As I try to make sense out of my convoluted spiritual journey, the year 1968 presents itself for reflection and remembrance. 1968 is of great significance for four very different reasons.
In 1968 I began to wrestle with my beliefs about war. I’d already developed some doubts about my government’s involvement in Viet Nam. I also supported some friends in their quest for conscientious objector status and so my reflections centered on non-violence. At that time, I concluded I could not claim to be non-violent given my rather extensive experience of fights when I was younger. And so I chose to pursue the path that would eventually end with my service in the Army, all the while participating in the war protest marches. There is even a picture of me in my college yearbook in my ROTC uniform but also wearing a peace button. Such have been the many contradictions in my journey.
In 1968 I also came to know more of Dr. Martin Luther King, in part through my exploration of non-violence. My upbringing had exposed me to racism but, thankfully, I had not embraced it and instead embraced the cause of civil rights. When Dr. King was murdered, I felt that an important voice for non-violence had been silenced.
Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech is justifiably well-known. But here is the speech given just before his death. It is filled with irony and yet filled with hope and spiritual vision:
In 1968, I also became more involved politically and embraced the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy for president. I resonated to his idealism and read his book To Seek A Newer World. I embraced his famous quote” “Some people see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and say why not”. His personal presence and courage was especially dramatic for me on the night Dr. King died when Kennedy spoke to a group of African-Americans in Indianapolis:
I stayed up the night of the primaries in California and cheered when he announced his victory. He proclaimed “Now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there” and I turned off the TV and went to bed only to learn the next morning of the tragedy that followed just a few minutes later. Much of my political enthusiasm died then and one more issue was added to my growing list of events that made me angry with God.
The most important event of my spiritual journey that happened in 1968 was my falling in love with my wife. She has played a key role on my journey as confidant, challenger, and above all role model on being a loving presence. As an introvert, as a person who knew little about emotion, as an aspiring addict, I very much needed someone like her to provide some light along the way.
I am grateful for all those experiences of 1968. I embraced the need to examine conscience and spiritual issues as I studied non-violence (which eventually became a cornerstone of my spiritual foundation). I continue to benefit from what I learned from Dr. King and RFK. And the adventure with my wife goes on.
Reflection: Is there a particular year that stands out in your journey?