I love a quote from Shakespeare that Mary Baker Eddy included at the beginning of her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Could this really be true? Is thinking all that matters? Even at Christmas prep time when there seems to more material stuff than ever around? Does everything really come down to our motives?
For me, the answer is “yes.” And that’s how I’ve come to understand my relationship with “material stuff”—whether it’s an object, or an activity where I choose to spend my time.
Lets take one example, like playing the piano. The thought behind this activity could be focused on diving deeper into the meaning of art and life itself. It could be viewed as an opportunity to increase concentration, to improve on individual talents, or to bless others with beauty. On the other hand, playing the piano could also be about impressing an audience, or about pursuing wealth, recognition, or fame.
Maybe this example seems a silly, because it’s pretty obvious that only the right motive carries with it the perseverance to achieve true excellence - on the piano and in life. But it does point to the importance of the thought that guides our actions and decisions. Collecting songs or wristbands, following fashion trends, moving up levels in a computer game, learning to make the best chocolate ice cream ever—all these can be individual ways of expressing more of the Love that is Life, more of the supreme intelligence of divine Mind that is everywhere and all-in-all. Each endeavor calls on us to use our spiritual qualities, making it a training ground for spiritual progress. And if we answer this call, we find opportunities at each turn to express the infinite qualities of Love and Life in individual ways. The motive will propell us forward.
But, if we let our individuality become secondary to selfishness, or personal satisfaction, the same pursuits will take on a different hue. In the worst of cases, we end up in something that Mary Baker Eddy called “the ditch of nonsense.” (Miscellaneous Writings, 1883-1896, p. 230). Thankfully, she gave us a way out through this guideline: “Enjoying good things is not evil, but becoming slaves to pleasure is. That error is most forcible which is least distinct to conscience. Attempt nothing without God’s help.” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 197)
As I think about this passage, it helps me take the question of motives to a higher level. In fact, I think, the best measure of the worth and purity any pursuit is not just whether it is blessing others, but whether it is also helping us learn something more about Truth, God. Whether it is impelling us to bow in all humility before something so much bigger and wiser and so much more creative than we are. With God, divine Love, at the center of our lives, we are moving towards an upgrade in spirituality and a downsizing in material stuff. Simply because spirituality is so much more authentic and real. We are able to make good and wise and unselfish choices and see more clearly how everything can turn into something sparkling and meaningful—and even revelatory.
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and as a writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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