Sunday, April 7, 2013 ~ Interdependence and Its Influence
Last week we practiced integrated honesty with reference to a time in which we’d been irritated or annoyed yet hemmed and hawed with how to respond (i.e. scenarios in which we had complaints yet couldn’t articulate the underlying vision &/or values at stake); however it’s worth noting, in the piece beneath, that MLK employed a kind of integrated honesty (or transparency coupled with curiosity) during a polite dinner party chat, with life-changing beneficial results.
The interaction between MLK and the art historian who penned the article below could also be framed within the context of interdependence, wherein King adopts the stance of ‘I want to understand, please help me’ (and an alchemical process unfolds between the two). Note how — along interdependent lines — MLK ‘shares his dilemma’ and then ‘invites the other to hold it together with him’, while exuding an ‘openness to another human being who will join with his own understanding and perspective’ (thus aligning with the possibility of shifting due to this newfound awareness of another’s experience). As Miki Kashtan has put it, “it’s not about making assumptions but finding tenderness…”
My Dinner With Dr. King
By WILLIAM HOOD
After dinner Dr. King asked Wanda if he could use the telephone again. When he came back, he settled onto the sofa next to me. I tried to think of something clever to say, but before I could speak, he asked why I was studying for a Ph.D. in art history. He asked what I thought art could accomplish that other forms of communication could not. I remember that he said that he’d rarely discussed art, or even thought much about it. As I stammered an answer I cannot recall, he listened with the concentration of someone who genuinely wanted to understand. Never before, and rarely since, had I witnessed such authentic humility. It was so simple, so powerful a form of energy that for a few moments it freed me from bondage to myself.
A conversation that cannot have lasted more than 10 minutes ended up changing the way I thought about my life. When I got back to New York, my viewpoint toward earning a doctorate shifted. The determination to use my education to become a famous scholar gradually made room for a half-baked resolution to become a useful art historian. I began to consider the moral or religious content of Renaissance art; and once I got a job teaching art history at an institution whose values encouraged me to develop that ambition, teaching became a means for me to help students identify and examine their own values. That remains my goal. The short conversation I had with Dr. King had a lasting effect…
(continues here: Op-Ed: My Dinner With Dr. King)
William Hood is a professor emeritus of art history at Oberlin College and a visiting professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
MLK on Interdependence
- …for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
- Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
Jan. 15, 1929 to April 4, 1968
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
With these words, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. built a crescendo to his final speech on April 3, 1968. The next day, the civil rights leader was shot and killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
At the roots Dr. King’s civil rights convictions was an even more profound faith in the basic goodness of man and the great potential of American democracy. These beliefs gave to his speeches a fervor that could not be stilled by criticism.