I sleep in a shack. It can get cold at night, so I sleep under a pile of blankets. That works pretty well, but I can get too hot. Getting too hot is what accounts for remembering a dream the other night. I don't often remember dreams and generally when I do they're no account.
This dream bothered me. I suppose the details really do matter, but the gist of it was that in my dream I extricated myself from a situation where strangers, I was sure, were going to do something really bad to another stranger. I escaped but was left wandering in unfamiliar surroundings.
Yesterday was the Martin Luther King holiday. I read his I Have a Dream once again, and dd posted King's last speech and that speech made me think more about the dream I had. King spoke:
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.He followed with a remarkable telling of the parable of The Good Samaritan. It's really worthwhile to read King's speech. King drew from the parable a lesson:
And so the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”In my dream the first question I asked was: "What will happen to me?" and skedaddled out of harms way. Sensible enough, but I was haunted by the second question and tossed and turned trying to get back to sleep after removing a layer of covers.
Why do we need to question what will happen to that other stranger anyway? Well for one reason King so clearly stated earlier in the same speech:
Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.It's forty years now and the urgency of that existential terror is even plainer now. Naturally, I care very much about my own existence, but my end is a puny consequence in the bigger view of a our collective doom.
The markets opened today with a pretty clear sense that our financial crisis is a big deal. So there's been plenty of gloomy posts to read in the blogs about that. Stirling Newberry in a comment on his own post today at The Agonist wrote:
Right now the international consensus is that the rich own the world and the rest of us just make trouble.It's safe to say, seeing how I sleep in a shack, that I'm one of the rest of us. With the memory of King's speech still fresh in mind, something that Bayard Rustin said came to mind with Newberry's comment. Here's Martin Mayer writing about Rustin in The Saturday Evening Post in 1964:
"I believe in social dislocation and creative trouble," Rustin says; and within these categories he specializes in imagination and invention. The man is an artist as well as an organizer—he made his living for some years as a nightclub singer, working with Josh White and Leadbelly at the old Café Society in New York, and he could make a living tomorrow as an interior decorator specializing in antiques. To Rustin, a demonstration is a piece of theater which will be a memorable experience for the spectators (which is what most people are); and it is an opportunity to find a soft spot where concerted action can make a dent in society.I may not be as creative as Bayard Rustin was, but if I'm trouble anyway, I might as well be creative.
The prodding to post regularly came from leaving a comment at a blog new to me, Daisy's Dead Air. Daisy is fine writer and creative trouble. Trouble making is dangerous, and I'm not brave. Daisy said that I need to post regularly. Although her blog is new, I know she knows we're all in bunch of trouble; I know she knows I know too. So the "need" in this admonition is we better be creative, at least; have you a better idea?
Potash is creative. Leaving his blog posting aside for other projects he's back writing about the current political crisis in Kenya. It's not just at his blog I see him, but in comments at other blogs, encouraging writers towards creative trouble. Not destructive and incitement to destruction, rather to be creative. The writers have written at Kwani?,but the servers are down, so Potash is leaving comments for writers to write and writers are writing.
A long while ago Potash left a comment saying that as a kid he questioned Martin and Malcolm weighing in his mind their approach. The really useful discovery he told me was satyagraha the word that Mohandas Gandhi use for his philosophy of resistance. The word can be rendered in to English as grasping onto truth. Martin Luther King referred to it as "soul force." The application of Gandhi's philosophy on non-violent resistance was in part an American invention with inclusion of Christian theology. But the core of moving away from error with patience and compassion towards truth remained integral.
Opinions vary, naturally, and anything I say about the situation in Kenya as a middle-aged American needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Potash's most recent post is Why I Blame Kibaki. He echo's Stirling Newberry's observation that the powers that be see the rest of us and nothing but trouble. Like Gandhi, King and so many others well understood, Potash avers that the rest of us together cannot be ignored. Together we can create a kind of creative soul force.
Grasping towards the truth requires patience and sadly is dangerous. Not one of us wants to be battered, beaten and burned. We cannot take those dangers lightly. While violence may sometimes offer some protection to us individually, together violence will only perpetuate the human folly that's gotten us into this mess in the first place. We can't dismiss the danger; King clearly knew. Yet in calling us to develop a "dangerous unselfishness" his words are empowering. We've got soul force, bigger than any of us once we turn the question around from "What will happen to me?" to "What will happen to him?" We're in this world of trouble together and it's only grasping that soul force as creatively as we can that will get us trough.