SELMA – 1965

 

America gave him a federal holiday in 1983.  Not all states complied; many objected.  Why should a “white” nation recognize a black rabble-rouser and trouble maker?  A few raised questions regarding Dr. King’s moral character in order to discredit the work he had done for the advancement of the civil rights of black people.  But, with the federal government’s mandates regarding civil rights, justice and equality, strident racism within American society appeared to be a relic of the by-gone days when signs at drinking fountains and lunch counters told black people they were not good enough or American enough to share those same facilities.  We white people probably felt that we had somehow been miraculously cleansed of the centuries of hatred and intolerance leveled on other citizens who just happened to be a varying, darker shade of our skins.  Yeah, the government gave them a holiday, that ought to keep them quiet for a while, we’re cool.

Guess what folks?  Those issues which were a festering sore on our collective, white American soul are back in full force.  It’s as if we learned nothing from the horrors of slavery, the Jim Crow laws, the voting obstruction, the job and housing discrimination, the burning crosses, the hooded cowards raising havoc with people of color, Jews, Catholics, gays, Muslims, i.e. anybody who does not have a white, European, Christian pedigree.

My  initial writing for this post, briefly detailing the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, failed to  convey the anger and disgust which is building inside me today.  The words which I wrote were yada-yada-yada achievement reporting from Wikipedia that somehow seemed to be sanitizing the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of protesters, marchers, and victims of American intolerance and injustice.  They gave their souls, minds and lives to a cause which should never be summed up in a few accolades for a job well done or a holiday once a year with parades and linen sales at the local WalMart.  Those civil rights warriors deserve much, much more from us.

And we see some groups celebrating today as a day of service, a time of being kind to others.  I like that.  I think MLK, Jr. and Rosa Parks would approve.  Maybe we could also take a few minutes to hear Dr. King’s speeches, the incredible urgings to non-violent action, the famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop”, and Bobby Kennedy’s announcement in Indianapolis to his mostly black crowd that their leader had been murdered in Memphis.  Yes, that seems to be the least we can do in remembrance.  It’s all on YouTube.

SELMA

The movie SELMA is a 2014 production which is the true story of the tumultuous 3 month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition.  The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

 

One day when the glory comes
It will be ours, it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Hands to the Heavens, no man, no weapon
Formed against, yes glory is destined
Every day women and men become legends
Sins that go against our skin become blessings
The movement is a rhythm to us
Freedom is like religion to us
Justice is juxtapositionin’ us
Justice for all just ain’t specific enough
One son died, his spirit is revisitin’ us
Truant livin’ livin’ in us, resistance is us
That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up
When it go down we woman and man up
They say, “Stay down”, and we stand up
Shots, we on the ground, the camera panned up
King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up

One day when the glory comes
It will be ours, it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Now the war is not over, victory isn’t won
And we’ll fight on to the finish, then when it’s all done
We’ll cry glory, oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)
We’ll cry glory, oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Selma’s now for every man, woman and child
Even Jesus got his crown in front of a crowd
They marched with the torch, we gon’ run with it now
Never look back, we done gone hundreds of miles
From dark roads he rose, to become a hero
Facin’ the league of justice, his power was the people
Enemy is lethal, a king became regal
Saw the face of Jim Crow under a bald eagle
The biggest weapon is to stay peaceful
We sing, our music is the cuts that we bleed through
Somewhere in the dream we had an epiphany
Now we right the wrongs in history
No one can win the war individually
It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy
Welcome to the story we call victory
The comin’ of the Lord, my eyes have seen the glory

One day when the glory comes
It will be ours, it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)
Oh glory (Glory, glory)
Hey (Glory, glory)

When the war is won, when it’s all said and done
We’ll cry glory (Glory, glory)
Oh (Glory, glory)

Songwriters: CHE SMITH,JOHN LEGEND,LONNIE LYNN
© Universal Music Publishing Group,BMG Rights Management
For non-commercial use only.
Data from: LyricFind

he freed a lot of people

Drugs, sex, rock and roll.  We drank with abandon and we loved our music.  Our heroes were John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.  They represented what my generation agreed was the future of our country.  And within a span of 5 years, they were gone.  Assassinated by hatred and racism.  Murdered by those who would not accept change.  We rebelled, some marched, others protested and I….I dropped out.  But the music played on.  The message could not be silenced.  

