back to index

I want to be a commoner

written 2020-10-25

in Vincent Harding’s foreword to Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?1 by Martin Luther King, Jr, he describes King as a friend braving “the nettlesome, uncharted path toward a more perfect union, a path that still challenges us all”.

this struck me as a beautiful humanization of King, who I am most familiar with (showcasing my ignorance) as an institutionalized figure representing Justice and other lofty capital-letter terms.

instead, here I saw a bounded and mortal man whose conscience compelled him to cut a hard line through the wilderness of the societal landscape.

I hear him preaching at his Ebenezer Church in Atlanta: “I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry…. This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way. If it means sacrificing, I’m going that way. If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice say, ‘Do something for others.’”

riffing on such a powerful & eloquent statement of personal faith is almost certainly doomed to fall short. however, I feel compelled to try:

I choose to identify with the commoners2. I choose to give a fraction of my time and life energy to building that which lifts the lowest common denominator3. if it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way.

while I have projects and plans in the works, I have not yet demonstrated sufficient commitment to this cause to permit myself to write further. we all must to start somewhere, and for me this is only the beginning.



  3. here I grudgingly accept a crude economic linearization of the world for sake of clarity. also because whatever philosophical issues there are with notions of “poor” and “rich”, the end effects on our lives are hugely consequential. the issues with reducing the heterogeneity of cultural values to a single dimension are explored in Jeremy Lent’s The Patterning Instinct.↩︎