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Humility, Darkness and Light

3 min read

Since August, I've been thinking about humility. I read it in Infinite Jest, talking about Alcoholics Anonymous, or, related, in that "This is Water" speech about the capital-T Truth of life we struggle to see. And I heard it at a recent sermon at the First Unitarian Universalist Church here in Oakland, which took this prayer as its subject:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; and
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Prayer of St. Francis (not actually written by St. Francis, but traced back to early 20th-century, and clearly in the spirit of poverty and humility that Francis of Assisi, namesake of our City by the Bay, exemplified)

This is difficult advice to follow; I suppose that goes without saying. But it's useful to hear about it from all over, because we need those kinds of reminders. Particularly moving for me was hearing these words from my cousin Elisa, who lives in St. Louis:

I know my own heart, I know how easy it is for anger and pride to arise. I know how easy it is to be passive or passionate about something. Yes, I’ve experienced pain, but what I’m learning is that it’s through pain and the exposing of the darkness in my own heart that healing is then able to take place.

I think part of why this has been so painful for me is that I'm becoming aware — actively aware, not just theoretically cognizant — of injustice that has long been present. It's humbling to see that kind of blindness in oneself. I will try harder to remember that. I thank all of you who have helped remind me.

20140805 mural-obtained-by-hatred
The mural just down the street from me, across from the high school.

So tomorrow, to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I'll be out marching.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out
hate; only love can do that.

— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

Reverend Phil Lawson this morning was quoting Martin Buber (Jewish philosopher and theologian), in saying that the opposite of slavery is not freedom, but community. The opposite of low wages and no healthcare and inadequate housing is community. So that's what I'm marching for. Come join us, at noon by Fruitvale Station, or at a gathering in your own city. It will be a family friendly event (face-painting! crafts!) and a chance to meet members of your family you didn't even know about.