“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All (people) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...
This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
Every time I finish a LeaderShape Institute session, as part of my closing remarks, I share the above quote. I share the quote with the students that I am working with because it has been a guiding beacon for my life since I read it over 20 years ago when preparing for a civil rights tour across the Southern U.S. as a graduate student. It reminds me on a daily basis that I am both connected to everyone and everything else and also responsible for my own being and doing. I share this today because I think sometimes we get so overtaken with our doing, that we forget about our being.
Yesterday, while attending Heart and Soul Center of Light, a church that my partner and I attend when I am in the Bay, we learned about the map of consciousness that (from my very baseline understanding) says that our expression of being vibrates on different energy levels. The higher level of vibration that we all exist at, the better for all of us and for each of us individually. (Again, this is my very simplistic read on a much deeper concept that I will do a much deeper dive on soon.) For example, when we are in a shame space or expressing shame, our energy or being is vibrating at a 20, where if we are expressing love or feeling love, we are vibrating at a level of 500. I was surprised to learn that from the perspective of this theory that courage vibrates at a very neutral level. Courage is what we profess and encourage in our fights for Justice. It is what we ask of ourselves as we stand up against injustice and the everyday acts that support the systems of oppression that keep the status quo in place. What struck me even deeper was that in our struggles for social justice, Joy, which exists at a higher vibration, is so rarely talked about or embraced.
When thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the many photos that we see of him, we see him courageously standing in front of hundreds of thousands of people at the March on Washington or leading a march across Edmund Pettus Bridge. I think those images sometimes distances us from what is possible from each of us in the fight for justice. We see a man with a powerful voice and think, “that could never be me”, so we think our small thing that we are able to do to create change or that interruption of a racist or ableist policy or ageist or transphobic practice will never be enough.
I want to offer a different view of Dr. King this year – one that also sought out the higher vibration of joy, in addition to the courage that he showed. There are not enough images in circulation – like these of him playing pool, laughing with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Harry Belafonte, or just being a dad – that remind us that his joy seeking, his higher vibration probably fueled those moments of courage. Where we might wonder if we can muster our courage, joy seeking actually might be a way to find it. On this MLK Day 2017, I ask us to tap into the joy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to tap into our own joy as a way of lifting up his memory. Seek joy, not in the absence of analysis, action, or courage, but right alongside those three ways of being in a fight for justice. My joy can fuel your joy, and vice versa. And it might just fuel the destruction of the status quo.