Inspirational stories, good and bad, from the Tutus

2010-08-04 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Made for Goodness: And why this makes all the difference

Desmond and Mpho Tutu

Struik

“IRREPRESSIBLE” is a word used to describe Desmond Tutu, and this book captures that quality of “the Arch”. He is blessed with a joyful nature­ and a delightful sense of humour­, qualities that also come to the fore in this collection of stories from Desmond’s and Mpho’s youth and Desmond’s adult life, both private and public.

Like her father, Mpho is an Anglican priest, but based in the United States. The Tutus’ departure point is their faith in a loving God, about which they write with conviction and simplicity, yet without a sense of “preaching at” readers. The book provides people of all faiths (or, indeed, no deistic faith at all) with insight into what has moulded the man who has been called a “living saint”, and revered the world over, in a manner­ not unlike the way Madiba is revered.

It is not a book only for believers because it also contains pertinent reminders of how close South Africa came to “the abyss of racial conflagration” and how we pulled back from it.

Equally, believing and nonbelieving philosophers have through the centuries debated the question of whether we are born inherently good or inherently bad. The Tutus hold the fundamental belief that we are loved unconditionally by God, who created us with inherent goodness, and while human bad habits, degradation, and (to use its theological term) sin have marred this, we all have the potential to reclaim what God has intended us for. Desmond is also known for his belief in the ability of humanity to transcend the worst circumstances.

Despite this positive outlook, they acknowledge some people’s determination to achieve evil ends and nowhere do they minimise the evils that humans can do to one another. Therein, however, lies some of the work’s inspirational material: stories of those who have overcome the worst that people can do to one another, and flourished. The book manages to do this without setting impossible standards that are more likely to cause crippling guilt or shame than to inspire.

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