My morning today took me in an unexpected spontaneous direction. Since this is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday, I decided to take a few minutes to look back through some of Dr. King’s speeches and other quotes. I’d read many before, but this review became so captivating that it stretched on for hours.
Certainly one of the most eloquent people in recent times, Dr. King was also a profound thinker. I noticed in many of his comments that he did something we rarely see these days. He described his private thought processes, how he arrived at his strongest convictions. Here’s one example from his autobiography where he told of his inner deliberations.
“As a young man with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow. But to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Comments like that cause me to stop and reflect. What little gods tempt me to follow them? How much Is the real God dominant in my thinking and life? The great issues of life are decided in our private thoughts. What a gift that Dr. King was so self-revealing about his personal thoughts.
He was certainly an intelligent man, in addition to being well-spoken. One of the interesting facts I discovered while reading about him today was that he began college at age 15. Later he won the Nobel Peace Prize. What, however, surpasses his intellect and fame in my estimation is his wisdom. He was a man overflowing with insights and values. Too often these days, we demote values to mean little more than a few hot-button political positions. Authentic values are far more. They are deep inside us, motivate us, and direct our lives.
While wading through hundreds of quotes, I was impressed by how much good counsel Dr. King had about aging and life purpose. These are the primary themes of my new book that comes out next month.
His life was cut short when he was murdered at age 39, yet despite his limited years, Martin Luther King, Jr. had sage advice about long life for those of us fortunate enough to have longevity. Consider these remarks by Dr. King.
“Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until seventy-five and yet not ever truly to have lived.”
“It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”
“The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.”
“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”
“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”
This year, the Dr. King Holiday commemorates what would have been his 90th birthday. Only months before he was killed, he remarked that he was thinking ahead about what it would mean if he got to live to 90.
“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.
Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”
Message received. I do not want to die in my spirit before my body dies. Thank you, Dr. King, your voice still rings out. Today, I am both instructed and inspired by your words.