High Alert: The Urgency of Now

By Anita Estell

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day. And what a day it is: a great day to be reminded of the relevance of thoughts, words and actions that help light the way for people seeking to traverse the terrain needed to widen the paths of opportunities for all the people of the world.

Interesting thing happened to me after I woke up this morning. During one of the most important times in my morning routine – that period after a “thank you and hallelujah prayer,” but before I have my first cup of coffee — I turned on the news. My morning time is special, so I typically am a little more selective about what I give my attention to.

Today was different. I just wanted to take a quick peek. Oh my. Top headlines reported a false nuclear threat alert in Hawaii; the US commander-in-chief’s alleged derogatory reference to certain nations as “do-do holes” – to use a euphemism; Russia accusing the United States (US) of destabilizing the world; and other stories aligned with the darker side of human possibility and potential. The problem for me with these reports is twofold: (1) the sober realization that I am living in a time where such news is happening, and (2) the urgency of now – associated with so many people who either support or tolerate in silence real threats in the form of ideas, words and deeds that undermine humanity itself. As King penned in his World House writings, “One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions.”

Quick backdrop. I fell in love with the man (MLK) and his words at the age of 16. The story of his life and work has guided and accompanied me over the course of my career. King’s World House writings are some of my favorites. What King’s works mean to me is hard to describe in words. Thus, I take a shortcut via metaphor: The lessons and words of Dr. King, if they were described as a dance, could be described as a two-step hand-dance between the prophetic and profound. For those who step, that is keep step with equity, freedom and justice, King’s words serve as a soulful lead partner in a freestyle dance with the rhythm of time. – Anita Estell

There is – no doubt – an urgency associated with now. King advised, “our moral and spiritual ‘lag’ must be redeemed. When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men. When we foolishly minimize the internal of our lives and maximize the external, we sign the warrant for our own day of doom.”

We are, my friends, living in a period of great social change. As King predicted, the US (and other nations) are making exponential technological leaps absent parallel escalation of moral aptitude. The inverted dynamic, King asserts, ultimately will force a choice between co-existence and co-annihilation:

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this un­folding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on . . .’ We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.

All those for co-annihilation, raise your hand.

Everybody else, now is the time to lend a hand to elect leaders in the 2018 midterm elections who seek community and co-existence over chaos and calamity. Quite frankly, in terms of the urgency of now, nothing else matters.