As if the only response to politics, art, and individuals is like or dislike. Black or white. Agree or disagree. Opinions, opinions, opinions. Like or dislike - the famous facebook thumbs. How many likes have you got? As if a response in the like/dislike mode brings us one step nearer to perceive what we are presented with.
Once you start to observe, you see this everywhere - in debates, the media, relationships. We need to overcome this, because in the like/dislike mode the true nature of things is hidden. It disappears. Because what truly matters is to understand. And then to find out how to separate right from wrong. The yes from the no. This takes humility, listening, time - caution with our instinctive reactions, gentleness with events, peoples, settings, the strangeness of images. Understanding is more than mere emotion - it is about discovery and learning. This is so far removed from condemning someone in a wink (be it a politicians, celebrity, roommate or relative) or falling for something without a further thought. As a former professor I learned something about the art of teaching - and how crucial it is to accompany students by supporting their individual growth - in helping them to slowly move away from intense likes or dislikes to interest, gentle caution, and a discovery mode. Likes or dislikes work with prejudice. Gentleness and enthusiasm break the spell.
What the like/dislike culture does is to keep us occupied while nothing is accomplished. Like/dislike glues us to where we are right now and instills - without words a - a sense of the meaninglessness of human events. Mary Baker Eddy calls this "floating off on the wings of sense" and writes in "Improve your Time" about more successful individuals: "They spend no time in sheer idleness, in talking when they have nothing to say, in building air castles or floating off on the wings of sense: all of which drop human life into the ditch of nonsense, and worse than waste its years." (in Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 230)
So here we are, so much to discover, so much to learn, so much to experience, and climbing over the like/dislike-option is critical to progress. What a relief! When I had to work with someone who differed so much from me that I was mentally pushing the "dislike" button, these insights came to my rescue. I could see that it didn't matter whether I liked or disliked this individual. It just didn't, for his life, for the world, for my own spiritual growth. My job was not to move beyond dislike to like but to understand, and this job could be accomplished by diving deeply and unquestioningly into divine Love, leaving pride in human assessment behind. I saw how God was teaching me to love. This is beautifully expressed in Psalm 36:
"Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light."
The like/dislike urge lessened until it finally left - I could understand and see more, feel God's "unfailing love" for both of us, and the resistance simply melted away. A healed relationship. This has enriched other aspects of my experience, too: Encounters with people from different cultures and religions, encounters with avantgarde art, politicians whose perspectives differ from mine. It is a blessing to meet without judgment or opinion. And to nurture the response "how interesting!" instead. Everyone is entitled to good, everyone. Everyone deserves to be seen in his or her true light and life. Our opinions in this respect don't matter. Because God is Love, everyone is worthy, unique, loved. That is all that matters.
“In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.” (Psalm 56: 11) Who can join the Psalmist these days? With conviction? With trust? Many? Few? People worldwide are terribly concerned when looking at their world at this moment. Many are afraid of the future, war is looming, and whether fears are real or self-imposed is for the individual of no importance. Fear is hell.
If you love art you might be acquainted with paintings from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, picturing heaven and hell in lush hues. Glorious and light is the imagery of heavenly life, permeating peaceful sweetness, dreadful and scary the sights for the lost souls in hell. Here we see figures sitting in the middle of flickering flames. Indeed, this is how hell would be, if it existed.
But there is no hell, and the closest to a concept of hell is a state of mind filled with fear. Much time can be wasted by diving into the depth of human thought and analyzing causes and effects. Time is better spent by shifting attention from fear analysis to fear removal.
How this can be done? Let me tell you a brief story from our family.
We were living for some years in the outskirts of a large town in a safe neighborhood – until one day a chain of burglaries started. Our home didn't have any precautionary devices, such as closable shutters or an alarm system. But it had four inhabitants, two adults and two toddlers. House after house was hit, over a period of several weeks, and at one point we felt, that we were the prospective victims now. It felt very odd. During the day we felt sort of safe, but we woke up each night, in the middle of it, feeling observed. Self-imposed? Real? It didn't matter. My husband and I were petrified and felt the threat bodily. Now, being petrified is the same like sitting in a fire – it is hell. So we opted for action: Each night, when we woke up, we took up the fear and handled it.
We prayed with ideas Mary Baker Eddy shares about the heavenly city Jerusalem. Jerusalem can be regarded as the ultimate home of us all, a symbol for a divine habitation, and she writes in Science and Health: "The four sides of our city are the Word, Christ, Christianity, and divine Science; 'and the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.' This city is wholly spiritual, as its four sides indicate." (p. 575). These are complex concepts, but we took up what we could grasp. We moved in with Love and carefully went over each side of the city. I asked myself: What does it mean that one side of my home is the Word of God, another side the Christ and so forth. I deepened my understanding of those four walls and tried to see to the best of my abilities, that these walls are strong and impregnable. I asked God for forgiveness that I ever could have assumed that anyone of His children could be a threat to our safety. I felt forgiven and continued to enlarge my love. The four walls became larger and larger every night, they embraced our settlement, our city, our country, the whole world.
We continued to deal with our fears like this every night until we felt completely at ease and knew without a doubt that God was the supreme power of the universe, not too large to overlook us, not too small to be of no value. We continued this kind of prayer for about two weeks, until we no longer woke up – the threat had left.
Whether it was real, we will never know. But we know this: Our prayers were powerful tools to forge fears into unselfish thoughts, the way from hell to heaven was only a thought away – and the series of burglaries stopped.
I wonder what happened if we all put our homes and nations just like that into the heavenly Jerusalem. Residing with good and asking God for forgiveness that we ever believed in enemies. Enlarging the concept of safety and home to embrace the whole world. The Word, the Christ, Christianity and Divine Science – the laws of Life, Truth, and Love – are guardians and they lead from the hot temper of heated emotions to the cool balm of spiritual inspiration and freedom. You might take this encouraging, poetic thought from Mary Baker Eddy as your guide:
“You are not alone. Love is with you watching tenderly over you by day and night; and this Love will not leave you but will sustain you and remember all thy tears, and will answer thy prayers.” (Mary Baker Eddy, quoted in: Inspiration for Life’s relationships, p. 13)
Thus founded upon the rock of Christ, when storm
and tempest beat against this sure foundation, you,
safely sheltered in the strong tower of hope, faith, and
Love, are God's nestlings; and He will hide you in His
feathers till the storm has passed. Into His haven of
Soul there enters no element of earth to cast out angels,
to silence the right intuition which guides you safely
Mary Baker Eddy. Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896. p. 152
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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