We think we know that chimpanzees are higher animals and earthworms are lower, we think we've always known what that means, and we think evolution makes it even clearer. But it doesn't. It is by no means clear that it means anything at all. Or if it means anything, it means so many different things to be misleading, even pernicious.
When you remember me, it means you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.
Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having their legs off, and then being condemned for being a cripple.
To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else's hourly failures to live up to divine standards. It means learning to forget myself on a regular basis in order to attend to the other selves in my vicinity. It means living so that "I'm only human" does not become an excuse for anything. It means receiving the human condition as blessing and not curse, in all its achingly frail and redemptive reality.
We are so anxious to achieve some particular end that we never pay attention to the psycho-physical means whereby that end is to be gained. So far as we are concerned, any old means is good enough. But the nature of the universe is such that ends can never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end.
People say I don't have great tools. They say that I can't throw like Ellis Valentine or run like Tim Raines or hit with power like Mike Schmidt. Who can? I make up for it in other ways, by putting out a little bit more. That's my theory, to go through life hustling. In the big leagues, hustle usually means being in the right place at the right time. It means backing up a base. It means backing up your teammate. It means taking that headfirst slide. It means doing everything you can do to win a baseball game.
What does cookery mean? It means the knowledge of Medea and of Circe, and of Calypso, and Sheba. It means knowledge of all herbs, and fruits, and balms and spices... It means the economy of your great-grandmother and the science of modern chemistry, and French art, and Arabian hospitality. It means, in fine, that you are to see imperatively that everyone has something nice to eat.
[Robin Stewart] was your man. True for you, you had withdrawn the crutch from his sight, but still it should have been there in your hand, ready for him. For you are a leader-don't you know it? I don't, surely, need to tell you?-And that is what leadership means. It means fortifying the fainthearted and giving them the two sides of your tongue while you are at it. It means suffering weak love and schooling it till it matures. It means giving up you privicies, your follies and your leasure. It means you can love nothing and no one too much, or you are no longer a leader, you are led.
The first problem for all of us, men and woman, is not to learn, but to unlearn. We are filled with the popular wisdom of several centuries just past, and we are terrified to give it up. Patriotism means obedience, age means wisdom, woman means submission, black means inferior: these are preconceptions imbedded so deeply in our thinking that we honestly may not know that they are there.
You think the end justifies the means, however vile. I tell you: the end is the means by which you achieve it. Today's step is tomorrow's life. Great ends cannot be attained by base means. You've proved that in all your social upheavals. The meanness and inhumanity of the means make you mean and inhuman and make the end unattainable.
The clerical work is par for the course. "Keep on file in numerical order" means throw in wastebasket. You'll soon learn the language. "Let it be a challenge to you" means you're stuck with it; "interpersonal relationships" is a fight between kids; "ancillary civic agencies for supportive discipline" means call the cops; "Language Arts Dept." is the English office; "literature based on child's reading level and experiential background" means that's all they've got in the Book Room; "non-academic-minded" is a delinquent; and "It has come to my attention" means you're in trouble.
We will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can't reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.
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