MLK & the Inauguration of the Creatively Maladjusted

Today we honor an uncompromising dreamer.

Today we honor the inauguration of another four-year cycle.

Today we honor a country full of uncompromising dreamers.

And today perhaps we inaugurate a new association that Martin Luther King called for in 1963. 

In 1963, Martin Luther King inverted the language of psychologists and co-opted a then-popular but poorly defined term for the human rights cause. By the 1950s and 1960s, psychologists attempted to identify certain youth into a category they termed “maladjusted.”

But King, ever the creative thinker and brilliant rhetorician in the Thoreau tradition, turned that term on its head.

“We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent,” he said.

“Certainly, we all want to live the well-adjusted life,” he said, to avoid various neuroses.

But he went on: “I never intend to adjust myself to racial segregation and discrimination…to religious bigotry…”

“There is a need for men and women today to be as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln….”

In an earlier talk in 1956, he said, “The salvation of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted.”

He implores people to form a new association to earmark their commitment to causes that matter:

The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment

Who would be a member, I wonder?

Sure, the usual suspects:

The uncompromising poets like Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder and Jane Hirshfield

The uncompromising musicians like John Lennon

The uncompromising teachers-by-example like John Cage and John Daido Loori and TKV Desikachar

But are not there other members we may never hear of?

The mother who insists her child receive the education he deserves not the one doled out

The father determined to craft a life of purpose and presence not just of profit and providing

The woman who shows other women how to grow food, make art, and earn a living outside the corporate castles

The marketer who refuses to appeal to our basest instincts

The child who knits socks, studies bugs, gets skinned knees, and draws pictures instead of playing video games

The man who gives his “crazy idea” three hours a week when the kids have gone to sleep

The VP who knows that purpose leads profit not the other way around and leads accordingly

The way we’re wired for survival and  the nature of our world makes it a challenge to acknowledge and act upon our divine discontent. I have to work at it every day. But I want to hear from you. We need to hear from one another.


Who else would you add?

What are you doing today that will make you a bona fide member?

What are you creatively maladjusted to and how are your actions making change happen?

And how are your actions today recruiting others?

Thanks for running with me,


Share This Article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *