Today used to be Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. But nowadays we move birthdays around for our own convenience, so pretty soon hardly anyone remembers the actual date.
Anyway, King (pictured here) would have turned 85 today, though most of the nation won't celebrate that until the official federal holiday next Monday.
King, of course, was a marvel. And a tremendously complex man.
What often happens to such people, however, is that the public tends to focus on just one or two aspects of their lives and lose the rest. The result is myth-making.
And I don't mean myth in the sense of falsehood. Rather, I mean it in the sense of a grand but narrowly focused narrative full of meaning. So with Washington the myth says he was the father of our country and never told a lie, even when he chopped down a cherry tree. With Lincoln the myth is that he was the great emancipator who freed the slaves. With King the myth is that he had a dream.
There is profound truth in all these myths, but pretty soon the real, fallible, interesting human beings undergo a process of apotheosis (becoming divine) and they become so saintly and untouchable that they're no longer as useful as models for us because we think we never could be as good as them.
So as we honor King this week -- and even today on the anniversary of his birth -- let's try to learn more than one thing about our national heroes. Let's see if we can recapture some of their true context and character so that they may inspire us and not discourage us.
* * *
WHEELIES FOR GOD?
Pope Francis has donated his Harley Davidson motorcycle to raise money for a hostel and soup kitchen that servces the poor of Rome. If a pope is going to own any kind of motor vehicle, shouldn't it be a Christler?