In the days of yore, giants walked the Earth. This past week another one passed from the living.
When a person reaches the level of influence that Mr. Mandela had, a simple recounting of their biography is wholly inadequate. Instead, the wake of their passage is an easier subject to quantify.
It's hard to explain Mr. Mandela's influence in my life. For me, Mr. Mandela was part of my personal journey. He was probably the first political mega-movement that I came to realize my first impression of had been entirely wrong. And because part of my impression was right, this realization caused me to re-examine everything. And that eventually drove me to change my personal politics.
It's easy to explain his influence on the world. His death dominated all news organizations not obsessed with Obamacare for the past week. Leaders from all over the world are traveling to South Africa for his memorial service. Very few people in the world have had such an influence on the world-wide zeitgeist than Mr. Mandela.
Mr. Mandela, if history has any righteousness, will be remembered in South Africa the same way we remember George Washington in the US. Political religions will be based around his hagiography. In a fifty years he will be mythic and the rougher parts of his life will be smoothed.
Nelson Mandela has left this world, and the rest of us are richer for his being here and poorer in his absence.