Sunday, February 03, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The library had a whole display of books by and about Dr. King in honor of his holiday last week. I picked up one called A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. I've read some biographies before but never sat down to read extensively King's message in his own words. There's no more powerful way to experience his life, other than to see and hear him delivering the message in person or on film. Having 700 pages of his writings, though, it's more dense, you can see the repetition of the key themes, and the way he phrased the same idea differently over time.

Here's just a sample of how Dr. King thought:

". . . there is within human nature an amazing potential for goodness. There is within human nature somethin that can respond to goodness. I know somebody's liable to say that this is an unrealistic movement if it goes on believing that all people are good. Well, I didn't say that. I think the students are realistic enough to believe that there is a strange dichotomy of disturbing dualism within human nature. Many of the great philosophers and thinkers through the ages have seen this. It caused Ovid the Latin poet to say, "I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do." It caused even Saint Augustine to say, "Lord, make me pure, but not yet." So that that is in human nature. Plato, centuries ago said that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions, so that within our own individual lives we see this conflict and certainly when we come to the collective life of man, we see a strange badness. But in spite of this there is something in human nature that can respond to goodness. So that man is neither innately good nor is he innately bad; he has potentialities for both. . . .

"And so the nonviolent resister never lets this idea go, that there is something within human nature that can respond to goodness."

Those are your reasonable words for today.

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