The Potentials

A black and white image of Howard Thurman. He is looking forward with a serious expression on his face, and he is wearing a gray suit, a white dress shirt, and a tie.
Howard Thurman, Wikimedia.

A quote from Howard Thurman:

“How do you interpret the events of your life? How do you measure them? Do you live your life on the basis that all that there is to you and what you do is wrapped up in the movement, the isolated, circumscribed movement, pulse beat of your little life? Now, if you do, then you know, you see, that the very nature of life is of such that it is fixed … it is finished, it is complete, and you know you can’t do anything about anything anyway so you don’t try….

Now there is another point of view, and this is the point of view of the prophet. And that is that human life, as well as the lives of nations, takes place within a context that is dynamic. That always when I am in the presence of any event, I am caught in an encounter with a series of potentials that spread out in the widest possible directions and with the most amazing variety of variation. So that if I am alert in the presence of the event, I seek to deal with the event in terms not merely of what it says, what it looks like, but in terms of what seems to me to be the dynamics of the event, the potentials of the event.

“Do you deal with events of your life in that way? Do you believe that life is really dynamic? That it isn’t quite finished yet? That not only are you involved always in a circling series of potentials, but that you are potential. You, potential. And no time band, no time interval is able quite to contain you and the dynamics of your life and your situation. Do you believe that?”

Howard Thurman, “The Message of Isaiah II,” June 22, 1952, in Moral Struggle and the Prophets, ed. Peter Eisenstadt and Walter Earl Fluker (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2020), 156, 157, 158–159.

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