Dr. King addressed social justice issues with direct, powerful, organized action, action intended not to incite riot but rather to incite love, forgiveness, healing, and equality. He wanted all to know freedom and have the opportunity to pursue happiness. He worked through direct social actions.
Maya Angelou knew Dr. King, and his work and death affected her deeply. After hearing him speak in Harlem in 1960, she produced a play with others and sent the proceeds to Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This involvement eventually led her to be named the coordinator of the northern district of the Conference. During that time, she met Dr. King and later would say of him, “It is a great blessing to have lived in the time of Martin Luther King Jr., when forgiveness and generosity of spirit encouraged our citizenry to work for a better world for everybody” (Park. https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-maya-angelou-martin-luther-king-jr-20180404-story.html by Brian Park).
Great people of heart energy tend to inspire others who desire to live in that same vein of love. Maya Angelou did not go on to engage in overt social actions; she created her purpose to write and express her creativity and heart in other ways to live and encourage love.
Of all her works which could be discussed and analyzed, the following poem read from her famous recitation of “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993 harmonizes with the previous chapters on “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.”
The resonance with the messages of Dr. King and the literary movement of Romanticism calls for looking deeper into the human experience, beyond artifice and even science — exploring what it means to be us and how we relate to one another and this whole universe. Nature speaks to us, and if we listen, we may respond.
I would recommend listening to Maya Angelou’s poem before or in conjunction with the following chapters: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59xGmHzxtZ4).
“On the Pulse of Morning”: Maya, History, Nature, and Us
Maya Angelou observes the state of humanity and responds to it through the natural elements of “A Rock, A River, A Tree.”
The wisdom of the Rock tells us, basically, we have a lot to learn, the lessons are written large, and we can’t hide.
Why would she do this? It’s a literary tradition, but that’s not the reason. The reason it’s a literary tradition is the reason. Nature is the reason. The lessons Nature has to teach us are the reasons. Our intimate connection with, relationship to, and dependence on Nature is the reason.
The Romantic period writers of the past often used Nature to reflect the inner emotional state of humans, especially, as Maya does here, to expose the conditions of society or simply illustrate them. The Romantics were initiators of social change; the energy of their work fueled awareness and even some legislation. We are often slow to learn. We still need the lessons and always will; Dr. Maya Angelou knows that.
In the first eight lines of the poem, Maya introduces the Rock, River, and Tree as observers of history for eons, since the beginning of this planet Earth. They witnessed the life, approaching doom, and extinction of the mastodon adn dinosaurs. Is this foreshadowing, or does it predict others in danger of extinction, like humanity? Not if we listen to the wisdom of these elements of Nature, the ones to which we wouldn’t normally ascribe wisdom.
And the Rock, River, and Tree point out that while we may see the dry bones of dinosaurs like those to which the Rock refers, what we have failed, Failed, FAILED to see — to perceive, to intuit, to conclude — is the “broad alarm of their hastening doom.” We did not witness the process of the destructive dynamics involved in the extinction of the dinosaur or mastodon, but we may recognize the pattern in studying them.
Therefore, they will tell us, and we may learn, be warned, and rise to respond to the alarm, to all the alarms around us now.
“[T]he Rock cries out to us” by offering a vantage point. We are invited to stand upon its back, its solid, sure, unshakable back. For what reason? What purpose would that serve? Rock tells us that we “may stand upon [his] / Back and face [our] distant destiny.” We can see, know, perceive, and respond — if we would use Nature for the learning.
What might that imply? The Rock has a purpose that has not changed: it is firm, unmoving, and collects evidence of history. Therefore, the rock asks us, in essence, what our purpose is.
We have the ability to reason, being on a scale of creation “only a little lower than / The angels.” Our natural state here is one of peace, acceptance, kindness, and compassion in the face of difficulties. We have the ability to work through challenges and resolve conflicts to the end of freedom, freedom to love one another, to live in light, preserve human rights, and create as divinity.
