Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"...not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart..." / A Memorial Koan

Listen to Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 30, 1967:

"Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love (am's italics). I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism. The home that all too many Americans left was solidly structured idealistically; its pillars were solidly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage. All men are made in the image of God. All men are brothers. All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State--they are God-given. Out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious and healthy place to inhabit. But America's strayed away, and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality.

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America."

In this speech, Martin Luther King, Jr., remembers and relates to the anxious and sorrowful Jesus taking up his cross and then a few moments later speaks of an angry God. The angry God part of Christianity and Judaism has always troubled me. People are asked to be nonviolent. The violence is left up to God? I don't think so. The whole thing sounds like a koan, doesn't it?

Still meditating on Buddha's empty hands and Mahalia Jackson singing "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands," remembering that Martin Luther King, Jr., nominated Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for the Nobel Peace prize in January of 1967 and that Thich Nhat Hanh had urged Martin Luther King, Jr., to publicly and peacefully oppose the war in Vietnam.

Meditating on the thought that it is not easy for any of us, including President Obama and Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh, to live up to these ideals, and that a memorial to Martin Luther King during the troubled presidency of Barack Obama speaks of the inner koans that President Obama and all people of conscience must live with each day no matter what their spiritual perspective.

From the Nobel lecture by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace."

"The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure. To live it you have to explode. In that last hour of need, we entirely agreed, sacrifice was the code of the road."
(Bob Dylan, lyrics from "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)"

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
(Walt Whitman, from "Song of Myself")

(Pastel on paper, "Self-Portrait of an Old Friend as a Young Man," drawn by am in the early 1980s from a photo sent to me by my friend, Richard, taken of him in Vietnam in 1970)


Taradharma said...

so very much to meditate on. King's words speak to my present state of mind when it comes to these other wars we are engaged in, and in our general acceptance of war as the solution.

We seem to be hell-bent on self-destruction.

Dale said...

It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.

Yes. And necessary to imagine it, in all its complexity and difficulty. Peace is not easier than war: it's harder. And maybe the hardest of all is this first step of holding it in the imagination, amid so much bloodshed.

The Solitary Walker said...

Much to consider in your post and in these two comments, am.

On a tangent, but not unrelated, Libya seems to be approaching its final phase, thank God, Allah etc. The Arab Spring (now Summer) uprisings had to happen, and I support them. So many Moslem women (particularly) supporting King and Gandhi-inspired non-violent protest.

am said...

Thank you, Taradharma, Dale and Solitary Walker for your thoughtful comments.