A great time to be alive
The picture above is Martin Luther King, Jr. at Mason Temple in Memphis, April 3, 1968, on the occasion of his “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech:
I don't know what will happen now… Difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, I've been to the mountaintop. …. Seen the Promised Land… May not get there with you... Not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
The passages below, from his less well-known 1964 Nobel Lecture in Oslo, express enduring confidence in humankind even in a time of unrest with much in common with the present.
All that I have said boils down to the point of affirming that mankind's survival is dependent upon man's ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony….
This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited … a great "world house" in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.
…I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. Doors of opportunity are gradually being opened to those at the bottom of society. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are developing a new sense of "some-bodiness" and carving a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of despair… Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity.
So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life's restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.
Thanks for reading Monday Memos.