We cannot claim ignorance; the witness of our Heart exposes the darkness of ugly greed for always being the best. Freedoms, rights, and love should guide our society — or we will be those bones in others’ museums.( Photo by fan yangon Unsplash)The alarm of our doom, as the mastodon’s did, billows around us, and if not heeded, we will join the dust of ages past. The rock observes that we “have crouched too long in / The bruising darkness, / Have lain too long / Face down in ignorance.” In the ignorance of ego, we have forsaken heart-energy of love, light, peace, creative enthusiasm, empathy, compassion, and all those emotions and qualities of the higher frequencies of life. When we remain willingly ignorant, we lose knowledge, energy, and dignity. We lose the primary focuses of life which we came here to enjoy.
Furthermore, the Rock tells us we should recognize the approach of our doom in the warlike atmosphere that grips the nations of Earth: “Your mouths spelling words / Armed for slaughter.”
War, destruction, and hatred are ego-energies. We have ego, and it helps form us by evoking creative tension; however, we have heart, eternal Spirit as the mature operating system, the one we came to live. We have the ability to think, explore, and discover. War, hatred, bullying, bravado, and boastful power are ego-energies we may rise above through toggling to the Heart Operating System. We need not remain in ignorance, an ignorance often adorned with the fineries of politics, government, and military considerations. No, peace does not sound from throats of nationalism or from those who trample everyone and everything to get to the bottom line.
The rock tells us we can gain a vantage point to discern all this, and it willingly offers itself to us. The warning, though, is we have no right to hide at its base, in its shadow, to continue living in the low vibrations of ego and claim that is human nature. It’s not. It’s a choice of which nature: ego or heart.
Do you know what seems unfair and bizarre? That those who are oppressed must change things, the ones who are the weakest in society, the ones who have been betrayed, belittled, and bullied. Personal, heart truth gives the motivation, courage, and perseverance to go on. Eventually, the privileged may come to help, but that doesn’t matter to those who live their purpose and truth.
Dr. King made commitments to causes he chose, invested in, and proved to be borne from the depths of his own heart. When we discover others working in the same heart-energy, we are brought to a place of fellowship and working together. We resonate and achieve significant goals.
When we do such, we shine a light on haters, and we expose those who work in the energy of ego to maintain control, wealth, and power to oppress others. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote this letter from a prison cell, one which he was placed in through an unjust application of a beneficial law. From that cell, he shined the light of love and reconciliation on an ego-controlled society, which was evident from the ugly racism of that time.
Martin Luther King’s Primary Objective in His “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail”: Peace and Brotherhood (and Sisterhood, equally!)
Dr. King doesn’t forget why he began this letter, and near the end, he continues to answer the troubling accusations of the letter that the white clergymen wrote. This response required intensive, sensitive thought because, more than anything, he loves others. However, he sheds light on the facts and exposes ego-energy that manifested hatred.
Some of the last rays of the light of this letter fall on those “keeping ‘order’ and ‘preventing violence,’” the police force (King 18). Those officers of the law — a stacked, racist, bigoted, hateful set of laws — acted in unjustified brutality that included unprovoked attacks by police dogs, shoving, slapping, and kicking old ladies and young girls, and refusing people food in jail. They starved the protesting prisoners because they forbid them to pray. These things and others, King will not praise; he only shows the facts in love, exposing the filth of unchecked, unreasonable minds fueled by ego.
He points out what oppressed people often experience: when the eyes of the public or media are on unfair, brutal, egocentric authorities, they appear to be in control and put on a show of compassion, supposedly for all concerned. Dr. King’s main point here is that brutality is never justified in handling others because “it is worn to use immoral means to attain moral ends…they have used the moral means of [apparent] nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice” (King 19). Any authority who hides behind unjust laws and carries them out, especially with brutality or inhumanity, should not be allowed to hold their positions.
At the end of this paragraph, Dr. King quotes T. S. Eliot: “…there is no greater treason than to do the right deed for the wrong reason” (King 19). I take that sentiment into the depths of my being. Neither I nor authorities — presidents, police, legislators, ICE, border patrol, educators — have the right to violate the basic laws of nature or the rights and freedoms embedded in each human being.
