Dear Still Water Friends,
I’ve been reflecting this week about the towering presence of Martin Luther King, Jr. and how much he could have offered had he lived to celebrate his 75th birthday this week.
We will celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday thisThursday, January 20, at our weekly gathering, by listening together to sections from his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” and reflecting on how we have been inspired by Martin Luther King’s life and vision.
“Beyond Vietnam” was given on April 4, 1967, to aNew York City conference of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. In this talk Martin Luther King explains how his conscience cannot separate the suffering of African Americans from the suffering of Vietnamese. There is only one struggle, for peace and freedom everywhere. Martin Luther King’s awareness of the Vietnamese situation was greatly influenced by his friendship with ThichNhat Hanh, whom Dr. King nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.
Below is an excerpt from “Beyond Vietnam.” Both the text and the live audio are available on the web at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm.
Excerpt from “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to BreakSilence”
by Martin Luther King, Jr.
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world asa weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. ThisHindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says :
“Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.