“...in order to answer the question, ‘Where do we go from here?’... we must first honestly recognize where we are now.”
~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Be here now."
~ Ram Dass
Had he lived, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be celebrating his 92nd birthday today, January 15th. It is quite astonishing to even briefly consider what he managed to say and live and do in the bright sharpness of the 39 years that were his life. I think we forget most times just how young this old soul was by the time of his human death.
It has been reported that one of the reasons our capitol in Washington is at this moment an armed fortress is that those who attempted an insurrection on January 6th concocted plans of further violence that would commence on January 15th, without accident coinciding with King’s birthday and the activities and celebrations that honor his life and work —that of a black man and authentic patriot who held America accountable to its most treasured values and lofty promises. Who remained steadfast in his commitment to love, non-violence, and the highest good of all, even unto death.
The past week has been traumatizing and exhausting in different ways for all of us. As I did with 9/11, I hated the repeat repeat repeat video footage of the events of January 6th. I began to realize I couldn’t get past the emotional exhaustion I was experiencing until I allowed myself to stop holding my breath and to breathe into what I was truly feeling. Generational trauma as I imagined lynch mobs. How outraged I felt. How my faith was shaken. Does the arc of the moral universe really bend toward justice?
A friend said she thought it was good that the media kept replaying those images so they would be forever and indelibly imprinted upon our minds. So that those in the nation who claimed to care would never forget what we had come so dangerously close to losing. So the images would live as present-day proof of just how inequitable the portion remains for black and brown people.
The refrain I’ve heard most often among pundits, politicians, journalists, and even some friends is, “Where do we go from here?” It seems that in classic American fashion we want to rush on to the next thing rather than to fully sit with what is. To Be Here Now in the truth, the horror, the terror of what has been created.
To pause for a moment and sit in the pain and the grief of it.
To consider that it was not created on January 6th. What we experienced on that day was an outcome. And irrespective of what some might believe, it was not simply an outcome of an authoritarian megalomaniac president and those who indulged him. It was an outcome of what this country has been rooted in since its beginnings and what it refuses to acknowledge and deal with.
Cries for unity are inauthentic, no matter who is calling for it, if the desire is for anything less than this. In places that have engaged in the work of truth and reconciliation, the truth had to be acknowledged before reconciliation could be authentically built. Before there could be any faint semblance of unity. And the work must never end.
The late spiritual teacher Ram Dass famously said, “Be here now.” We must look around us at “Here” and the Nowness which has been created. We did not suddenly land here, but as with any journey or trip, we arrived here. Whether we did so intentionally or unintentionally doesn’t matter. Here is where we are. In his speech of 54 years ago, “Where Do We Go From Here?” Dr. King said before we can address that question, we must first honestly recognize where we are now. In other words, we need to Be Here Now. Then we can talk about where do we go from here.
We’ve each got to muster our courage and address with honesty and depth Here and how we arrived Here in our own lives, in the lives of our families (especially those we’ve been avoiding challenging conversations with), and in the life of our nation. Then we can have an authentic discussion about next steps or future plans.
May we embrace that to Be Here Now means we’re Here in this together and Here is where we always are. There really is no place else to go.