Treating souls with degradation and inhumanity always marks Ego-energy. Each Heart loves and finds a way to deal in truth and care for fellow souls. As Dr. King nears the close of this masterpiece, he takes care to reveal those who did Heart-work, masterpieces themselves. Who were they?
Choosing to create society and govern by Heart means taking action. It will be powerful when we can get past Ego ignorance of white supremacy, hardcore nationalism, embedded racism, etc. and dig into mutually fruitful issues. (Photo by History in HD on Unsplash)MartinThe “real heroes…James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose, facing jeering and hostile mobs…old, oppressed, battered Negro women…who rose up with a sense of dignity…young high school and college students, young ministers…and a host of their elders courageously and non-violently sitting-in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience sake” (King 19, 20). In other words, these were those whose hearts committed to their truth and acted on it, no matter the cost.
No money, no power connections, no degrees required. They only lived their heart-truth. We all can do this in whatever our created purpose is. When we live our core Self in love and light, we know significance, fulfillment, and personal peace. Quite often, we change the world, at least our little piece of it, and find we are involved in things much larger than ourselves.
Dr. King recognizes this: “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream…carrying our whole nation back to…the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” (King 20). I would say that living a heart-truth by sitting down at a lunch counter and finding a connection with the founding documents of this nation is, indeed, something larger than ourselves.
Heart-truth sometimes needs to be lived in oppressive situations. Referring to the length of the letter, he says, “I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk” (King 20) instead of a jail cell. Our heart within finds a way to make meaning when we open up to our highest self.
We can find a way to express love and light in whatever capacity we choose — a pastor, a police officer, a politician, a teacher, a mechanic, an artist, a writer, a dancer, a jeweler, a clerk, a salesperson, or any of thousands upon thousands of endeavors empowered by Heart.
Then, Dr. King lays out his accountability. If the white clergymen he addresses find offense, he asks forgiveness of them, his fellow creatures. However, his largest accountability is to his own heart and his own God: “If I have said anything…that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me” (King 20). Brotherhood — that’s a greater concept than integration, and Dr. King ends by acknowledging such.
In the final paragraph, he illustrates this unequivocally to those he considers to be his brothers, no matter how they feel about him or the issue of race: “I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader, but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother” (King 20). Brotherhood — a mutuality bound not in gender, Sisterhood being just as integral — is the goal and the hope.
This is that which I call the fellowship of the heart. Those sold out to their own ego are in the majority, and they are not to be judged — exposed, yes, but not judged. Those who don’t answer heart within them will not know the blessing of this fellowship, and perhaps that is the ultimate judgment.
Dr. King ends with an estimation of the value of this: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted…and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty” (20). This transcends skin tones, cultures, and social expressions; it doesn’t negate them, just transcends so that we may appreciate one another.
The legal structure had to be corrected. The spiritual structure, as evidenced over the course of the last several years, especially, remains fractured. The legal structure means little if the spiritual is neglected because, as evidenced in Dr. King’s time, laws can be perverted to perpetuate hatred, racism, bigotry, and many forms of oppression. This perversion continues today.
The only answer to this is to discover self, create purpose, and live it in love and light of our own heart. Then, no matter if it’s sitting at counters, marching through shopping malls, or sincerely living any heart-truth, we protest inhumanity and hatred.
I Have the Same Dream. It’s not been fully realized, yet, Dr. King. (Photo by Jerónimo Bernot on Unsplash)“Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood / Martin Luther King, Jr.” (King 20). And I will add for the cause of Sisterhood, and really, humanity in general. Yes, peace and fellowship, my friend. Thank you for inviting me to your table to share, Martin.
Defeat Apathy. Improve Society. (A model and an encouragement to do something small for a huge purpose.)
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Most people want to affect the world for good, yet through apathy, many of us do nothing to make it happen. Apathy is based on believing that either we or our efforts will not make a difference. Knowing self and living the purpose we create and pursue alleviates apathy.
