This past weekend, I went to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. It was a powerful experience that helped me remember that there are real miracle workers among us, and there is no order of difficulty of miracles. What King and the thousands of people who joined him accomplished gives me hope that we who are training to be miracle workers will one day be the world-transforming force that they were, a force driven by selfless, forgiving love.
The site is full of King landmarks and artifacts: His birthplace, the Ebenezer Baptist Church (both the old one that he preached at and the modern one across the street), exhibits of his personal items (everything from his shaving cream to his Nobel Peace Prize), and the tomb where he and Coretta are buried.
The exhibits tell the story so many of us are familiar with, both the darkness and the light. The darkness: a segregated society that (like slavery before it) many people insisted would never change, Klan rallies in open daylight on Main Street USA, Freedom Riders and marchers being brutalized, children scattered with fire hoses and attack dogs. The light: King’s indomitable “soul force” expressed in his powerful oratory and commitment to the cause of justice and freedom, ordinary people marching with him, singing “We Shall Overcome,” sitting at lunch counters – in short, countering hatred with nonviolent, forgiving love. I’m very familiar with the story and have seen most of the images before, but it never ceases to amaze me.
What struck me most, though, was the contrast between the historical exhibits and the milieu of people taking them in. The milieu was a true melting pot: black people, white people, and just about every other kind of people you can imagine. The world we were looking at in the exhibits was one of brutal segregation, but in the world we were currently inhabiting – in the same physical location as that old world – we were all mixed together and thought nothing of it. A black couple took my picture; I took theirs. As I looked at a real “Whites Only” sign from the past with black people next to me, I thought to myself: In King’s time, not only these people but our current president wouldn’t have been allowed past this sign. Now we’re looking at the sign together as if it were from a different planet – and in a way, it was.
That’s what truly amazes me: Not only has legal segregation been eliminated, but it is now so strange that it is difficult to believe that it ever really existed. Now, don’t get me wrong: I know racism still exists. We certainly have further to go. But the fact that further progress is needed shouldn’t blind us to the fact that the progress we’ve made is a staggering, even miraculous achievement.
What does this have to do with my journey with A Course in Miracles? As I said at the beginning, seeing this reminded me that there really are miracle workers and there is no order of difficulty in miracles. I think we can’t get enough of those reminders. The Course promises that we can transform our world from a desert of hatred to an oasis of love that King called the “Beloved Community.” It says the way we do that is not through violent revolution, but through cultivating a truly loving perception of our brothers and then extending that perception nonviolently to everyone in thought, word, and deed. It sounds nice, but it also sounds pretty naive to our cynical minds. It’s so easy to look at both the insanity all around us and the hatred in our own hearts and conclude that this Course is only an airy-fairy pipe dream.
But then someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. comes along and says, “Yes, love can change the world.” And he not only says it, but actually demonstrates it. And not only does he demonstrate it, but thousands of ordinary people demonstrate it with him, so we can’t just say, “Well, maybe a great man like him can do it, but not little old me.” And as a result of all this, we start to think maybe, just maybe, this Course isn’t so airy-fairy after all. Maybe I, even with all my faults and hangups and weaknesses (even King had his own weaknesses), can really do what this Course says I can do. Maybe I can be a miracle worker too. Maybe I can turn my own little desert into an oasis of love, and if I join with others in this, who knows how big our oasis can become?
So, I come away from my visit to the King Historic Site with a renewed commitment to “teach only love.” If I do my part and join with others who are doing their part, perhaps future generations will look upon the insanities of our time with the same incredulity that we looked at the “Whites Only” sign. May each day of study, practice, and miracle working bring us closer to that grand instant at the end of time when we will all say, to use King’s famous words, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”