Personal thoughts on the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I was saddened to hear a few hours ago about the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Not because at 90 years of age he could be said to be short-changed on that account but because there are so few people in prominent positions who espouse his ideals on the world stage.

I’ve often said I can’t think of a single world leader who I’d say is a decent person and a good leader, in fact I find it very hard to think of a President or Prime Minister who is either.

As a child in the 1980’s I used to always see the Archbishop on the news. He always seemed such an affable and compassionate man. Most of all I loved his sense of humour which was irascible.

One of my first television memories was staying up late with my mother to watch Roots. Living in a suburb of Newcastle at the time, I had never met a black person in real life before and even upon moving towards London I would be 11 before I did so.

I remember not getting why the white people in America were being so horrible to Kunta Kinte in Roots. It didn’t make sense to me, I didn’t see skin colour then and don’t now. My mother did her best to explain it to me but even to my 4 year old brain, it made no sense… much as how soon later I didn’t understand why someone would want to shoot John Lennon. But people of every colour are still racist, I lost count of how many times on an almost empty set of train seats, some people (particularly women) of darker colours would rather squeeze into an overcrowded section of seat with people who look like them rather than sit in 6 seats with only myself squashed into a corner.

It’s rather sad I think to hear politicians such as Boris Johnson trying to pay tributes to a man that they are not just not fit to lick his boots but seemingly deliberately choosing to be the opposite sort of person. Not everyone can act like an Archbishop but one can choose not to lie, to cheat, to be immoral and to cause harm and hurt to others.

Two of my favourite quotes of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu are:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

I can only see Boris Johnson as being an oppressor whilst hopefully my life is full of doing good deeds.

One of my favourite spots on my Secret Gardens of the City of London walking tour is Fen Court Garden and the Abolition of Slavery memorial which was opened a little over a decade ago.

Fen Court, a secret sacred garden in the City of London
The Gilt of Cain a collaboration between sculptor Michael Visocchi and poet Lemn Sissay.

It’s a beautiful little garden right in the city with connections to wonderful people like William Wilberforce and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and so I often find myself thinking of Archbishop Tutu, perhaps more than most people. So I will miss him; not feeling sorry for his death but more for the emptiness of the world without him.

Thankfully as well as a wonderful example, he has left us with hundreds of immensely truthful quotes. Here are a few that I liked just from just a few minutes of browsing.

― Desmond Tutu “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” 
― Desmond Tutu “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
― Desmond Tutu “Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering–remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you dont want to repeat what happened.” 
― Desmond Tutu“My father always used to say, “Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.” Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters, nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right.” 
― Desmond Tutu “We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.” 
― Desmond Tutu: “Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another.” 
― Desmond Tutu: “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” 
― Desmond Tutu“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.” 
― Desmond Tutu“We learn from history that we don’t learn from history!” 
― Desmond Tutu“A person is a person through other persons.

Desmond Tutu “None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are. A person is entitled to a stable community life, and the first of these communities is the family.” 
Desmond tutu: “When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” 
― Desmond Tutu“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” 
― Desmond Tutu: “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” 
― Desmond Tutu: “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.” 
― Archbishop Desmond Tutu “In the end what matters is not how good we are but how good God is. Not how much we love Him but how much He loves us. And God loves us whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or failed to do, whatever we believe or can’t.” 
― Archbishop Desmond Tutu“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew… Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful… and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.” 

― Desmond Tututags:“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” 
― Desmond Tutu“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.” 
― Desmond Tutu“Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread, or stick in someone’s back.” 
― Desmond TutuWe are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.” 
― Desmond Tututags: “Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us.” 
― Desmond Tutu“It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul.” 
― Desmond Tutu“Dear Child of God, I am sorry to say that suffering is not optional.” 
― Desmond Tutu“A person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.” 

― Desmond Tutu, “We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God.” 
― Desmond Tututags: “There is nothing more difficult than waking someone who is only pretending to be asleep.” 
― Desmond Tutu “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.” 
― Desmond Tutu “The Dead Sea in the Middle East receives fresh water, but it has no outlet, so it doesn’t pass the water out. It receives beautiful water from the rivers, and the water goes dank. I mean, it just goes bad. And that’s why it is the Dead Sea. It receives and does not give. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more, and more joyful.” 
― Desmond Tutu “Forgiveness does not relieve someone of responsibility for what they have done. Forgiveness does not erase accountability. It is not about turning a blind eye or even turning the other cheek. It is not about letting someone off the hook or saying it is okay to do something monstrous. Forgiveness is simply about understanding that every one of us is both inherently good and inherently flawed. Within every hopeless situation and every seemingly hopeless person lies the possibility of transformation.” 

If you’d like to learn more about the over 100 secret gardens in the City of London, nearly all of which have a special history just like the garden mentioned above then you might like my #1 book below which is available in Paperback, Kindle and iBooks.

Secret Gardens of the City of London Kindle Cover
Secret Gardens of the City of London Kindle Cover

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in Life, News, Opinion, Religion and Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Personal thoughts on the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

  1. Great selection of
    Quotations from a remarkable man.

    Liked by 1 person

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