Monday, January 19, 2015

The Drama and Responsibility of Freedom


Today we commemorate once again the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. This past year has been notable with regard to that legacy, and we have seen some particularly graphic and frightening manifestations of the pervasive violence that afflicts our society now more than ever.

I was doing some "electronic doodling" this morning (as I continue to experiment with the ever increasing possibilities of multi-media communications). I found myself working with images of the sculpted memorial of Martin Luther King in Washington, DC, and some of his words about persons, relationships, and community.

The meme I drew up and continue to tweak in various ways is far from polished. But since my blog is a "workshop" it seems appropriate to post it here in the form it has taken.

Dr. King has given to America many vivid quotations and striking images that cannot simply be consigned to the historical past. Rather, they resonate today more than ever. I wanted these words in particular to be presented afresh and in a way that does justice to their continued importance.

This past year we have seen that racism remains a corrosive force among us, and it endures -- as do so many human social problems -- because of its foundation in the failure to recognize that every human being is a person. The crisis of isolation and disintegration and the perpetuation of violence among individuals and between groups is a crisis of the human person.

Everyone speaks of "human rights" but no one seems to know what it means to be human, or why human beings have a value that demands respect, a value that deserves to be cherished, fostered, cultivated, defended, loved. 

We are very far indeed from recognizing first and above all that each and every human person possesses a unique and ineradicable dignity which has its origin in something beyond the powers of this world, beyond any mere social consensus or political expediency.

Every human person possesses the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God.

And the God who creates and sustains each of us has revealed Himself as Infinite Love.

The dignity of being created in God's image, of being a person, is lived and fulfilled in relationship to other persons. I can only discover "myself" through the gift of myself. We exist in relation to one another, and we realize ourselves in the living affirmation of "being-in-relationship." We fulfill ourselves by caring for one another, by taking responsibility for one another, by living the relationships with the persons who have been given to us.

People today speak so much about freedom, and we think we know that "freedom" means being able to choose for ourselves without being coerced or suffocated by some extrinsic power, whether private or public. But this does not mean that freedom is pure indifference, without purpose. Freedom has a meaning that comes from within itself. It is written upon our hearts.

Freedom does not exist to affirm itself, or subject itself to forces and drives within the person that are meant to serve freedom.

Freedom is made for the giving of self. Through freedom the person exists as a gift, the "I" lives in relation to the "Thou." This common unity builds a solidarity that discovers more relationships to others and generates more love.

It constructs "community" -- communion of persons in love.

We are challenged to "let freedom ring" -- to live our freedom by choosing to affirm the dignity of every human person, choosing to give ourselves in love, choosing to live in communion with God and with one another.

Or we can choose to horde ourselves; we can choose to live according to our whims, our impulses, our perceptions, our prejudices, our fear.

And we will reap a harvest of violence, and more violence.

Martin Luther King, Jr. remains important to our history today, reminding us of what it means to be persons, to give ourselves, to live as children of God, as brothers and sisters.

He legacy remains with us, to remind us to be free, to remind us of the drama and responsibility of freedom.