Martin Luther King Jr. The Timeless Humanitarian

Posted on January 11, 2012 by

Martin Luther King Jr. HolidaySerendipity abounds, there are no coincidences. It’s a phrase I often use in attempt to explain the abundance of goodness that exists among what people normally perceive as ordinary. Such was the remarkable life and the historical contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. The actual imprint he will have left on humanity will long survive the fading memory of the significance of his contributions.

Just as Martin Luther impacted the religious traditions of the known world by triggering the protestant reformation with the tacking of his famous 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517, MLK is singularly credited as being the progenitor of the modern civil rights movement in the United States. The parallels of significance between these two seemingly very different personalities and the depth of contribution to civilization cannot be understated, although a parallel is rarely, if ever drawn. 

Many people reference MLK based solely on the list of notable accomplishments such his great speeches, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, co-founding the SCLC as well as numerous world wide awards and recognitions. While focusing on a list of data points is worthwhile in terms of historical understanding and overall appreciation of Dr. King’s legacy, it’s my opinion that the single most important and unrecognized attribution to his life was his understanding about and the fearless outworking of the spiritual calling that was on his life. He was a man with a “divine” universal mission. Far beyond all that we can see or read about the man is his enduring impact on the evolving fragility of the human condition.

From his youth Martin L. King understood that his life’s purpose would be molded by and fashioned from the spiritual guidance and example of his preacher/teacher father, Martin King Sr. It’s no accident that MLK’s name was changed from Michael to Martin upon the inspiration of his father when the family traveled to Germany, learning of the importance of Martin Luther’s work in the evolution of the Catholic Church. Little did Martin Sr. know how uniquely parallel the paths of these two Martins would be in terms of historical significance. 

Martin Luther King Jr. was doubtless an icon of change, set forth in this life and time, by sheer necessity of man’s progress in the face of the inhuman circumstances of slavery’s legacy and its negative impact on the black race in the United States. Any sensible and realistic look at pre civil rights America easily reveal the overwhelming necessity for permanent change that I believe was step two in the very evolution of civilized coexistence between blacks and whites. Even in the silent contemplation of the “every man”, all people recognized the disparity, the polarization, the separate-ness of segregation and the laws that sought to perpetuate the same.

Things needed to change. Someone needed to heed a call of the greater good and that call came through the acceptability and recognition of the religious covering of the Church. It was however a higher call. No man-made institution could have initiated the dramatic changes that racial segregation demanded. Non violence and civil disobedience was the key to humanizing the plight suffered by the victims of racial discrimination. Eventually, and at a high price, the message took root and forced the self inspection of America and its walls of separation that perpetuated the discordance that existed between the races.

Martin’s was a high calling: an extraordinary task that enveloped his very imagination. His Inspirational (in-spirit) relationship to the largest civil tasking of our time was driven in part by his deep understanding gained by virtue of his early world travels and the impression made on his sense of purpose by the great spiritualists he encountered along his life’s way. Martin’s life represented the convergence of time, necessity, situation, circumstance, purpose, vision and determination, all toward a universal goal that maybe he himself didn’t fully understand as it was unfolding. Larger than Life were Martin’s divine objectives, yet he was limited to living it out as a common man, suffering the same frailties and weaknesses that all share in common. He, like us, represented “treasure in earthen vessels” yet the largess of his dream was not minimized by his humanity.  

The culmination of his experiences, combined with the persistent inner calling for the necessity of real change compelled MLK to devote his undivided attention to the very substance of change. His life embodied the elements of progress with every word penned, with every speech delivered, with every march accomplished, with every sermon preached. King disseminated the gospel of his dream as a common thread that unified his every thought. Such was his power of agreement that his work captivated the world. Yes, man lauded him with recognition but the real accomplishment was bridging the divinity principle of life’s purpose with the limitations of our human-ness… and we were privileged to see it in our generation.    

Martin Luther Kink Jr. so captivated the world’s consciousness regarding racial equality and what was yet to come that it temporarily distracted the worldview from what was so wrong toward the dream of what was possible. He was not bound in his thinking or his action by the harsh reality of what was. He told a different story, he imagined a different reality. He saw a different world. His dream was more than an idea about possibility; it was a foreknowledge of what he knew to be a coming reality and he lived it fully. Our task now is to simply continue to dream his dream for it is a unifying message that ensures a peaceful coexistence.

Great was his impact and far reaching was the substance of his life. History will doubtless long recall and eagerly point to the evidence of his material accomplishments. We can only hope that generations to come will also understand that his life was not about these “things”, rather it was about a man of purpose, appointed for a time such as this, who heeded the call from all that is, and bridged the horrific gap that temporarily existed between man’s inherent divinity and the inevitable transgressions of his humanity.

For complete MLK day of service information, see www.mlkday.gov  Also see National Service opportunities at www.serve.gov.

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