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Another Way

“We must win another way.”


I went to see Selma tonight, the close of the Martin Luther King Jr. day of commemoration for me. It was a late showing and there were not very many people in attendance. When the credits finally started to roll at the end, I didn’t move. I mean not a muscle. It wasn’t just that it felt disrespectful to do so, although that was running in the background of my brain, I think. I could hardly breathe, let alone get up and walk out to my car. It wasn’t as much a matter of thinking I shouldn’t; it was more that I didn’t want to. I wanted to remember the words and images, and I was afraid I might forget.


At some point I realized that no one was moving. Not. A. Single. Person. I didn’t have to look around to know this. The stillness was so pervasive that it seemed the world might have stopped spinning. It was a holy moment. As far as I know, no one looked at each other. Not a word could be heard – not even a whisper between lovers right down the row from me. It was as if each of us was wrestling alone with our emotions and our convictions – yet there was an equally pervasive sense that we had somehow recognized that we are in it together. Like the priest from Boston and the others from all over the country, who had decided they would end their silence and march with those whose welfare they had realized was inextricably bound to their own, after all.


“We must win another way.”


Dr. King and those with him at Selma, as well as elsewhere along the road that both lead and still is leading toward freedom and equality, lived out their commitment to a different way of winning at the most profound and courageous level. The visual reminder of the film struck the most visceral chords of conviction and understanding that “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”


The way of love was not and is not a passive, simpering way. It is the way of courage beyond mustering, and strength beyond might. It is the way of self-sacrifice and decisiveness and justice. It is a way that looks beyond the day to a more distant horizon, and it envisions a dawn that can seem impossible in the midst of the long night of frustration and despair and suffering. It is a way that, once seen in the mind’s eye, lifts a person above his or her own weakness and fear, and grants greater resolve to the next step than to the last. It is a way that leads a woman or man to say words like these from Dr. King: "If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive."


Pierre Tielhard de Chardin once said: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire.”


I have a dream. It’s a dream that Dr. King’s dream will one day be fully realized, and that that day may come in my lifetime. This is not so much in order that I may see it, but in order that the suffering and the injustice still suffered by so many – and not only because of race – may end sooner. I dream of a day when we as one race will let go of the merely flickering light and little warmth gained by our “mastery” of the world around us – including each other – and learn to walk together in the gloriously blazing inferno of love for our fellows.


I know I'm a bit of a sentimentalist, but I believe to my core that none of us can win but in this other way. I hardly dare breathe at the mere thought of it.