He freed a lot of people but it seems the good, they die young.  You know I just looked around and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things they stood for?  Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?  Can you tell me where he’s gone?  I thought I saw him walking up over the hill with Abraham, Martin and John.

Abraham, Martin and John

Anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people but it seems the good, they die young
You know I just looked around and he’s gone

Anybody here seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people but it seems the good, they die young
I just looked around and he’s gone

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people but it seems the good, they die young
I just looked around and he’s gone

Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free
Someday soon, it’s gonna be one day

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John

Songwriters: RICHARD HOLLER
© STONEHENGE MUSIC
For non-commercial use only.
Data from: LyricFind

Oscar Romero

Today the Archbishop of San Salvador, assassinated in 1980 by a hit squad of the El Salvadoran government, a government supported, sanctioned, and financed by the USA, will be sainted by the Catholic Church.  He was a strong  public voice for the voiceless and anonymous poor of El Salvador and Latin America.  A few weeks before his murder, Father Romero said:

“I have often been threatened with death. I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. I say so without boasting, with the greatest humility. . . . A bishop will die, but God’s church, which is the people, will never perish.” 

From a telephone interview with newspaper correspondent José Calderón Salazar. See James R. Brockman, Romero: A Life (Orbis Books: 2005), 247-248. cac.org

In my quiet time today I want to consider Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr, the countless men and women of faith who would not deny the calling which had been put upon them by an unseen, indescribable, and undefinable Power, a greater Power.  They did not follow the mandate to minister to the marginalized and oppressed because they wanted to be historical martyrs.  No, they did so because their interpretation of the Scriptures said it was the right path to follow.  They read the holy writings from the viewpoint of the humble, meek, sacrificial servant called Jesus Christ.   Not the Church nor the authorities of the Church nor the powers of government deterred them from the mission of their lives.

Am I living my life as they did?  Lord knows I want to, but I stumble in weakness and doubt so many times.  Who am I to think I can make a difference, as these great warriors did,  for the poor and persecuted?  What can my ministry be at my age, the sunset of this life?  When I arrive at that final destination will someone say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. . . .  And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” —Matthew 5:10,12, The Message

Lord, I beg to be blessed.

brilliance

 

 

 

 

 

men who dream

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

“What we need in the United States is not division, what we need in the United States is not hatred, what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, feeling of justice to those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”  Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4th, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy

RFK was assassinated 63 days later.

hangovers

heart manateeJust another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

Hangovers.  We who partied hearty with the demon alcohol probably remember them well.  And it is good that we do lest the allure of the good times overshadows the misery of the bad times.  I continue to have drunk dreams occasionally and I welcome them as my Higher Power’s blessing.  Those dreams keep me in touch with the reality of alcoholism.

We can also experience emotional hangovers.  This past weekend all the excitement of worldwide “marches for our lives” built up to a crescendo of incredible hope for a humanity free of violence.  The millions who participated displayed an energy uncommon in our society, one that brought together like-minded brothers and sisters who value the sanctity of all life over the various interpretations of citizens’ rights.  The young speakers were amazing, the crowds were peaceful, and a sense of dignity for all humanity governed the atmosphere.

Then, later that evening, the disparaging tweets, comments, and hatred filled our airways and moved across our viewing screens.  Yes, it was an amazing day, but now the reality of what we are as a society hit with a vengeance. The emotional hangover set in. Once again we faced the truth of a world which says that even as voices concerned with species survival speak peace, governments and government agents do not, the powerful do not, and those lost in the darkness of self do not.  They thrive on discord and discontent.

At these moments I have a decision to make.  1) Forsake my truth to venture into their world of strife or 2) grab onto the power which leads me into a place of green pastures and still waters.  President and Mrs. Obama called it “taking the high road”.  Oprah defined it as “not giving power to negativity.”  It’s one of the Buddha’s teachings: observe the thoughts that pass through our minds, do not dwell, do not judge, just allow them to be and then pass on. My serenity depends on preserving an inner sanctum, a space within where the world’s activity is observed and then dismissed.

