Martin Luther King Day, 2010
“We must have the spiritual audacity to assert our somebodyness.” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because “he who feels he is a somebody, even though humiliated by external servitude, achieves a sense of selfhood and dignity that nothing in all the world can take away”.
I am somebody. And, being somebody, I am the one who decides how I look at myself, and define who I am, and who I am becoming. In having selfhood and dignity, I therefore don’t need to dance to the tune of the bigot, the oppressor, the naysayer. I choose to lift myself up or to put myself down.
I am the definer of who I am, who I was and who I will become. I am, as the English poet Willam Henley says, in Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
--William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
And, so, when I gnash my teeth and bemoan the injustices in the world, or the inaction and inattention of others, and of myself, I again realize that when I point the condemning, accusing finger at another, three fingers point back at myself.
Oh, I am in charge. I decide how I will respond. I decide if I am to marshall my resources, my talents, my creativity, my intelligence.
And, if I don’t, then I still have chosen, I still have voted, I still have acted. Though, in my inaction, my acquiescence, I have decided that the status quo is acceptable, that what others may decide, by their action, or inaction, is what I want to see happen. And, when it does happen, I need to shut up, knowing that yes, I have made a choice, I have responded, I have acted, in my inaction.
So, if I launch my arrow, speak my mind, take my hand and offer assistance and direction and labor, if I cogitate problem solving and solution and needed action, and take those steps, then I am pro-active, I am moving.
And, in all of that, perhaps I have finally grasped the concepts of William Henley and Martin Luther King, and all the others who we uphold as inspirational and exemplary of leadership and courage and wisdom.