Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the self

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

1964

The language we use, the language we hear and read, the language we have become accustomed to is constantly being remodeled. And as this remodeling reshapes our day to day jargon, there are those who embrace it and others who look upon it with trepidation. Words that we once used in conversation before have either died out for lack of use, such as ‘thou”, while other words have been altered, such as ‘television’ is now simply ‘t.v’. Quickly finding its way into our vernacular is a whole range of creative words mostly due to new technologies and ideas. Selfie, a more recent addition in English, was retailored from “self” to give rise to its meaning….the ability to instantly snap a picture of one’s self. And with this technological advancement, for surely it would be rather cumbersome to take a selfie if we had to prepare a tripod every time we had a whim, along with this adapted self-portraiture, comes the instantaneous ability to declare its arrival to the world.

The concept of self-portraiture is not new for as long as there have been artists there have always been portrait painters. However, what is different in the twenty-first century is technology and its dominant place in all societies. Regardless of which hemisphere you live in, we have accrued a most powerful set of tools. Powerful in the sense that some may believe it has transformed much of society into being quite self-indulgent; self-absorbed, self-centered, and perhaps narcissist.

Harsh words… well perhaps, though words that should not be directed only towards the present for humanity has always taken a liking to itself. Perhaps the “selfie” today is yesterday’s “mirror”. Perhaps our inventive technology has been able to just magnify what we already suspected about society, perhaps technology is presenting us with a faster and closer look at what was always there; perhaps we are getting the same images of mankind and womankind now as ‘close-ups’ rather than ‘landscape’.

After all, are we so much more different than our ancestors? I suppose there is something to that old adage… “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…”

mlkToday’s blog brings back a very great individual, the esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968); a man widely regarded as America’s paramount advocate of nonviolence. Through his use of the words and acts of nonviolent resistance he was able to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. In 1964 King received the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person ever to receive this high honor. At the young age of 39, he was tragically assassinated, leaving behind a forever grieving nation.

I now offer to you a moment of time to read the words of a most honored man. From his Sermon Delivered in 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, “Conquering Self-Centeredness”…I present to you Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“…An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. And this is one of the big problems of life, that so many people never quite get to the point of rising above self. And so they end up the tragic victims of self-centeredness. They end up the victims of distorted and disrupted personality.

Life has its beginning and its maturity comes into being when an individual rises above self to something greater. Few individuals learn this, and so they go through life merely existing and never living. … They start out, the minute you talk with them, talking about what they can do, what they have done. They’re the people who will tell you, before you talk with them five minutes, where they have been and who they know. They’re the people who can tell you in a few seconds, how many degrees they have and where they went to school and how much money they have. We meet these people every day. And so this is not a foreign subject. It is not something far off. It is a problem that meets us in everyday life. We meet it in ourselves, we meet in other selves: the problem of self-centeredness…

And the way to solve this problem is not to drown out the ego but to find your sense of importance in something outside of the self. And you are then able to live because you have given your life to something outside and something that is meaningful, objectified. You rise above this self-absorption to something outside… This is the way to go through life with a balance, with the proper perspective because you’ve given yourself to something greater than self…”

Notes, cards, and other forms of writing

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The art of letter writing has since been dismissed like the home phone line that is offered a conciliatory smile and hence has been sentenced to the back of the closet; reinstated by a smarter cell that travels with us wherever we journey. It has become our side kick, riding shot-gun in our pocket or hand-bag, a trusted device that allows us to do away with pen and pencil, paper and pads; freeing us up from those mundane tasks such as…letter writing. However, there still is something very nice about receiving a letter, no matter how technologically sophisticated one has become. There is still something very lovely about pulling open the letter box, and as you sift through your bills and solicitations an envelope peers out with no other intention than to give you news, wanting nothing more than your attention. There is something quite special about knowing that someone picked out the stationary, sat down with their solitude to compose a personal thought; that they mulled over what to say, reread their sentences transcribed in their own words, and sailed their message along the paper freely as one would skip across a lake on a sunny afternoon. Or, just perhaps each word they wished to convey was produced from strained ponderings and like tapping syrup from a maple tree, the words came out slowly with long moments of rephrasing.

Yet, whatever method had evolved to get the message across, it was eventually folded into an envelope and the deliberate act of placing perhaps a very colorful stamp in the corner, the same spot that Benjamin Franklin would have blotted centuries ago, was acted upon; sealed and then slipped into a post box for transport, trusting its delivery to our ever-ready postal service…and considering it may have traveled by way of rugged terrain or choppy seas…it is still quite reasonable in price.

Yes, the letter! This blogger must confess that she still writes them and dearly enjoys the reciprocation of their receipt. The quiet stroll to the post box..up the driveway… mundane to some yet the probability that by chance there may be a letter in the box is certainly worth the trek up and back.

So if you wish to modify your posting of a letter and prune it back to a note or card, here is where you can get Drawlings, now released into the wild they may ease your fear of writing!

Esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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MLK Memorial Sculpture

A prize is an honor that from the earliest stage of our remembrance we have yearned to receive. Some prizes are earned after long and arduous work and commitment, and then some prizes are received after very little work or accomplishments. A prize can be given and accepted as a token, or it can live out well beyond the life of the receiver. Some prizes are cherished and others prizes such as laughter and happiness are seldom acknowledged as such and rather taken for granted.

We find prizes are consumed such as candy which pours out from the innards of a “pinata” after it receives quite a beating and then tumbles down like hail and gathered in a frenzied scurry, while other prizes are worn like jewelry around the neck such as a medal earned by an athlete. Some are prizes are trophies to be displayed on the mantle and others are plaques that adorn the wall. Some prizes such as gold have been fought over, plundered for, and even annihilated others for its possession.

And then there is a prize rewarded to those who have accomplished the greatest of deeds, given to one who has dedicated his or her life for the betterment of others. It is a prize distinguished above the rest in hopes that we, humanity, can carry on the work of these individuals. Such a reward is honored and revered and ever so noble; the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a prize that is presented to one that *“shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Peace… a most cherished prize for us all. Funny, something so valuable is basically a state of being, an idea, a solution, and ever so sensible….

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

1964

Today’s post is dedicated to a man who is synonymous with peace, the esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King was a paramount figure in the twentieth-century and a pivotal force behind the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Dr. King’s noted idea of somebodiness gave black and poor people a new sense of worth and dignity. His philosophy of nonviolent action, and his approach for rational and non-destructive social change, awakened the conscience of the United States and redirected the nation’s priorities. His life was tragically cut short when in 1968, standing on his hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated… To this day the nation continues to mourn his death and the loss of a truly great man.

I invite you now to take time out of your hectic day for the words of the illustrious Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is a portion selected from his 1964 Nobel Peace Prized acceptance speech….words of wisdom, indeed…

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty – and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold…”

* Quote from Alfred Nobel
First image: 1973 steel memorial sculpture by William Tarr

Ralph Waldo Emerson and quietude

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Perhaps we need a requiem for a quiet moment for I fear that moments of quietude are on the endangered list; right behind solitude. To find quiet is like trying to find a spot at a picnic without ants. We are in a time where there is a constant flow of attention and noise. Close your eyes and take a moment. Listen. It matters not if you are alone in a room for regardless of how hard you may try there is some underlying noise. The hum of the refrigerator or the off and on of the gas heater. Go outside; there is a chronic bombardment of noises echoing from cars, planes, construction, and lawn mowers.  Even among the spender offered by far-off parks, a helicopter circles the canyons and waterfalls. A bulwark of noises all too great for Mother Nature’s whispers.

And so, we must believe that there are places where stillness exists and nature is given back her power to speak… I hope. Ralph Waldo Emerson 2jpg

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker and expert on tranquility; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1870), who said “Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.” The central figure in his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists, he was a preacher, philosopher, and poet, as well as being considered having the finest spirit and ideals of his age. Emerson was a bold thinker having penned essays and gave lecture that offer models of clarity, style, and thought, which guaranteed him a formidable presence in 19th century American life. He offered his views on the harmonies of man and nature, intellectual and spiritual independence, self-reliance, and Utopian friendship. He was a committed Abolitionist, a champion of the Native Americans, and a crusader for peace and social justice.

I now invite you to contemplate a stanza from his poem titled Walden, snipped from his book Society and Solitude (1875).

In cities high the careful crowds

Of woe-worn mortals darkling go,

But in these sunny solitudes

My quiet roses blow.

John Muir and summer

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Summer… when fireflies come out at dusk and ice melts too fast in lemonade; ice cream tastes better even though it’s the same-old flavor. It has two weather patterns, hot and very hot, and when it rains it likes to pour. We complain in the summer because the steering wheel burns our hands and the sand burns our feet. The weeds grow thick and the air grows thick and everything feels sticky. The mosquitoes swarm and the flies love the picnics. It’s too crowded at the beach and the jellyfish fills in the empty spaces. Days are long, nights are short but then, without us noticing, when we turn the calendar over Labor Day comes and goes… we feel a sudden sense of remorse because summer is no longer there to complain about!

Today’s blog brings us the esteemed thinker: John Muir (1838-1914), one of the earliest preservationist in the United State. Naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service. muirHis foresight and influence to convince the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks was a testimony to his writing. John Muir’s illustrious words came from a lifetime of work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

I now bring you from his work of 1911, My First Summer in The Sierra; surely his personal reflections will remind you of the wonders that nature brings.

“… Warm, mellow summer. The glowing sunbeams make every nerve tingle. The new needles of the pines and firs are nearly full grown and shine gloriously… Summer is ripe. Flocks of seeds are already out of their cups and pods seeking their predestined places. Some will strike root and grow up beside their parents, others flying on the wings of the wind far from them, among strangers. Most of the young birds are full feathered and out of their nests, though still looked after by both father and mother, protected and fed and to some extent educated. How beautiful the home life of birds! No wonder we all love them…”

First image: Sierra Forest