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Speak from the burnings of your heart

We dwell in the beauty of silence in my classes, trusting in the truth that lies in MA 間, in the spaces between words, musical notes, things that happen. Students smile quietly when I tell them that the Japanese haiku poet Basho said, “What’s the point of saying everything with words?”

And we also acknowledge that there is a time for words. I remind students that on this day in April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. voiced his opposition to the Vietnam War:

“I am moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart. . . Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

King admitted that fear, apathy, and uncertainty inhibited him from following the demands of inner truth and opposing his government’s policy, especially in time of war. But he could no longer be silent. Today’s global catastrophes bring us to a vulnerable place where we may realize our interconnectedness and open ourselves to other realities. As we witness our world collapse all around us we may be awakened with compassion, and moved to break the betrayal of our silences and speak from the burnings of our heart.

In class, we ask each other, what do you need to say – to your government, to your organization, to your school, to your family, to your friend, to your foe? How are you are called to speak your beliefs and morals, risking rejection and ridicule? Standing for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims, and for those you call "enemy."

By speaking out we can widen our circles of compassion, destroying the delusion of isolated history that fragments us from ourselves and each other. Seeing how we all face life threatening dangers may lead us to transcend our constructed borders and come together with gentleness.

One year later, on the same day, King was assassinated. The night before he had told us that he may not live long but was not afraid, because he had been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land. We reflect on the sobering reality that our time to speak may be now, or never.

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