“True greatness comes not by favoritism but by fitness.” – MLK
Actively Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.
Neuroscience explains how the repetitive motions and the complex cognitive functions of running can trigger neurotransmitters, chemicals that boost the brain’s connectivity, thought patterns and decision-making—human qualities that are often compromised by the stress of troubled political times.
I like to think that there is much more I can do with my daily run besides build my esteem, enhance my mood or see how my performance compares on the various social media networks. So rather than try to run away from worldly problems by taking a temporary break from dwelling on them, I actually try to engage them more fully through running which works wonders on my heart and mind.
Last month was the federal holiday honoring The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born January 15th, 1929. He was assassinated April 4th, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor, organizing the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War.
One way I try to deepen my resolution for 2017 is by using several runs during the year to actively remember Dr. King’s lifework, a teaching 100% relevant to the world situation of today.
I do these runs alone. I dedicate them to internalizing my childhood beliefs and aspirations. It was growing up in suburban Los Angeles during the era of forced busing, the practice of assigning and transporting students to racially segregated schools that grounded my lifelong belief in civil and human rights.
So on certain days, before I lace up and hit the trails, I take a deep breath in remembrance of MLK, a true challenger who used his strength to improve other’s lives, becoming heroic, magnanimous and inspiring.
To renew my focus, I take some quiet time once in a while to review one of his sermons like “The Drum Major Instinct,” one of his most cited works. In this speech Dr. King reflected on his determination to leave a legacy of serving others.
“Deep down within all of us is an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct-a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life. So before we condemn anyone else for it, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct.”- MLK – 1968
Here Dr. King expressed his determination to leave a legacy of serving others. So I ask myself how am I living? How would I like to be remembered for making a difference in other people’s lives? What would I like others to be able to say about how I helped people?
I commit my daily run to reflecting on this. Once I’ve cleared out my surface thoughts and emotions, rather than try to relieve my stress, I go right into it. I journal about my experience later in the day to drive it deeper in myself and do my best carry it with me after the run. By choosing to concentrate on his ideals of freedom, justice and equality during my run rather than compartmentalizing my workout and simply taking in audio and video tributes that idolize Dr. King, I am making a firm internal statement: “I believe in civil rights and human rights for all.”
I’ve even been known recite the mantra, “How long, Not long!” out loud as I run along the path, adding to the flow of biochemical energy that both calms my nerves and quickens my pace.
I do this as an act of faith, that channeling my passion for running into the world situation is a direct way I can become emotionally healthy and abundant. So the “can do” attitude and steady inner drive I manifest while running can go into making things happen that construct a better world for everyone in my life.
“Don’t idolize my father. Embrace his ideals of freedom, justice and equality. Every time I come to these anniversaries, I think about what Dad said in Montgomery in 1965 and how at the end of his remarks he talked about how long will it be. He went on to say he didn’t know how long, but he said he knew that it wouldn’t be long because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, and yet that scaffold sways the unknown—behind the dim unknown, standeth God, keeping watch above his own. How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because God almighty is still on the throne. Keep keeping on. We’re going to be all right. We’re not there yet.” MLK III