"Who hath despised the day of small things?" asks Bible wisdom for more than 2500 years now. Certainly not Carla of Trondheim, certainly not anybody with a magnifying glass, certainly not us, intuitively remembering how it feels when small things have been done well. Small things done with great love.
The patience while waiting in line, the grace in repeating something for the umpteenth time, the awareness of beauty in mundane moments, the gratitude of Life itself. Truly, the small is the mighty. But why is this so?
Where is good? Where is harmony? Well - if we can accept that we are part of the stupendous whole of Spirit, everything good is linked. It must be where we are. Mary Baker Eddy writes, that creation "consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are embraced in the infinite Mind and forever reflected. These ideas range from the infinitesimal to infinity [...]."
So one way to grasp the infinite is honoring the infinitesimal. Everything good, everything constructive - however small - is proof that good, Spirit, is for real. It doesn't matter how tiny it is - it represents something enormous. It represents as much the Creator who is breathing spiritually entire galaxies into existence as do A flat major, foxes, strawberry ice cream and Sonnets. Everyone, every animal, everything in God’s universe is a miracle, a little galaxy in itself. It is in itself infinitesimal again, a compound idea with infinite elements of individual nature. So can anything be too insignificant for consideration?
We take a magnifying glass and take a closer look. First at things, then at events and people. Can you hold the magnifying glass to thoughts as well and find the good seed? And stick with it until it takes root? Can you be consistent enough to see even in the individual which seems to challenge you something good? Can you link this individual to the divine source, too? Can you also include language and replace negative responses and thoughtless phrases - cutting off possibilities for growth - with active good? I started little self-experiments years ago, going like this: don't use certain words with a downward trend, never complain about the weather, don't ever refer to anyone's age, don't delve longer than needed on any negative event without seeing the potential for a learning curve. I am also up much earlier than ever because I need all the time I can get for the joy of life.
If you live "the day of small things", everyday life turns into a holiday. The closer you move to objects – the more the objects disappear for the spiritual qualities immediately to appear. Bloom, order, possibilities. Can you see that you are characterized by infinitesimal good? Now look around and feel the energy of Spirit, an infinite replenishment of wonder.
Mercy is not as old-fashioned as this term sounds. It is a great quality if we want to be constructive and refrain from participating in any blame game - be it local or global. In 21st century usage "social skills" or "empathy" are more frequent terms, but the wisdom of time-tested concepts is deeper, I think. Mercy is not just a skill, which facilitates interaction with others. Mercy is the real thing, it is an astonishing virtue. It is linked to humanity, compassion, and forgiveness. Mercy enables us to perceive the authenticity of life itself; it is a warm, generous approach to things and people. Mercy is happy with benevolence, and benevolence alone. Mercy is so powerful because it flows directly from Love, God, itself, the source of every constructive and healing thought and act.
The #1 parable for mercy is the good Samaritan as told by Jesus and as recorded in the Bible. He relates this parable to drive home a point, to answer a question posed by a lawyer – therefore by someone whose daily profession has to do with justice, with separating right from wrong. The lawyer had asked what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus, having referred him to the law, receives this answer: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Jesus' reply is straightforward and clear: "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."
What Jesus does in answering the question, which our neighbors are, is to shift the lawyer’s thought away from justice towards mercy. Mercy doesn’t care about the right or wrong – mercy just is. The Samaritan, we learn, doesn’t ask whether the victim provoked the thieves, wore something strange or shocking or did anything offensive so as to deserve being beaten up. The Samaritan doesn’t check whether the victim is part of his own tribe or a stranger. The Samaritan sees the need and acts. He is caring in an unselfed way for his fellow-man, while others ignore his desperation and needs. The Samaritan helps and supports the healing of the crime victim - before continuing his own journey and continuing to care for his fellow-man even while pursuing his own route. The parable seems to suggest that the Samaritan is so engaged with unselfed care for his neighbor, that the love for God and man are realized and lived as a law. He is too busy to weigh the options, he lives the law. Vincent Van Gogh rendered this parable beautifully - in bold colors.
