… to tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world
Senator Robert F. Kennedy
April 4, 1968
I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings, and he died in the cause of that effort.
In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are, and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black–considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible–you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization–black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another.
Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but it is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love–a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
Thank you, very much.
There’s something very mysterious about life and its connections and coincidences.
I came back to this blog post today because, while reading the final chapter of “Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon,” I was brought back to the speech that Bobby delivered that night: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but it is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country”… Once again, Bobby’s words touched me deeply, especially in these times when so many in our country and around the world, including myself, are trying to make sense of what the election of a man with such questionable character as Mr. Trump represents.
I felt inspired to create an image combining a photo of Bobby and a condensed version of his sayings, in order to spread his conciliatory and compassionate message that I believe is very important for us to reflect on during these turbulent times.
Today, when I looked again at the picture of the monument in Indianapolis, and watched the last frames of the video contained in this post, I noticed Bobby and Martin stretching out their hands, and what came to my mind in that moment was a line included in the beautiful farewell message Leonard Cohen, who unfortunately and coincidentally died five days ago, wrote to Marianne when she was dying: “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.” Again, I reflect on the fact that only sixty-three days after Martin’s assassination, Bobby himself was assassinated.
Here’s Leonard’s message to Marianne in its entirety:
“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.” ~ Leonard Cohen
Leonard’s message was made known to me by my son, Mateus, yesterday. I consider this fact an interesting synchronicity. The other interesting coincidence is that my son, Pedro, recently brought Larry Tye, the author of the book mentioned here, to speak at Boston University. Here’s a photo of Pedro and Larry:
What do I think?
I truly believe that if we dedicate ourselves to work on our own selves to expand our hearts and minds, we will experience the epiphany of oneness, and realize that we can organize ourselves to live in this world in immensely gentler ways, without so many divisions and conflicts, creating a world where everyone can live thriving and dignified lives. I know that once we experience this inner transformation and grow in selflessness, sayings such as, “We are all in this together. From a distance there are no borders. United we (all of us) stand,” gain much deeper and expanded meanings. If we forsake violence completely and practice compassion and love wholeheartedly, I am convinced that we can bring Heaven to Earth. The truth, for me, is that Heaven is here, if we want it to be.
I believe that our political leaders are a reflection of who we are, and if we want different politicians, we need to change. I invite you to read my ideas on New Political Leadership for a New World.
I also believe that one of the most productive things we can do to change our less-than-perfect political system is to engage in personal inner work. Please, don’t hastily prejudge and discard this idea. I encourage you to take the time to read A Powerful Form of Activism.
Let’s stay in touch.
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