Martin Luther King Day ruminations – by Tom Trimbur

January 20, 2020

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the commencement address at Oberlin College in June 1965.  I wasn’t born yet.  But these days it is quite easy to find information you are looking for.  I found what I was looking for in the Oberlin College archives.  I was searching for the source of one of Dr. King’s famous quotes. “…that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason 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 interrelated structure of reality.”  

The quote speaks for itself.  We could entertain a lengthy discussion about our mutual dependency and mutual responsibilities.  But what struck me is what Dr. King said immediately after his now famous quote.  He credited his inspiration for the thought.  “John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”  Dr. King had read a poem of a 17th century poet.  And it inspired him to expand upon what he read.

We are indeed “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality”.  We are all “a piece of the continent”.  And neither of these men could have imagined how easily we could connect with each other in the 21st century.

But are we using this ability to connect to the best of it’s capabilities?  Are we using the resources we have at our fingertips to be inspired by a great thinker?  Is what we look at online enriching our minds so that we might be inspired with a thought to share that could enrich another?  The next time you go to check your social media, maybe take that 5 minutes to search for famous quotes or classic literature, or a bible passage, or a really old poem.  Maybe you will be inspired.

I hope for you that you become what you ought to be – I will try to keep up my end of the bargain.