Martin Luther King’s Radical Notion: Extreme Peace

Betsy Graves Reyneau, 1888-1964, Artist

Betsy Graves Reyneau, 1888-1964, Artist

Thanks to this blog many well-meaning, genuinely curious people ask me:

“Do you really think peace is possible?”

They say “really” with those drawn out vowels that mean they think I’m either a) ignorant or b) naive.

When I sit and think about it, I realize they’re right, on both counts.

I am ignorant.

When I was in eighth grade, my class went on a trip to Greece. One night while we were there, an explosion shook the very foundation of our hotel. In the midst of the chaos, the rumor-mill started. Someone decided we were at war with a nearby country.

The truth was far more innocuous: a gas station had a minor explosion a few miles away.

But it taught me one simple lesson: ignorance starts wars.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like to work as a big shot in international affairs – knowing about the threats, the danger, the seething anger that threatens to boil over at any given moment. It is the job of those big shots to not be ignorant (or at least, to try)… in order to keep the peace.

Just five minutes of thinking about that responsibility wipes me out. I cannot possibly imagine or understand the depth of it.

Like the big shots in international affairs, I work against my ignorance. But I do it by educating myself about the beautiful, wonderful moments around the world. By trusting the good of humanity. And, yes, celebrating the food is an important part of that.


Couple in NYC. Photo by See-ming Lee.

I am naive.

Being naive means to be innocent and to demonstrate a lack of judgement. I make it  a point to approach strangers with too much trust, too much kindness – some would say an unmerited amount of friendly banter.

Several months ago I began writing at a local coffee shop called The Phoenix. It was less than a month before I had had conversations with most every regular there. While we’re not BFF’s, the friendly chatter makes the day fun.  I promise you, even the surliest folks smile once in a while.

Children. Photo by Taro Taylor.

Children. Photo by Taro Taylor.

So much of peace is outlook.

“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week I’m all about celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s radical notion of peace – that we must make an effort to affirm the positive. 

In other words: when life comes at you with all lemons, stop trying to throw them out, ignore them, or hide them.

Start making lemonade.

This is extreme peace. 

I like to think of it as the mirror image concept. What things in your life are you overwhelmed by? Are they sucking the joy out of you, even as you try to banish them? What if, instead of feeding that monster, you turned your face towards the positive… and affirmed the good in your life obsessively… until it grew so big, the good would not be ignored?

It just might help with that age-old quest for inner peace.

Something to chew on.

And, finally… since Martin Luther King was from Atlanta, Georgia, let’s share a bit of good ol’ fashioned barbecue – one of his home state’s favorite pastimes.




  1. WendyJ says

    I’ve heard several times that the best way to break a bad habit is NOT to simply not do it, but to replace it with something better. Thanks for the reminder to make peaceful, positive living a good habit.

    • Sasha Martin says

      That’s so true! Instead of snacking mindlessly at night, I switched to drinking fruit flavored bubbly water (La Croix) and I don’t have that nagging itch I would if I had if I just went to nothing whatsoever… silly example but real!

  2. My feeling is that peace in not even remotely possible, until we have a powerful education system that will provide a high level education to all and we eliminate poverty. If we focus on that, peace will come organically.

    It is plain silly to solve peace with treaties. Prejudice, racism, violence against women, children, rape, ethnic hatred and all those human vices can be virtually eliminated with education and wealth. In the US we are from it, but better than most other countries, except a few Europeans and Asian countries.

    • Sasha Martin says

      I think peace begins within and spirals outwards from there. Only once our own hearts are full of love and calm can we effect change in our own microcosms. That being said, I think a general sense of “security,” in terms of food and shelter (but not specifically money), goes a long way to helping people move away from fear-based living. And yes, education! That’s part of what I’m trying to do here – in fun way. Educate people that there is good food everywhere – that’s one common thread through the human family.

  3. It’s a hard balance to achieve (MLK’s quote)…we need to see both…
    If everyone always just saw the “positive” aspects of Slavery, for example…it never would have been eradicated..
    There always has to be someone ” crying in the desert” for mankind to evolve and correct himself

  4. Ok…I have to write this…Without achieving Peace in the Family, there will NEVER be Peace in the World. Seriously…How? Not possible …Fractured families, fractured individuals …a microcosm of a fractured World. It all has to do with sharing, giving, selflessness, love, caring, respect for the dignity of each individual, of each other….not holding grudges, humility with a capital H, waking up each day with a song (BETTER YET…LOVE IN YOUR HEART FOR SOMEONE SPECIAL) while making your bed (good exercise) and daring to be vulnerable i.e. not afraid to forget and revisit …and yearning for peace – with a capital Y, and prayer… The Family that prays, stays together…and so goes the world..

    • Sasha Martin says

      I still say it begins within and spirals out – so the individual and then the family and then the neighborhood and then the city and then the state and then the country and then other countries… and then… the universe!

      Not to say any of it is easy.
      Especially waking up every day with a song… ! If that’s a requirement, I’m out! 🙂

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