I have a deep affection for Dr Martin Luther King. Even though his life ended when I was only 7 months old, I have always felt a connection to him and his message of peace and equality.
I grew up in Newark, NJ in the wake of the riots of 1967. I was born with the privilege of white skin, but I was fortunate enough to have had a few black teachers who lived through those riots, and stood by in sadness and disbelief as MLK was murdered. He was a hero and a role model who had touched their lives deeply, and they taught from a place of love and respect and urgency. They helped me to see life from a different point of view and I am ever grateful to them for that.
To this day whenever I see MLK on the news, or read about his life, or think about how he fought and died for freedom, I am deeply affected. As his birthday approached I started to see articles and photos, and I began to cry. The tears came quickly since I’ve already been crying all week. The death of David Bowie is still looming large, like a gaping hole in the heart of our house.
The world became a different place the moment MLK was shot. Just as it did when Bowie took his last breath. Just as it does when any personal hero dies.
Our personal heroes are people who touch us so deeply that we let them into our hearts. We open ourselves up to them and allow them to give us hope. Sometimes they don’t save lives, but they give us enough hope to save us from ourselves, to save us from despair.
As we move through our normal, everyday, sometimes mundane lives, the people who save us from despair are the people whose lives are not at all normal and mundane. They are the people who live slightly outside of normal. They challenge the standards of society, they push the envelope, they refuse to sit by quietly and accept the status quo. They realize that our society, our world is not a healthy one. They understand what Krishnamurti meant when he said “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
So they create their own versions of the world, and they live in them, proudly and publicly. They allow us to enter their worlds, if only for a while, through a song, a paragraph, a dance, a painting, a speech.
If we are so moved, perhaps we will honor our heroes and follow their examples.
If we are so moved, perhaps we ourselves will take a chance and dance on the edge for a little while.
Or perhaps, if we are so moved we can make the big shift, and choose to exist a maladjusted life, on the outskirts altogether.
If we’re lucky, in some small fashion, we can save someone else along the way.
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” MLK