Everyday requires a renewed commitment to reframe negativity in the world and in my mind. I struggle to figure out how I can contribute and make more of difference in a world where people in my community do not have enough money to feed and clothe their children. If I don’t fight it, I can spiral into a tornado of “does anything I do really matter.” Does art and poetry really matter to someone who doesn’t have enough food?
When Martin Luther King, Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 he said these words:
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.
He reminds me of how important it is to “refuse to accept” the negativity, the idea that I cannot influence the world around me through my actions, and accepting what is as “it is what it is.” (Who hasn’t said that without questioning it?) And in refusing to accept these things, he is calling me/us to action.
During that acceptance speech he also emphasized that to do any of this our foundation has to be love.
Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood and sisterhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
I know I inadvertently fail at this. Sometimes more than other times. When this happens, it’s likely because I’m involved in my own human conflict that prevents me from being as full of love as I would like to be. It is at moments like these when art and poetry can be the most useful companion.
The next day, he gave a longer lecture. Inviting action again.
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. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody, that is far superior to the discords of war. Somehow, we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race, which no one can win, to a positive contest to harness humanity’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a peace race. If we have a will – and determination – to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.
“Martin Luther King Jr. – Acceptance Speech”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 17 Dec 2016. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-acceptance_en.html>
I was reminded of this today thanks to My Soul in Silence Waits. This blogger also posts something everyday during Advent, from biblical writings to current theologians and everything in between. I highly recommend it for some inspirational reading, especially on those dark days of winter.