On days like this when someone famous is honored, I try to dig up something they wrote to compare what I think I know about that person and why they’re famous, with what they actually did and said. It’s always enlightening, but sometimes I find unexpected gems like this:
(yes it’s 3 long paragraphs, but I bet you $50 it’s the best writing you’ll read today).
Modern man has brought this whole world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. He has reached new and astonishing peaks of scientific success. He has produced machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. He has built gigantic bridges to span the seas and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies. His airplanes and spaceships have dwarfed distance, placed time in chains, and carved highways through the stratosphere. This is a dazzling picture of modern man’s scientific and technological progress.
Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau: “Improved means to an unimproved end.” This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem confronting modern man. If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual “lag” must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul. When the “without” of man’s nature subjugates the “within,” dark storm clouds begin to form in the world.
If we believe this, then why is so little of what we talk about when we use the word innovation directed at helping people make, in MLKs terms, internal progress?
- Read the full transcript of MLK’s amazing lecture for the Nobel prize, from Dec, 1964.
- What I learned by visiting where MLK was killed / Civil Rights Museum
(hat tip to truehoop)