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.




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