When we push through apathy, small actions may make a massive difference. Something as simple as reading an article or book, interpreting and applying it for yourself, and taking any action based on new, personalized insights produces some of the good we wish to see in the world.
With that in mind, I offer the second full chapter of my upcoming book, Superhero You! and Society. It is simultaneously something for you to engage with and a model of how I did the same with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, work. It’s long for a post here, I know; however, I believe it will resonate with some readers and evoke action from others.
Chapter 2 — The Rationale and Justification for the Work of Justice
As I continue reading Dr. King’s letter, I am reminded of something Walt Whitman wrote about readers and writers: “Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does” (Whitman 500–501). [Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Selected Prose. Edited by James E. Miller, Jr., University of Chicago, 1959.] Writing presents the reader with a choice: Will we give breath and life to the words, or shall they lie static, unused, and unenergized on the page?
This letter from Dr. King illustrates that when something moves one’s mind and soul, action must follow or the impetus of those words die. When he read injustice not only in the laws and writings of the past but also in the horrible practices of the inhumanity expressed in his time, he could not sit still. He acted in response to the letter that those seven clergymen had published: “…I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” (King 2). Even though the words were aimed as an arrow at him, he still took action: their words prompted a response that galvanized oppressed and awakened souls.
I must ask myself some questions and decide on my responses. Do I see injustices in my time that vibrate along the same frequencies as the rabid bigots and segregationists of Dr. King’s time? If so, how will I give voice to my feelings? Do I need to do so? If, in fact, as Dr. King writes in this portion, we are all “tied together in a single garment of destiny” (King 2), how do I show that?
I want to give life to the words. I want others to feel the sharpness, roughness, and uneasiness of injustice. I chew them up for others to taste the hatred, the injustice, and the possibilities. I project these words onto a screen to show the shadows and demons as well as the bright prospects produced by love triumphing over hate. I yawp them to shatter the silence and stillness of those who sit placidly pretending all is well. I waft the stench of inhumanity and injustice that has been institutionalized, believed, and adopted as “normal,” and just as surely, I diffuse the sweet aroma of spiritual awakening, understanding, mutual appreciation, and valuation of fellow souls. Yes, I respond to these words, Dr. King, and here is my engagement.
Even though many may reject our expressions of love, anything done in love is from Spirit. (Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)The Love Letter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963
Working for justice should not really require justification or a rationale, but ego doesn’t like the idea of justice for all — only justice for me, justice for those who are like me. Egotists will often make self-righteous demands from those who seek to act for the oppressed. Slave owners argued that they provided for their slaves. Segregationists claimed that African Americans had schools, hospitals, and access to facilities for people of their race. Today, egotists claim that all is equal and integrated and if a minority feels oppressed, it’s their own fault because laws are in place, the Civil Rights Act has been passed, as well as the Voting Rights Act — even though the last has required being readdressed and extended into the 21st century.
Yes, the laws exist; however, who were they written by, and how are they enforced? When anyone takes a stand against oppressive practices, they are branded as lawbreakers and trouble makers. And so, egotists require an explanation from those working for justice.
Approaching this second paragraph in Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail,” I sense an honest, sincere love and respect — for all. He didn’t mind giving them the rationale they demanded. To me, this is a love letter. Dr. King expresses his love for his fellow clergymen, for people of color, for society in general, and even for those who oppress. Some may stumble at a love that would embrace enemies, but only love prompts anyone to shed light into the darkness of those oppressing them for the purpose of establishing a relationship.
Only love takes the time to arrange such an analysis, as Dr. King does, of problem situations with the goals of love and peace and mutual happiness. Only love would carry someone through so many years of relentless work and even more relentless criticism, attacks, and hatred in response to that work.
People who hate, oppress, and reject those who are different than themselves pervert their hatred into some sort of twisted expression of love, but they only clamor for love for their own ways of life, their own race, their own brand of religion. They pass off as love laws that denigrate, destroy, and enslave others; that’s not love. It’s simply disuised hatred.
