What I learned from Nelson Mandela

Sometimes I look around at my middle-class life, and I feel oppressed. There is always another errand to run, something else that needs cleaning, a repairman to call, a doctor’s appointment to rush to. Sometimes it feels like one long series of obligations and annoyances, and I wail to myself, “Why does life have to be so hard? Why do I have to waste my precious time waiting in line at the pharmacy for the third time this week? Why can’t I be doing something spectacular, like spending a year sailing to the Caribbean, or climbing the peaks of the Andes, or just … doing something fun?”

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20,000 questions

Last night I read this passage in Nelson Mandela’s autobiography:

Like all Xhosa children, I acquired knowledge mainly through observation. We were meant to learn through imitation and emulation, not through questions. When I first visited the homes of whites, I was often dumbfounded by the number and nature of questions that children asked of their parents — and their parents’ unfailing willingness to answer them. In my household, questions were considered a nuisance; adults imparted information as they considered necessary.

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