I have a personal thank you for MLK. He changed my life. Here’s the story. My father never acknowledged me as a person, so whenever I came home as a young adult, I always had the hope that this time he would.
MLK was marching in Florida at St. Augustine where my retired naval officer father lived, and after a long drive we immediately got into a civil right argument, since it was hot in the news. After a few heated hours, it ended with my father’s livid face an inch from mine: “You’ll never make a nigger lover out of me!” he snarled.
I went into the bedroom and began to cry, pounding the pillow as this green hate erupted and consumed me. I remember the color to this day. This was the first time I had any inkling that I hated my father. And yet, at the same time, I was aware of this background space of love. This was 1962, and I still remember this as a turning point in my life.
I never went home again with the expectation that my father could be any different than he was. And that was my first fledgling step in accepting myself, that I didn’t need his approval to be me.
footnote: it wasn’t until 1998 when my father (he had been stroked out for 6 years) was in the hospital, and when I entered the room he held out his arms to welcome me, and I embraced him and cried a lifetime of tears held back. But now there was no hate, only love. He whispered in my ear that he wanted to die, and he did, peacefully, two weeks later at home with me by his side.
My father grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, the son of a poor Irish silver miner in Colorado. His grandmother rescued him from the poverty. I don’t know where he got his prejudice from, but it was not limited to blacks. He hated Italians and Jews.
When I, a socially retarded youth, was in ninth grade, a girl asked me to a dance, and I was thrilled, as I could never ask myself. When my father found out the girl was Italian, he said I was not going to any dance with a Wop. He made me tell her I couldn’t go, and her sister spit on me.
We forget that the Irish, dirty and tribal, came to this country is a massive wave to escape the famine in their homeland, and there was tremendous resentment because they took the low hanging jobs.
If you notice in the picture of my father he had a deformed upper lip. He said he cut it on glass but he had a hair-lip, which had been corrected by surgery, but not before the emotional scar I’m sure. He worked himself up through college and got a scholarship to the naval academy. He was a proud man and took refuge in his role as a naval office to heal the wound of being a poor rejected Irishman.
Father’s cannot help but stamp their children with their own emotional stamp. It all happens unconsciously beneath their good intentions.
What was the Civil Right movement but the demand of a people to be recognized as a people, a person. And this is universal movement of son’s with their fathers to be recognized as a legitimate person.
But as I described in this piece, as long as the son needs the father’s approval to exist, the son will always be in state of dependence upon the father. The son remains a son as long as he rebels or obeys the father. In each posture, the son has not given birth to himself as being unique.
And so fathers have the role to guide their son towards their personal discovery of uniqueness, which is that ability to stand against the winds of adversity and the seduction of conformity.
It is only then in this awakening that, like Jesus, the son will say I and the Father are One. But not one in conformity, for the Father is the One without a second. That Father as a role model is unique. And so the Son must come upon his one uniqueness in his struggle with the father, when he realizes that he is always already unique, and needs no external permission.
On the path to self realization or Individuation, there must be a transference from the biological father to surrogate fathers provided when you need them along your path. Some teacher, guru, or boss will appear to finish the guidance of your biological father. There is only one Mythic Father with many faces who meets and helps you along your way.
When we recognize that our biological father with all his imperfections is also this Mythic Father, we are able to forgive his failures. Then what we perceived as failures were what we actually needed for our second birth.
The biological father guides us into the cultural womb; the spiritual fathers guides us out of it. Our biological father is one; our spiritual fathers are many. All, however, have the same function, that of both threshold guardian and guide into our unknown. As threshold guardian, we cannot pass through the gate until we are ready for the power we are to receive. We cannot get the keys to the car until we are ready for the responsibility and maturity needed to handle it.
When we recognize that our imperfect biological is in truth just one of the faces of our. “spiritual father” who is guiding through the labor of rebirth, that realization is a sign of our second birth is coming to term.
Our path or life journey then takes shape, and we realize that there is no path. When we realize that I and the Father are One. There is no longer the son/daughter on the path of rebirth. You are Born Again…and you look back and realize that the womb you felt imprisoned in was your own mind that created the separation between you and the world.
Father is a metaphor for the World. When you realize that you and the Father are One, you are realizing that you and the world are one. You will fight no more with the world forever.
This is the fulfillment of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done in heaven as on earth….let the two worlds or IT and ME be one. Let the Will of the World and the My Will be one will. This one will is Love. But not a love in which one tries to love, but as love that is spontaneous and without certainty that you are doing the right thing.
This uncertainty that you are doing the right thing requires faith. This faith is born from atonement, when you and the Father are One.