we celebrated martin luther king jr day last week.
ander's recognition of it was, admittedly, more about eating the chocolate cupcakes we made to honor both the civil rights leader and the inauguration of president barack obama for a second term.
with diana, though, i took the time to read the entirety of his famous "i have a dream" speech. i felt chills when i read it aloud, moved by the words spoken by their author nearly a decade before i was born. diana was interested in learning about his beliefs and ideals in his own words. she was happy (maybe reassured?) that there were - and are - people in the world who advocate for and work towards gaining equality through non-violent means.
she knew something of his life already; we have the who was martin luther king, jr? by bonnie bader in our home library. we perused a variety of titles from the library, and the one that involved her the most was my uncle martin's big heart by angela farris watkins because of the compelling autobiographical way the story was told (i loved the astounding illustrations, myself). march on! the day my brother changed the world by christine king farris was another wonderful selection for similar reasons.
we got another peek into his life from an unexpected source: astrophysicist neil degrasse tyson's star talk radio interview with nichelle nichols. you remember her from her role as chief communications officer lieutenant uhura on star trek? she talked with neil about her conversation with martin luther king, jr. about the significance and importance of her role. her vivid personal recollection of meeting and talking with him gave us such a incredible insight into him as a person.
quite coincidentally on the timing of this, we were also reading about martin luther during our history lesson from SOTW. unfortunately, there aren't many children's-section books at our local libraries about him, and the ones we found are a bit too textbooky. we made valiant attempts to read through his disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences, commonly known as the 95 theses but the wording is such that i had to stop to explain or elucidate each one for diana. she may have great vocabulary and comprehension skills but there is a whole lot of theological context here i had to provide. i think we'll be better off with a simpler interpretation, though, admittedly, i wonder what biases will be present in the translation i found.
what struck us, beyond the obvious similarity of names, was the firmness of conviction these two men had. they each challenged the prevailing system of the time and effected powerful, enduring changes in the world.
why examine the lives of others? why read about and listen to and learn about other people, whether they are fictional, or historical, in our present or in the past? first and foremost, because people are interesting. every one of them. everybody has a story, whether they realize it or not, whether they choose to share it or not. our willingness to ask for - and listen to - each others' stories is a sign of our desire to understand others, to develop compassion and empathy for them, to make a connection with them. this examination also serves as a good model for our own introspection, which at times can be emotionally challenging. when we can treat ourselves with the same gentleness and dignity that we offer to others, we can connect better to ourselves and within ourselves. we can find release.
it's really been through homeschooling with diana that i am developing my own interest in reading biographies (i have always been interested in people, my early recognition of a desire to study psychology was indicative of that). diana freely expresses to me how she especially enjoys autobiographies. she loves their storytelling style; she can connect with the authors and feel a kinship with them and realizes that their life's details might be very similar to her own and she feels not so alone. at my much older age, i am learning to find solace and inspiration in the stories of others, too.
take a look here in the long list of what we read to see a smattering of what diana has enjoyed in the way of "biographies" and "about writing and authors."
final note: i have been working on this blog post for a while, meandering around the core topic(s) and not finding much satisfaction in my words. then i read patricia zaballos' illuminating post about the writing process at rhythm of the home (in truth, she has a lot of such wonderful posts at her own blog, wonderfarm), and i eased up on myself and kept coming back and reworking.
the kicker for me was early this morning, after a decent night of sleep, when i read this post about growing up from a newly-found blog i enjoy, first sip. i have appreciated reading snippets of pema chodron's work. but have yet to read any of her books in entirety. now i will.