MLK, on activism and causality

MLK, on activism and causality

“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”
-pacifist A.J. Muste

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Follow me for a moment on a journey through the human mind. (or a heady rant…you decide) I have been contemplating and discussing these ideas a lot recently and would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

Think about cause and effect in your conception of action. With each action we conceive of, the effect of that action in many ways defines it and casts judgment on its validity. A few examples: when we are racing to make an appointment, the racing is defined by the appointment. If we are then too early, the racing is considered foolish; if we are on time, it is considered wise. The act of listening is defined by what we end up hearing, or are trying to hear. The act of giving money to a homeless person is defined by their reception and use of that money. In my usual way of thinking, an effect is necessarily the reason for doing an action. I learn Spanish in order to know Spanish.

Now consider that this paradigm is a subjective lens by which you are viewing the world. It comes from the experience of time passing us in a particular direction (forward) and from the fact that we have human needs which must to be managed, so we have been programmed to seek results. We construct narrative around every action and moment, and privilege later moments in time over earlier ones as the final judgment of a story. And why should it be? Where is the one final moment that tells us whether all we have done is futile or not, and why should it have more power than the present one?

So let’s deny ourselves this modality for a moment. There are now entities and there is intention. Results of actions are no longer the reason for them. It’s a total mindfuck if you’re really in it; people and entities that just are, set in a location in the sphere of ideas. The dominant mediator between acts is now ideological similarity and not causality. For example, what we before considered “giving a dollar to a homeless person” now becomes a smile, a human connection, and generosity. Rather than traveling through the 3D world we see with our eyes, we are traveling through a multidimensional world of ideas and experiences. Rather than do an action to achieve a specific result, we can try to remain in one location in this multidimensional world. And when others follow us on this journey, that is the change we seek.

Causality...yah bitches!

Some important Buddhist tenets stem from this mindset: present-mindedness and attachment to one’s own action rather than its result. It is a very human way of perceiving the world, and after some consideration it I think it has tremendous validity and wisdom.

This is the vision of A.J. Muste and Martin Luther King Jr.: that separating our life and work into 1) goals and 2) the means to attain those goals is fallacious, and that a goal is not something to attain but to embody. This concept informs the meaning of activism and the search for positive change, and I like to think the philosophy can be applied to a banker as much as to Mother Theresa.

So in respect for Dr. King and all that he stood for, I hope we as a world strive to embody his ideals at every moment and become the change we seek.