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It seems that monuments honoring notables with charismatic gifts leave larger-than-life impressions upon viewers. Such is the experience studying photos of the thirty-foot sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr., commissioned by the Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin and erected at the West Potomac Park next to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This was in 2011.

King’s star flamed with his nationwide support of the Montgomery bus boycott, in 1963, but sputtered with his blood-stained shirt on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in 1968. For fifteen years, his biblical passion interfaced with racial segregation, poverty, human rights violations, and the Vietnam war—enhanced by his bass voice trained in oratory. Thousands joined sit-ins, marches, even suffered killings, burnings, beatings, and imprisonment. Deep was the hope for peace that swept our country.

Most remember pieces of King’s story, influencing the nightly news during those years.

But what did happen? In my perception, the MLK sculpture suggests a clue. Standing erect in suit and tie, his eyes piercing off into the future, his arms folded, his right hand clutching a sheaf of papers, he seems bound to the stone from which he was chiseled, his lower legs, unfinished. Seen from behind, the stone also casts a shadow; in the analytical psychology of Dr. C. G. Jung, the shadow symbolizes the undesirable aspects of our unconsciousness. That Dr. King was not immune to such aberrations is obvious. He had his enemies.

And grief spilled upon cracked sidewalks, just beginning to flower that April evening.

Around midnight I woke with this dream:

Jesus comforted me.

And later:

A light-skinned young couple, devoted to each other, sits on a piano bench. His tapered fingers played the accompaniment to the Jesus hymn they sing, with full voice.

 This pair of consoling dreams empowers me to trust my old body’s continuing diminishment, one day at a time, until my last one. Practicing CPA’s Step I also supports this process with its emphasis upon cultivating an honest relationship with my body. Gentleness is also paramount.

The first dream’s consolation lingers as I compose this blog, despite having no recall of the story—just His loving presence. My spirit brightens; its joy, boundless, a foretaste of what’s to come on the other side of my last breath.

The second dream of the light-skinned young couple heartens me. From the depths of my unconscious comes multifaceted harmony of their genders, of their blended voices, of their willingness to be in relationship, and of their shared faith and trust in Jesus. And on a deeper note, the dream suggests more healing of my racial prejudice, if not its removal altogether. I have wanted this for long years, but have been unable to extricate it from my shadow, it being imprinted since childhood.

And the Jesus hymn envelops my spirit in bliss. If such overtures, fleeting as they are, attest to realities far beyond our kin, what must eternal life be? And we’re all headed there, at least that’s my understanding, like bees swarming to the golden hive. In the meantime, tonight’s dreams remain to be learned from.

 

Like poets and priests, storytellers bridge the gap between the seen and unseen worlds. A Presence hovers over their tales, one that disturbs listeners. It’s all about conversion of life.

One such storyteller is Min Jin Lee, Korean American author of Pachinko, a finalist in the 2017 National Book Awards competition. For thirty years, she toiled over this novel that addresses the plight of Koreans living in Japan that began with Japan’s 1910 annexation. Stripped of their heritage, taxed and abused into starvation, their language trivialized into a dialect, their natural resources exploited, Koreans groveled for existence. To survive, many immigrated to Japan for work. After World War II they watched the continued psychic and physical dissolution of their homeland under the Soviet Union and America.

Against this backdrop of atrocities, Min Jun Lee places Yangjin and her daughter Sunja, peasants living outside the port city of Busan, Korea (South Korea today). These intrepid women, undeterred by the meanest toil and filth, inspire their families for four generations, from 1911 to 1989 as they eke out their existence in Osaka and other cities in Japan. Decades of accommodation fail to deter their spirits.

The more I reflect upon the selflessness of Yangjin and Sunja, the sweeter they become. Their portrayal by Min Jin Lee challenges my narrow understanding of woman and my prejudice/uneasiness around third world people. There’s much to learn in this gripping story.

 

Available on Amazon

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