Sunday, September 2, 2012

To Them that Sit in Darkness

Context:
(1) I have a big weakness - it's books.
(2) When I went to go buy a novel yesterday - I've finished the ones that I brought to Japan with me - I ended up buying two books - the novel 1Q84 and Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.
(3) I am a big fan of reading books about my country in a completely different setting.  For some reason, looking at things from a thousand miles away gives an interesting perspective.

Yes, I have been reading a book about the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama these past few days.  It has been an enlightening experience.  I am learning a lot about the type of man Dr. King and the type of Movement that he directed.  I'm a fan of both (the man and the movement).

I just wanted to share a few quotes from his book.  It was during the experience when Dr. King was choosing whether or not to submit himself to go to jail.  Of course, he wanted to but a lot of the leaders were concerned that, with their source of bail money cut off, having Dr. King (the one with the contacts) might result in an end of the movement and everyone being left in jail for a very long time.  Dr. King decided to go anyway.

Here is what he wrote: "I suffered no physical brutality at the hands of my jailers....Solitary confinement, however, was brutal enough.  In the mornings the sun would rise, sending shafts of light through the window high in the narrow cell which was my home.  You will never know the meaning of utter darkness until you have lain in such a dungeon, knowing that sunlight is streaming overhead and still seeing only darkness below.  You might have thought that I was in the grip of a fantasy brought on by worry.  I did worry.  But there was more to the blackness than a phenomenon conjured up by a worried mind.  Whatever the cause, the fact remained that I could not see the light." (pp 82-83)

There he sat, in prison, without any contact with the outside world (he was even prevented from seeing his lawyers), wondering what had happened to the movement and worrying also about his loved ones.  His wife had recently given birth to their fourth child and was left alone, confined to her house, without her husband nearby and not even means to communicate with him.

His wife - amazing woman that she was - decided after a few days to take matters into her hands and called the President.  Yep, President Kennedy.  After a few hours, Bobby Kennedy called her back and said he would get his brother on board.  Things got turned around pretty quickly once the President got involved, as you can imagine.

Here is what Dr. King wrote afterwards: "I found it hard to say what I felt...What silenced me was a profound sense of awe.  I was aware of a feeling that had been present all along below the surface of consciousness, pressed down under the weight of concern for the movement: I had never been truly in solitary confinement; God's companionship does not stop at the door of a jail cell.  I don't know whether the sun was shining at that moment.  But I know that once again I could see the light."

I think we all have our prisons and our struggles but I hope that we all realize that we are never truly alone. 

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