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I Quoted MLK, Now I Feel Better

I like a good inspirational quote. It comes from a wise voice often from ages ago. It gives a pause for reflection and even a chance to do something differently during the day.

The problem is that too often my own inclination is to hear the quote, go “Hmmmm…” and then carry on as if somehow being inerested in a quote changed anything in my life or in the life of another’s. It’s Martin Luther King Day and also a Presidential Inauguration. The quotes are coming fast and furious. As I have been writing this here are the quotes at the top of my Twitter feed:

  • “Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?” – MLK
  • “Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” – #MLK

They have been rolling in all day.

  • “It’s not what we don’t know that hurts us. It’s what we believe is true, that isn’t that does the damage.” -Ali Astrid Zofia

I follow a few feeds that give me inspirational quotes from the Saints of the Church and other sources that give me positivity. It’s good for the heart. These things feed my soul and imagination in a positive way. So I don’t discourage quotes and sharing them at all. Why would I have a right to discourage that anyway? Do what works for you.

So here’s the big BUT…

If all we do is quote and feel good about quoting those who demand change without making change ourselves, we may actually be contributing to the problem they were trying to solve.

It’s a lot easier to work with a situation that we know has gone to hell. At least at that point there is no ambiguity. When we are faced with school shootings it should be unambiguous that something has to be done somewhere to curb the violence. If you hit the same traffic jam that stresses you out every morning, no matter how many times you say, “I wish this traffic would be better here,” nothing will change. Change the law, enforce the policy, wake up earlier, find a different route, get a different job.

I can quote the Dalai Lama all day and will never come closer to enlightenment. I may actually get farther away from it because I have deluded myself into believing a false and lazy path will get me there.

Martin Luther King doesn’t want to be quoted, the saints of the church don’t want to be quoted, Jesus doesn’t want to be quoted, the Buddha doesn’t want to be quoted. They all want us to work. They all want us to make enlightened and self-sacrifical choices that make ourselves and those around us better people.

Here is an exercise: Quote only those words that you are willing to do today.

If we can’t act on what we quote, what is the actual value of it?

Expecting others to do it and not ourselves is just arrogance and self-centeredness. Find a struggle and persist in it. Then be willing to change. Wouldn’t you like these words to have meaning for generations after us? I would. So let’s not hollow them out with our laziness.

We aren’t called to feel better. We are called to be better.

About Andrew Tatusko

Secularization, critical pedagogy, sometimes agnostic, politics, and a ton of running. Penn State is definitely not responsible for what I say.


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