. Blessed.
Maybe there isn't a word to sum up my feelings of gratitude and awe, but I see the entire experience as, yet again, an affirmation of the goodness of humanity.

I see your light shining.

And I thank you all from the bottom of my very full heart.

Now, discuss amongst yourselves.

*UPDATE to give credit where credit is due. It was pointed out to me by a dear friend and regular reader (Hi M!) that the actual author of this quote is Marianne Williamson, not Mr. Mandela. The research I did points perhaps to the film Akeelah and the Bee as the first redirection of the source as in the film these words are attributed to Mandela. . It seems since then it has taken it's own course, since this wall hanging I saw was clearly attributed in dyed ink to Nelson Mandela. Not that the authorship calls into question at all the power of the words.


  1. Have you read Long Walk to Freedom?

    In my opinion, there are not words to express how inspiring and amazing Mandela really is.

    Also, I think the genuine response that you got from people is a real indicator that the online communities that people are creating now are really communities. Not just an abstract cyberspace full of strangers.

    And it's great!

  2. In my opinion people in cyberspace create a better, warmer world to escape too because the real thing is getting to be too cold and harsh to be endured. Small acts of kindness create a ripple that might become a giant wave oneday, and we all could be standing right there at the beginning.

  3. Jenn--

    Hard to type with tears in my eyes...ok...

    I first read that passage from Mandela's speech last year at a time when I needed to hear it most...and today, I needed to hear it again. Thank you from a man who is having a difficult time shining today.

    Phenomenal post. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful! It's hard to add anything to this beyond an echoing, "Amen!"

  5. Manedela is an amazing man. I did a paper on him, way back in a day, and was fascinated! I am a bit jealous of the pedi, though. This mama is STRESSED! ::hugs::

  6. *discuss discuss discuss*

    I sent that in email to my daughter, who (after me) needed to hear it RIGHT NOW.

    love and hugs
    from one veri veri strange stranger to another...

  7. The glory of of God is indeed within us and we are to be that shining light. Our actions will speak louder than any words, and it is wondeful others have shown you love by their actions. The Light will always prevail over the darkness of this world.
    Thank you for sharing these words.

  8. I read Long Walk to Freedom to prepare for my solo travels in South Africa in 1999. I went to the island prison where Mandela was kept for 18 of the 27 years he was incarcerated for being a terrorist (remember that - he was deemed a terrorist by the government). I saw the dingy cell. I saw the rock quary where the prisoners went every day to break rocks. My eyes hurt after only a few minutes.

    The amount of forgiveness that Mandela and others have shown is staggering and sadly for many beyond comprehension. How we in the United States could learn to grow beyond pain and humiliation.

    Also, Ladysmith Black Mamabazo did a lovely song called Long Walk to Freedom.


    Have you seen Akeeluh and the Bee? (not positive on the spelling of Akeeluh, might be Akeelah)... anyway, I first came across that quote in that movie. I T Is
    P O W E R F U L.

    Like you, when I heard it, I was completely mesmerized, overwhelmed, speechless.

    That was about 3 or 4 months ago and I simply have not been able to get it outa my mind. It's so true - at least for me and I can say that because I'm me.

    I am often afraid of being successful or great at my talents, God given talents - whatever that is - afraid of it, actually afraid of it. Why? For me, maybe because I know it requires something. Requires something to attain it, required something to keep it, requires something to have it.

    Yet, having said all that, still - that's not quite it.

    I'm still mulling it. I am inspired.

    Thank you.

  10. Jenn -

    My sister sent me a copy of his words when I started my PhD program. I was continually making excuses for why I was getting a PhD and she told me plain and simple to knock it off and accept that it is a great calling for me and a way to let my light shine.

    I think it may have something to do with my upbringing (what do you think?) but I have a very hard time being proud of myself and sharing my accomplishments without making excuses for themn - even just a little bit.

  11. You see? I knew you would have something to say.
    And my response to all of yours' is a hearty HEAR! HEAR!
    I love that this is meaningful to others as well. And I love what you have had to say about it all.
    I have EVEN more to contemplate now, about light, about this online COMMUNITY of which I am part, about Mandela himself.
    It's a beautiful world friends. Thanks for being an integral part of mine.

  12. I just found your blog and am know it was meant to be since this quote has been near to my heart for a few months now. I even have part of it on my blog header.

    I am enjoying reading through your archives. I'll be back for lots more.

  13. Welcome Tori!
    Thank you for your kind words. I feel the same way about this quote, it is in my heart.

  14. I have loved and cherished this quote since it was first handed to me on a small piece of paper from a dear friend many years ago. You will probably also love others by its author, Marianne Williamson. She has a website and many, many wonderful insights to life and living life deeply at Nelson Mandela, also an inspiration, was actually quoting her in his speech. For background on the quote, see I think you'll love both sites.

    As for me, I so enjoyed imagining you relaxing and relishing in your "indulgence." Even more, I enjoyed picturing your feet -- those that my daughter's take after. The feet that stood by her as she was born. The feet that share webbed toes such as hers. The feet that stood cooking her meals and tending to her needs. And most especially, the feet that taught hers to dance. That same daughter gave me a foot rub and pedicure just last night. I can't say my feet are smooth as a baby's bottom, but I did cherish the experience. And I cherish you. Thanks for your brilliance in her life.


  15. M-
    First of all, thank you for the information on the source of the quote. It's funny when I first wrote this post, I did a quick google to verify it, and got several hits confiming it as Mandela's. Of course, redefining the search parameters this morning, based on what you told me, I got a completely different hit list.
    I have updated the post to reflect the correction and offer my apologies for propogating the myth.

    Second, did you know that a tribute like that would reduce me to a mess of tears? I adore you and I appreciate your words so deeply. You just can't know how dearly I love you M. Thank you for taking the time to share all that with me. Thanks for sharing your life with me. I miss you so.

  16. "Nelson Mandela, also an inspiration, was actually quoting her in his speech."

    No. Nelson Mandela never uttered these words in that speech or any other.

    As you know, it is widely attributed to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural address. But see for yourself. Here's the text of the inaugural, from the ANC's official archives:

    It's a great speech. Too bad so few people read it.

    But the quote isn't there, of course. Nor does it appear in any other of his published speeches (searchable on the same web site).

    The source of the text is only "Return to Love", Marianne Williamson, 1992 (p. 165). Mr Mandela never used it. I even emailed the ANC for confirmation. They replied that he hasn't used it, and that they have no idea how this misattribution started.


  17. John-
    I certainly appreciate you stopping by to clear up any misunderstandings about the origin of this quote.
    Again, I find it interesting that the misdirection wherever it may have started certainly took its own course with these words. And again, I don't think that any of the impact or power is lost within them in spite of the fact that they are not words ever spoken by Mr. Mandela.
    Still an important message, yes?

  18. The URL got truncated. The ending of the URL is:


  19. I think it was all there in the first post, but thanks for checking. You are right, it's a great speech.