That emotional turmoil does not need to be the controlling factor in life.  That muck of strife and discord does not need to be wallowed in.  Recognize it and then allow it to pass.  Know it is out there, but don’t participate in its life-sucking discourse.  That is what the Obamas, Oprah, and the Buddha encouraged us to do.  Instead of wallowing, set a course on positive, empowering energy which will encounter and conquer that which is dehumanizing and hateful.

A childhood Sunday School ditty says it all:  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

CANDLEcopyright 3

 

 

 

world peace

larry6Often I wonder if the characters who are portrayed as spiritual stalwarts centuries ago could survive in the madness of today.  Would they be as courageous in the face of modern-day persecution?  Would they be as capable of finding the quietness of contemplation and meditation of which we are so desirous in today’s culture?  My answer is always a resounding “yes”.  Although the connections of social media and news media were not as immediate as that which we have today, I believe the issues were the same and I know from historical accounts that the persecution was extremely horrendous.  The coverage that rolls across our viewing screens continues to depict the unfathomable inhumanity of man against man.  It is historical and it continues to be the ungodly force which defines mankind.

But, I don’t have to live that way or be deterred by hatred and violence in my life’s journey.  You don’t either.  Realizing that the hope for our world lies not in the might of peace enforced by military power or governmental control, but in each individual member of mankind who is determined to live according to the message of ancient and modern mystics by recognizing an indwelling God, some call it Spirit, and God’s directive to love one another as we have been loved.  We are called to replace devotion to self with service to neighbor.  It’s an attainable solution to a worldwide problem which is leading our species to annihilation.

The message of God’s messengers from Buddha to Jesus to St. Francis to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. has always been social revolution by peaceful resistance to violence.  And that revolution begins with you and with me.  It’s a readily available inside solution to an earth-threatening plague.

And it’s not that difficult.  Many of us in recovery know the power bestowed upon us when we “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” and then, “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  steps 2 &3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

We were lost in the insanity of addiction much as the world today is lost in the insanity of hatred and violence.  Addiction and hatred are both soul-killers and the cure for both will be found when we turn to the indwelling divinity which does not need to be sought or discovered from outside sources.  It is innate and readily available.  Just “be still and know.” Psalm 46:10

This journey of discovery is a life-time process which I will never do perfectly.  But, I can travel through this experience as a fearless sojourner who relies upon a Higher Power which wants nothing but goodness and mercy for me and for the world in which I live.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:6

he followed his calling

He was an associate minister at the Unitarian Universalist church from 1959 until 1964 after which Rev. James Reeb moved to Boston to work on housing issues with a Quaker non-profit.  Previously, he was the chaplain, a strict Presbyterian, at Philadelphia General Hospital.

“His theology had told him that if people were suffering, that it was God’s punishment for their sins.  But this judging voice was at war with another voice inside him which said, ‘These are your brothers and sisters.'”  Rev. Rob Hardies, pastor at All Souls Church Unitarian

In 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. called for the nation’s clergy to join civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama.  March 9th was later called ‘Turnaround Tuesday” as Dr. King led the marchers onto Edmund Pettus Bridge, said a short prayer, then turned back.  He asked the clergy to stay in Selma should there be another march.  Rev. Reeb was one of those clergymen who decided to stay.

That night after dinner with two other ministers, Rev. James Reeb was attacked by a group of four white men of whom one was carrying a club.  Recalling the incident 50 years later, Rev. Clark Olsen said, “Four men came at us from across the street…..one of them was carrying a club and swung it at Jim’s head.

James Reeb died two days after the attack having lapsed into a coma from his head injuries.   Dr. King preached the eulogy, and hours later, President Johnson mentioned his death when he introduced the Voting Rights Act to Congress saying, “Many were brutally assaulted; one good man, a man of God, was killed.”

“He wanted to do good in the world and right some of the wrongs in our society.”   Rev. Clark Olsen

The three men charged in the assault were acquitted by an all-white jury after just 95 minutes of deliberation.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/03/11/james-reeb-died-in-selma-50-years-ago-today-he-should-be-remembered-for-how-he-lived/?utm_term=.353924c96bcd

 

 

 

 

guilty as charged

One of my favorite ladies in the whole world is a young woman whom I met while working at a nursing rehab center.  She was a 29-year-old nursing assistant when I first struck up a conversation in the laundry where I worked.  After several chats she offered that her 15-year-old daughter was having a birthday.  My brain, which sometimes simply works too hard, started churning.

