Although Martin Luther King Day came and went last week, his name came up once again after President Trump’s inauguration. It was falsely reported that Trump had removed the iconic bust of Martin Luther King from the Oval Office, where President Obama had prominently displayed it. It turned out that the bust had been obscured by a door and a Secret Service agent, and a reporter who was in the room mistakenly wrote that it had been removed.
In any case, since Dr. King’s name is in the news once more, I would like to take this opportunity as a baby boomer who walked barefoot in the 1960s and held up peace signs, to honor a man who was a real pathfinder and activist for civil liberties. If we stop for a moment to ponder Dr. King’s enormous courage in speaking out and uniting people, we must also honor his brilliance and tenacity. He has been a role model for so many people who have strived for peace and equality. We need more role models like Dr. King to help us navigate our journey here on Earth — especially those who advocate for peace in a nonaggressive, nonviolent way.
As a spiritual person, I believe that peace begins within. If everyone tried to bring peace to their own personal lives, then the chance of achieving world peace would increase. This means engaging in a daily practice that brings peace to one’s inner self — whether that entails meditation, yoga, stretching, walking, cycling, hiking, or taking a daily bath — basically, anything that calms the body, mind, and spirit.
Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic and idealistic, but we all need to start somewhere. Situated in the corner of my desk where I’m writing this blog is a calm Buddha face holding a little stone that says “Serenity.” I’m not secular, but I like the calm that the Buddha and his stone bring to my day. Every so often I glance over at him, and he relaxes me. We all need reminders around us that accomplish this very thing.
A few years ago there was an op-ed piece in the LA Times by Luke Glowacki, who posed the question, “Are people violent by nature?” He answered, “Probably.” To me this was a disturbing factoid, but as I read further, his premise made complete sense. He talked about the war of ideas with respect to violence and human nature that has raged since the 1600s when philosopher Thomas Hobbes speculated that the “natural condition of mankind” was one of violence and conflict. I tend to resonate more with philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who viewed things differently and said that culture and civilization, and not nature, was responsible for violence.
I prefer to believe that even though violence and fighting for rights is necessary for evolution, it is also a way for certain groups and individuals to come together to effect change, as Dr. King did, and as environmentalists do today. I also believe in the 1960s phrase that was posted in hippie shops and on a button affixed to my overcoat, which read, “Make love and not war.”
In the conclusion to his article, Glowacki deftly and wisely stated, “Whether our genes lead us to war or peace depends on the particular social environment in which we live.” There are just too many variables to consider when ascertaining the role and origin of violence in our world as we know it. We need to do our part and aim for a peaceful existence, first in our microcosms, and then in the world-at-large.
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