True love does not require us to hate others, destroy others, or prevent others’ goals of happiness. The false love of the self-righteous doesn’t make anyone or anything great, especially a nation. Such love is veiled hatred. Such love attempts to redefine the word, perverts it, and confuses it. Such love infects rather than inspires. Unfortunately, such hatred called love abounds in our time.
Some recent examples may help. When legislators limit increases in minimum wage, they are knowingly affecting African Americans in a disproportionate way. When abortion bans go into effect and health service providers like Planned Parenthood are defunded, blacks are once again disproportionately hurt. Even as I begin this, I feel overwhelmed because the scope of this work isn’t to deeply examine political and social constructs of injustice. I could write about these examples and more: criminal sentencing inequities, underrepresentation of people of color in virtually all aspects of our society, lending and banking policies, and other issues.
I know the arguments that strict, right-wing, quasi-religious, power brokers put forth — these laws and actions are good for the country, most people just don’t see the big picture, and other arguments. Those who oppress through actions like limiting or eliminating health care and holding down minimum wages do so in order to preserve their power, maintain control, and increase their wealth. The arguments of the rich knowing the best courses of action for everyone else has nothing to do with love, freedom, or equal rights.
Dr. King knew the values embedded in the foundational documents of America intended equalities and freedoms for all concerned. He worked to appropriate those for African Americans and other minorities to claim freedom. He understood that true social, civil, and legal freedom for people of color would mean freedom for everyone, not only because “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” (King 2) but also because he saw the need for “carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” (King 20). That awareness marks love, for he knows that it will benefit the oppressors, too.
On page one of the nineteen pages, the second paragraph of the letter continues to show the Heart-energized spirit of Dr. King in employing logic and rationale — not a disingenuous rationalization. He answers the accusation that his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, are “outsiders coming in” to stir up trouble. He lays out the scope of the Conference’s work that extended to eighty-five locations, Birmingham being one.
The leadership of the Conference in Birmingham asked for help, if they deemed it beneficial. King assented and explains this to the white clergymen he addresses: “So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am here because I have basic organizational ties here.” This logical, firm refutation of one of the objections in the open letter from the clergymen exposes one underlying sentiment of the time: African Americans who desired freedom were considered agitators and threats to the white power base.
Once he has given the mind’s logic, Dr. King continues with his Heart-energized soul-light — a balanced blend of mind and soul evident when Heart is engaged rather than Ego. That first sentence of this paragraph reveals an expression of his soul’s purpose: “Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” (King 2). Understanding and feeling this, he had to act: love, go, and shed light: “I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town” (King 2). His purpose must show itself in loving care for others.
Before ending, I make some applications. When anyone discovers self and creates purpose, this is Heart-energy, Heart-work. Such awakening and spiritual consciousness helps us discover personal truth and produces fulfillment, significance, and self-love. Spiritual awakening and consciousness, then, precede effective social justice.
Debate, governance, legislation, and policy should be engaged in the energy of heart. Heart energy recognizes that each creature in this Universe contains the essence of Spirit and is inherently valuable. This knowledge will not eliminate challenges as to best courses of action, which is as it should be. We thrive when faced with challenges, but challenges answered in ego energy, at best, temporarily offer relief without resolution, and at worst, corrupt us to the core. To not awaken is to live primarily under ego-energy, and when that predominates, ugliness, unhappiness, and more will result: hatred, racism, or any variety of ill will.
And there sat Birmingham then. And here sits America now. The current call by a minority in the United States — significant and vocal — for some fairy-tale nation with a superiority complex thrown in the face of racial, cultural, and ethnic minorities here and the world abroad is unnecessary if we are acting on the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. We do the work, live the spirit, and evolve in “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Angry, hateful, boasting efforts to prove we are better will automatically erode, deny, or outright destroy those “certain unalienable rights.”
Dr. King exemplifies someone who was awakened, created purpose, and lived it. He was someone who expanded and came closer to fulfilling the spirit and unforeseen blessing of those founding documents, which weren’t always lived back then but must be recognized and pursued, lest they die. Lest we die. Evolving, progressing, facing challenges, and responding with Heart are good things. Genuine love.
(As always, cool pics with my posts on Medium.com!)
Awakening to spiritual consciousness engages the heart as the operating system to process life and make connections that involve commitment. In a society, we tend to make an agreement within ourselves, an agreement that says the nature of connection is worth speaking about, acting on, and promoting.
Seeking social justice requires commitment. In the Bible in Luke 14:28, Jesus spoke to crowds: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (New International Version http://biblehub.com/niv/luke/14.htm). When facing challenges of a heart commitment, no matter how simple or how daunting, we must answer the question of whether or not we will see it through, regardless of the odds of success.
Ego will chime in to fulfill its purpose to protect, many times with “common sense” prods and pleas: “Hey, you’re not making enough money; you’re only helping a few; you’re causing problems; you need to quit now.”
Heart would simply say something like this: “All in!” This doesn’t mean questions, doubts, fears, ridicule, persecution, or hosts of other oppositions won’t appear. They will. Counting the cost means we are all in, we will face challenges, and we will enthusiastically, passionately, and intelligently engage life — on our own terms. All in means we move onward and upward.
Counting the Cost: If It’s Not All in, It’s Not Heart!
I wonder how often Dr. Martin Luther King was faced with his own ego-energy to just quit for his own safety, well-being, and peace of mind. In his “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail,” he counted the cost of living his Heart-truth.
Dr. King and his people had been fed empty promises, and in patience and love, they acknowledged the difficulties and continued: “Like so many experiences of the past we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. …We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved” (King 3). He counted the cost realistically in terms of emotions and possible physical and legal ramifications. Counting the cost means preparing for eventualities, and for those dear souls, it meant having sufficient reasoning and sufficient rehearsal to be able to react appropriately to reprehensible ego responses.
No safety net, no part left out from under possible squishing. Knights of the Heart have counted the cost and are all in! (Photo by James Pond on Unsplash)Why would anyone subject themselves to such possibilities? Because they count the cost and determine that equality, love, and facing the challenges of the future together are worth every possibility of the retaliation and opposition of ignorant, ego-soaked souls.
Dr. King values the freedom he feels in his soul, but he experiences the spirit of slavery from an ego-guided society of white-controlled power, wealth, and superiority over minorities.
Therefore, Dr. King, knowing the fellowship and way of the Heart, engages in a four-step process of nonviolent campaigns, which are these: 1. Collection of the facts of injustice: “Birmingham[’s]…ugly record of police brutality…unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts…unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches” (King 3). 2. Attempts at negotiation: in“negotiating sessions certain promises were made by the merchants — such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the stores…[therefore we] agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstrations…[t]he signs remained” (King 3). 3. Self-purification , which involves the concept of counting the cost because that is exactly what this step is about: “We started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions ‘Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?’ ‘Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?’” (King 3). 4. Direct action: sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and peaceful demonstrations.
The facts of injustice had been collected in plain sight: “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States…police brutality…unjust treatment…in the courts…unsolved bombings.” Make no mistake here, please. Many would not then and do not even now call this injustice. Their judging ego, which seeks to isolate from the Other, creates barriers that are mistakenly believed to be for safety. Ego would prompt them to say African Americans suffered because of their own choices and actions. Choices and actions, however, are affected by the definitions of the controllers of society. They define what is safe, what is for the common good (their good), and what just treatment, rights, and freedoms are.
They could go to their white laws, to Supreme Court decisions like Plessy vs. Ferguson, and even Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education and say they had given freedoms to the black population. However, the fact that the above practices, not exceptions , of injustice remained show that ego reigned and reigns still.
Legislation can neither change ego-perceptions to heart-energy nor can it create morality. However, legislation can and should protect from ego actions that contradict the rights Jefferson and others outlined in founding documents. Heart actions and laws work toward resolutions, true peace, and human dignity in our connections and interrelatedness with one another.
Dr. King’s policy and practice of nonviolent direct action catalyzed heart-energized souls to be able to claim freedom, live in it, and pursue happiness. He pursued the step of negotiation, because he knew direct action would expose ego-energies and mean even greater challenges for his people. He and other leaders decided on several occasions to postpone protests to see if white power players would keep their word. They didn’t.
What were the simple requests for which they negotiated? To remove the “Whites Only” or “No Negros Allowed” type signs. When I was young, I witnessed these for myself in rural southeast Missouri, and I remember my confusion and eventual anger. It’s too bad we do not maintain youthful innocence about life.
No one wins if ego is enacted and favored when heart should be heard. Law and order should exist to limit ego bullshit. Law and order does not mean to force everyone to live up to the standards of a white, egoic power structure. Whites do not get to say how protests should occur — when, where, and what actions are acceptable or not.
I’m not referring to 1963 only; it has happened in St. Louis, Missouri, within the past few years: “They don’t get to block the highway like that. They have areas to protest in. They should not be in the mall.” This is sheer, egoic racism predicated on the superiority of one race.
We should count the cost of taking heart action, creating purpose, and living it in vision, mission, and daily goals. Dr. King did, as well as hosts of others. If they hadn’t, segregation would still be more the norm than it is now. The step of self-purification meant that protestors of Dr. King’s time had to face the questions of “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” If they couldn’t, they were discouraged from direct participation. If they were like those listening to Jesus in Luke 14, those who couldn’t face ego challenges would be those who stopped short of all-in heart work. Stopping short is ego work. It’s not wrong; it’s just deficit in terms of personal happiness. Ego-based rule creates unhappiness and hinders true freedom, and it enacts unjust laws.
On pages 7–9 of the “Letter…,” Dr. King points out the distinction between just and unjust laws. He says, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust” (King 7). Unjust laws are no laws at all, and as such should be acted against and protested against in order to raise awareness and overturn them. They should never be obeyed under the facade of keeping law and order, for they are only a control mechanism for those who through ego crave power, wealth, and control. Unjust laws are to be disobeyed. Dr. King and his followers entered into nonviolent direct action.
Dr. King makes it clear “that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action.” However, many would say they were irresponsible because many judged using ego instead of heart. The results of the direct action? They are well-known in the big picture. Dr. King understood and perceived the effects such work would have on society.
Counting the cost is an integral component of awakening to spiritual consciousness. In society, operating based on heart means connections with the Other matter. When we work to enact unbiased laws and policies, we seek social justice that protects the rights of all and works for the common good — not a “benevolent” 1%. Social justice begins internally, and the cost is greatest to ego. That’s not an easy challenge. It’s never finished; however, that produces a creative tension to move onward and upward.
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I know the concepts I write about are simultaneously simple and complicated; they must be because I write about humanity. Therefore, when I say we have a choice about the emotions we feel and the thoughts we think, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Discovering the essence of our nature is the start of spiritual awakening. I write about two operating systems with which we come equipped: ego and heart. The operation of those two forces within us creates complexity, a polarity; the human struggle for meaning, purpose, and relationship resides in this interplay.
We have a choice to awaken to Heart. When we do, courses of action, interaction, purpose, relationships, and life in general make more sense. Struggles and challenges continue; they always will because that’s part of why we come here: to explore, discover, innovate, and create.
Many challenges fall under the umbrella of the rights of humanity, natural rights, rights acknowledged in documents like the Declaration of Independence. When the Declaration says “all men are created equal” and that such a truth predicates “certain unalienable rights,” heart response says this means everyone — men, women, all races, ethnicities, etc.
Ensuring equality within the framework of a nation presents challenges, but none of those challenges should deny basic rights to anyone. The government should work for the common good — the most possible good to the most possible people down to the least among us without abridging others’ rights — is operative.
Choices about our actions, interactions, and reactions to such rights will be done, whether consciously or subconsciously, in the energy of Ego or Heart. Ego-energized choices aren’t necessarily wrong; they simply carry different consequences. However, when leaders or anyone else purposefully chooses Ego in known contradiction to Heart energy, that becomes a wrong for the rest of us whose rights would be abrogated.