“Good Lord, how old were you when you birthed this child?”embarassed

“Fourteen.”

From then on I was hooked on this child who gave birth to a child.  I wanted to know more.  What happened?  How did you  deal with it?  What did your parents say?  Are you ever sorry it happened?

We became best of friends.  She, at age 29, was a devout follower of Jesus, invited me to her church, “But, sweetheart, I would probably be the only white man there, and I can’t sing worth a hoot, and your church service gets pretty lively.”

She smiled and replied, “It is what it is.”

We don’t see each other much since I retired from that job.  I met up with her last year at a local MLK, Jr. rally and march; she walked with me, shared me with her friends, proudly introduced me to her son aged 6, and again invited me to her church.  From what I learned about her friends at that rally, I knew I would be welcomed at her church with open arms.

That doesn’t happen very often at the white churches I’ve attended.  There is a reserve, a cool reception, a distrust of the new guy coming to church by himself.  Where’s the wife?  Does he have children?  Why is he deciding to come to church at age 70?  I could see that attitude as a judgmental thing, but then I would be judgmental also, wouldn’t I?  My best reaction is to simply shrug shoulders and say, “It is what it is.”

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to approach life and all life’s challenges?  Our situation in Washington, D.C., which disturbs me every day, the insecurities of aging, the neighbor who flies his confederate flag…….none of this needs my approval or disapproval.  It is what it is.

The “path” described by Buddha focuses on an inner peace which allows each thought to enter the mind, say its piece, and then disappear into oblivion.  I am merely the observer of that thought, I don’t approve or disapprove, I don’t entertain a judgment.  When I am able to live my day following the Buddha’s teaching, it is a good day.  Unfortunately, I am not a perfect follower and I stumble.

The wisdom of Judeo-Christian scriptures tells us:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Luke 6:41

When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1

Yes, yes, yes, I am guilty as charged.  I voice approval or disapproval at will, I condemn or praise according to my distorted world view, and I self-righteously judge things which I truly do not fully understand.

But, it is what it is, and I am better than I used to be.

namaste rainbow

 

OSLO, 1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. accepts the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” isaiah 11:6

conflicted

We know the Way of Jesus: the Truth and Life; we know the Path of the Buddha.  Reality dwells in a space within our bodily temples protected from the clamor of the world.  It does not participate in the illusions of the world.  It merely observes the noise and allows us to function quietly in fullness of spirit.   When challenged by the incessant demands of the noise, our inner self needs only withdraw to the place we know as truth, the place where we will find solace.

And what is that truth?   It is knowing that this life is impermanent; it is knowing that this life is suffering; it is knowing that our suffering is a result of the work of the ego; it is knowing that we can ascend to a place of non-suffering through dying to that ego.  When we can become self-less we can become free.  That is the journey, the Quest.

For a few, enlightenment occurs, but for me, it is a continuing trek through the disappointment, the disillusionment, the sadness, the intolerance, the hatred which defines today’s society.  I’m still a work in progress.  Thankfully, I also know that it is my choice to participate in a conflicted way within the world’s reality or to merely observe and conduct my life according to my conscience.  I will speak as a brother to all humanity, I will think as one who is merely a grain of sand in the sea of humanity, I will uphold the rights of all my brothers and sisters to a life of equality and justice.  The truth which I perceive tells me there is no separation of mankind for we are all one within the greatness, the magnificence, the brilliance of the universal One.

The state of being conflicted is counterproductive to the journey.  Or is it?  When we stand in for a victim of oppression and hatred, when we speak out for those who are being persecuted, when we uphold the laws of our country as prescribed by the Constitution by counter-demonstrating, are we not also subscribing to that which we know to be Truth?

Although I seek quiet and solitude, I cannot be voiceless and uninvolved.  Even when I cannot successfully search my memory banks for sound bytes, video clips, and quotes which support my convictions regarding today’s political turmoil, I have an intelligence and awareness which continues to discern right from wrong.  For that I am grateful else my state of confliction would be without value or purpose.

I wonder if Gandhi was conflicted, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Jesus, or the Buddha.  Maybe it’s OK.  You think?

smiley 3