Incredibly, I happened to hear a lecture by Princeton Professor Cornel West last night. This is the incredible part: much of his lecture had to do with the notion that the very nature of humanity -- that is, what makes us human, as opposed to the usual assertions "we can think" and "we have language" -- is that we have to come to terms with our own death (physical as well as symbolic).
He spoke about the ways this was not new to African American people, who have had to learn over the period of American history to survive -- and what's more, to love -- despite. He spoke, too, of that knowledge as it had been given to Christian people: Each day, according to Paul, the Christian must die to herself (intellectually, but no less painfully for that).
Real thought, he said, must think about suffering, one's own and human suffering.
And then he said something that reminds me of so many friends. Paraphrasing Dr. King, he said that what is needed is an assembly of creative people maladjusted to injustice.