Martin Luther King, Jr., chose, primarily, to work from Heart, and we can benefit from his wisdom. Therefore, I continue sharing my responses and interactions with his work.
I Think We’re Related! What Should We Do?
I’m thankful for Dr. Martin Luther King’s invitation to sit together at the table of brotherhood. As with any piece of writing, it’s incomplete until digested by the reader, until someone assigns meaning and relates personally to it.
I can meet with Dr. King about this because he makes a simple observation of a factual phenomenon: “I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states” (King 2). Any contact constitutes interrelatedness. After acknowledgment of the fact, Dr. King engages in self-awareness.
How do we personally respond and relate to things with which we connect in any way? While acknowledging our interrelatedness is simple, relating to that truth on a personal level is complex. We have a choice.
He responds like this: “I cannot sit idly by…” For him, his heart-energized purpose engaged him in the quest for justice. He gives the rationale for this reaction when he says, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King 2). He spent most of his adult life in pursuit of this purpose of justice. He shares, here, his understanding. When Dr. King writes, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” this demands a response. He must do something with this reality that each human is not only made of the same cloth but also shrouded — all of us together — in one massive shawl.
His action begins with this statement: “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” (King 2). This personal truth of his prompts him to action; he journeys from Atlanta to Birmingham and involves his organization in the nonviolent protests. For this, he is accused of being an “outside agitator” (King 2). He acted, and his actions show he is living his heart truth. Meaningful actions are based in solid beliefs, philosophies that hold us steady as we act.
The white power base knew a decision was required on their part, a decision in response to the message and action of Dr. King and those who followed him. They could join in the fellowship of the heart, or they could rebuke light, goodness, and love. White authorities put him in jail; for them, ego prevailed.
At our core, our essence, each of us is a Spirit-bearer; we each have heart. We have ego, too. The difference between outcomes from acting, feeling, sensing, making decisions, and any mind-soul-body function is whether the energy derives from ego or heart.
I try not to distinguish the energy source of others; matters of motivation belong to the individual. However, in trends of society, government, or culture, the prevailing energy manifests. Actions that strip anyone of their basic human dignities, rights, freedom, or equality, actions that tend to destruction, denigration, or degradation — those actions are based on beliefs fueled by ego.
It’s a choice. Choose heart energy. (Photo by Michelle Bonkosky on Unsplash)Ego-fueled racists believe essential, rather than surface, differences exist, which make racism “logical”; therefore, they would say, we should maintain and reinforce those differences by isolating ourselves from the Other. This can occur in a variety of ways based on ego-charged yet ingenious minds. To those who operate in ego energy, segregation makes sense. Such people would not normally call themselves bigoted, prejudiced, or racist because they have used ego reasoning to convince themselves that their way is “natural.” Such reasoning is truth to the ego-fueled mind, but all have a choice. When we willfully choose ego over heart, we violate our highest Self, our core Self, and our ego-truths are plain, unvarnished lies against the heart.
Spirit witnesses with each of our hearts that we are humans, equal, blessed, and worthy of mutual consideration and treatment in love. This is love, enlightenment, and our true nature. Dr. King knew, believed, and lived this.
The facts that we are “interrelated” and “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny” demand a response, because we are human. Like a tuning fork thumped on the side of the hand, Dr. King’s sentiments and his truths vibrate in today’s world seeking hearts with which they resonate. Our interrelatedness has been accelerated technologically and economically, and more than ever our mutuality has been irrevocably established. We must choose to either love in heart or hate in ego those to whom we are linked. The love or hate may be manifested across a spectrum of words and deeds, but it boils down to each one of us making our choice.
In that light, it’s not so difficult to understand protests or protestors. How do we feel about those who are treated unjustly under the guise of law and order to protect a favored race’s status quo? Do we see ourselves being treated unfairly in such scenarios? Dr. King did: “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” (King 2). Jesus said when any act, whether borne of hatred or love, is done to the least, the poorest, the outcast, he felt it personally. Do we?
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!