This piece was commissioned by a consortium of schools in Cobb County, Georgia, in the Atlanta area. Although this wonderful part of the country is known for its many attributes, my primary association with it is as a keystone of the civil rights movement, in part since it was the home of Martin Luther King, Jr.
One reason Dr. King was so successful and the civil rights movement had such an impact is that through nonviolent protest, he held a mirror up to ourselves, forcing us all to see how we—not others—were behaving. In this process, to use the words of poet Seamus Heaney, Dr. King “set the darkness echoing” and thus inspired profound change.
It is a great lesson for all of us that in our personal and social lives, we need not be afraid to set the darkness echoing, for it is in this process that we truly learn about ourselves and come to terms with the truths in our lives.
Below is the relevant verse from Seamus Heaney’s poem “Personal Helicon”:
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all human dignity. I rhyme
to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
The work was commissioned by a consortium of 13 schools in Cobb County, Ga. First performance in Georgia, February, 2005.