As there is always a path, an open, free path for individuals and society, I truly feel that the blame game will not stand the test of time and will never enable us to be authentic. Authenticity is linked to truth, and to truth only – while the blame game moves away from everything that is self-reflective and shifts the attention towards individual guilt and shortcomings. It makes evil real and displaces the problem into the camp of the victims, away from everyone else. As if the problem of evil were solved by debating possible causes. The Bible would have called this penalizing attitude “scribal”, I guess. It leaves victims and perpetrators alone, which shouldn’t be. And mercy knows the path to a different approach.
As a result of listening, I recalled something I did read sometime ago in an editorial, never forgetting its main message. I looked it up and found it:
“It's important to distinguish between the diligent rectification of misdeeds and the mere casting of blame. When mistakes or scandals surface, are we, as direct participants or concerned onlookers, seeking to be healers or dividers? Making a reality of evil and then pinning its label on another is not productive — and not what Christianity teaches. The rush to blame, litigate, prosecute, judge, and condemn may only indicate a mean-spirited anger operating below the surface of society, a turmoil of self-interest and sensationalism that points toward what really needs attention. [...]. Jesus was never patient with wrongdoing. But neither did he blame people. He condemned the wrong, but not the wrongdoer.” (The Christian Science Sentinel, November 6, 2006)
The very best asset we all have is our ability to think, to use spiritual intuition, and to never forget that we move forward in our own lives only if we see the link between our lives and the lives of others. Mary Baker Eddy mentioned in an address for an audience in Chicago, the end of the 19th century: “I will gain a balance on the side of good, my true being. This alone gives me the forces of God wherewith to overcome all error.“ In a way this could be called „Mercy 2.0“ – a possibility to tip the balance for the side of good, globally. We can and are big enough.
From Bystander to Ally
As the Paris victims are being mourned, we can slowly start to ponder and think and reflect: what is our role as a community of people not directly involved, not being threatened or persecuted? Is there one?
My parents taught my sister and me always to make sure if we can help, when confronted with an accident or incident where somebody needs help. And if we can’t make sure we don’t are bystanders ever. Here, with the Paris events unfolding, we have been and are bystanders and spectators, something Susan Sontag spoke about in her book „Regarding the Pain of Others“. We certainly shared thoughts with neighbors and followed the news. And we made up our minds about the events. Many voices debated whether the victims are to blame for their bluntness – and most recently one of the founders of Charlie Hebdo Henri Roussel, accused posthumously the editor-in-chief and his team to have overdone it, to have crossed a line, risking too much.
So while we still reflect and mourn, there are many that agree with Henri Roussel and feel that there are victims who are innocent, and victims, who have done something unwise, irrational or at least not very clever – things like speaking up in public in a Fascist regime, things like insisting on satire as a century-old artform in France, things like wearing the wrong clothes in the right place at the wrong time, blogging in a country where the Sharia rules. So are there victims who deserve their fate? Something in me rebels, and I continue to ponder and wonder, why I rebel. Something just is plain wrong in this argumentation with cause and effect on a personal level, something isn’t fair, it feels superficial, devoid of real empathy as well as cruel. There must be a deeper lesson, I know there is one, if we are to establish the true brotherhood of man.
Yesterday I met with a friend who was attending a conference in Berlin. Over coffee I mentioned to her my concerns, and I mentioned to her my prayer for clarity and support. This friend is a president of a large university and a truly clever woman. She said, that the moment we push back the responsibility for the crime out of our own life into the lives of others, we deliberately decide to be a bystander. And our lives seem safe again.
This insight resonated immediately with the work I had done in prayer for the current situation. In order to be more than a bystander, in order to be an ally at all times, I went home and my thoughts went deeper into a real answer. I have no better books for this kind of spiritual quest than the Bible and my favorite Bible commentary Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy. These books have never ever let me down. The Bible being the #1 book about humanity’s story with God tells us where we are from and where are going, it informs us with two allegorical accounts about two different views of what man is and how mankind is struggling to understand which one to follow. The first account of creation presents man as a spiritual idea, as being an idea of an infinite Mind, being „the image and likeness of God“ – the second account (written centuries earlier) presents a myth about a dustman Adam and a dustwoman Eve, created by a different God now called Yahweh. Already in the second generation murder is the order of the day. Cain justifies the homicide of his brother Abel with his own envy and with Abel’s striking difference, accusing his brother with his own crime. Abel is different, true, and he lives a different form of individuality. Cain distances himself from Abel’s otherness and throws into Yahweh’s face the question: „Shall I be my brother’s keeper“?
