So Much More Than A Few Quotes Once A Year

I became very irritated while watching the current occupant of the white house speak about Rev Dr Martin Luther King during a press conference on January 12th. Honestly, I was so annoyed that I had to think about what I was watching…Here was a person, speaking of a truly great man, whose ideas about life couldn’t be further from his own but who could benefit from understanding them, if he were only willing. Then I relaxed and realized that I wasn’t watching the legacy of a great man be dishonored by the insincere, empty babble of another. Something more was happening. I was, (we were) watching a modern day court-jester being forced to genuflect before a mighty King who, even in his death, commands reverence.

Rev Dr Martin Luther King is one of the greatest leaders history has ever known and yet I’m afraid that though his name is internationally recognized, we have, as a nation, yet to fully comprehend the man and his ideas. I say that as a person who has poured over his writings and speeches for the past decade and who’s the first to admit that as far as full comprehension and embodiment are concerned I have a long way to go. Despite this fact, most of us, as the example above illustrates, share a reverence for what we, at least intuitively, understand about him. We do know some obvious things, for example he had more than a professor’s understanding of the principles that govern history and was knowledgeable of world affairs and the history of various countries, dating back centuries in many cases. We know that he studied diverse philosophies from across the globe that he felt lead to progress and was quick to present his findings to the USA in an effort to help paint a more perfect global picture of humanity and our equality with one another. We understand that he was a master psychologist who took the ugliness of racism in the US and used it as a backdrop for a stage where members of the play dramatically performed for us creative, non violent protest which put a spotlight on fear and hate, commanding the world’s attention. We know that he was a true American statesman, as skilled in diplomacy, knowledgeable about law and as significant as any American president could ever hope to be. Again, these are the obvious things but what remains a mystery is how he was able to do what so many of us struggle with daily, and which I believe was his most difficult endeavor, to grow a love so powerful that it even had a place for his enemies.

“Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love…Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

Please, just take a minute to sit in that idea and think about what that means. How would you go about loving your enemies? Why would you?

If any of us were to take a quick scroll across our timelines or glance at the news, how would we characterise how the majority of us handle disagreements? Well, we’d see many people with valid gripes and even good intentions, from all walks of life, espousing vituperatively hateful aggression toward those they disagree with. We may even have done it ourselves but let us ask, how can we expect to address a problem by using the same tone as the problem we are addressing? How can we meet hate with hate an expect anything but hate to come from it? “I hate racists” “I hope he is assassinated” “Grab em by the pussy” “I wish all of these perverts could spend some time in jail so the inmates could deal with them” “We’ve got to stop all these people from sh*thole countries from immigrating to the US”. All of these statements are hateful at their foundation and hinder any dialogue that could possibly lead to a resolution of our problems. We’ve got to change. We cannot continue to emulate people who are fearful, ignorant and hate. You may be thinking that your life and actions don’t matter to history but nothing could be further from the truth. Our actions matter, someone is always watching and learning from us whether we realise it or not and each action creates a ripple effect in this universe. We must take on the challenge to love. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” These, now famous quotes aren’t just pretty sounding “flourishes” they are principles that govern how this universe works that King was helping our Nation uncover.

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at the goal”. ~MLK

We remember and revere King once a year but what about the rest of the time. Do we have the courage to seek what he sought and apply it to our daily lives?

“ Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love” ~MLK

Ardena Joy Clark is an American activist, author of “The Art of Choosing Joy”, award winning recording artist and former elected official who has dedicated her life to serving others.