The Bible is filled with stories where individuals are persecuted or killed for being different. Joseph wearing his multi-colored coat, Jacob’s son, having dreams which later turn out to be prophetic announcements, is sold by his own brothers because of envy and hate – charging Josef for wearing something different and for being different. Other prophets, who by definition are solitary individuals who see more and do more than others, have been persecuted because they were independent, because they didn’t lie or exchange pleasantries with humanity. Christ Jesus, the ultimate symbol of innocence and purity, was persecuted, convicted, and killed in a show trial, in which „reasonable“, terribly twisted arguments were voiced, convincing people at that moment of the rightness of the execution.
We think we would not have let those brave individuals down, we would and will not let down our brothers and sisters in their difference. But honestly, it takes tremendous humility, unselfed love and daily alertness to develop courage and mental resilience. And to look around and see how we are doing as bystanders today. So now I feel it is time to talk about the real enemy, which is not an individual, doing something which others don’t like, the enemy is also not a misguided hateful human with a striking lack of autonomy and empathy. The real enemy is evil.
Studying and praying with the Bible and with observations I find that it is the aim of evil to become reasonable, and real, and one way of doing this is to charge the victim with the crime. I feel I am now at the point of insight where I hoped to be. It is my thesis that one reason why we all don’t realize fast enough what is going, is our unwillingness to pinpoint evil as the crime itself. Evil is not a person, place, or thing. It is a terrible lie of a life next to God, good. It is an assumption, a suggestion. The Bible knows this, Goethe’s Faust knows this, authors like Tolstoi and Kafka have written about this. And Mary Baker Eddy has systematically and courageously presented this insight into the nature of evil for the 21st century, paving the way for a deeper understanding of God as supreme Love.
She didn’t mince words when she wrote: „As of old, evil still charges the spiritual idea with error’s own nature and methods. This malicious animal instinct […] incites mortals to kill morally and physically even their fellow-mortals, and worse still, to charge the innocent with the crime.“
This observation has far reaching consequences, I find. It arouses us to see what is really going on. It stirs us to support humanity in a much more fundamental and active way. As God’s children we are all intrinsically innocent and pure, and the trick of evil – no person, no place, no things – in blaming the innocent should be detected.
There will be a time to discuss without contempt what art forms can and will do in a world increasingly diverse and less historically informed – f.e. about the power of political cartoons and about the deep-seated long tradition of subversive, sassy satire in France and elsewhere. There will be a time to consider whether free speech is the same as responsible speech. There will be a time to seriously find out how to support all those brave individuals who lay their lives on the line in order to pave the way for a better future for all. But this time is not now, when the victims are still being mourned.
At this point the bottom line could be this: We can be allies to our brothers and sisters by closing the ranks and not letting any twisted argument come between us and our fellow man. We can stop accusing the victims and move on to perceive more of every one’s spiritual, intact individuality which we explore and get to know better as we get to know God better.
When we are asked „Where is Abel?“ or „Where are Stéphane, Elsa, Georges, Bernard, Ahmed, Philippe, Bernard, Philippe, Frédéric, Jean, Mustapha, Michel, Franck, Yoav, Francois-Michel, Philippe, Yohan, Clarissa?“ we will not reply „Shall I be my brother’s keeper?“ but we can say: „Here I am. These are my brothers and sisters – I am their ally. I defend their eternal individuality. I take a stand for autonomy of thought. Because I gradually see more and more that evil is neither a person, a place, nor a thing, I will be eventually able to also include Saïd, Chérif, and Amedy in my prayer. Evil itself is the crime.” Without this admission flowing from the supremacy of Love, Spirit, how could the family of man ever be realized?
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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