When I did research and writing in Princeton, NJ, last summer, I saw a sign at a local coffee shop (hey, everybody needs a break now and then). It read: "Support your local anything!"
In a world growing together - chances but also challenges being perceived as global -, the slogan to "think global and act local" is as timely as ever. And it is a question of alertness how to be an alert citizen instead of just a egoistic customer looking for the best bargain. Support your local anything - yes.
Wednesday was a day where I put this into practice in terms of shopping. I wanted to buy Easter chocolates for dear friends, groceries for a meal I had planned to cook, and a cake for dessert for a dinner for a friend after our local wednesday meeting at church. It would have been easy to go to a supermarket to get it all at once. But it felt right, to put into practice: Support your local anything. And I live in a neighborhood which makes this kind of approach easy. So I went on my bike in pouring rain to our farmer's market for the groceries, continued to a master chocolatier around our corner and went to a Greek bakery right across from where we live for cake. Before church I bought the last item missing at a local artisan bakery - a loaf of crunchy whole grain bread. Everything I bought is handmade, freshly made - and I would look the people who had done it, right into their eyes. Support your local anything!
While I was pondering this approach I remembered a note from fellow Christian Science practitioner Kate Mullane Robertson:
what if the answer
to achieving world peace, saving
the environment and ending poverty,
is as simple as doing unto others,
as you would have them do unto you..
Because here it was: A deeper dimension of "Support your local anything." Not replacing the most obvious one, but adding another aspect to "local". The spiritual dimension of supporting each other "locally" because we are made to love each other. As tremendously important it is to embrace the world, take care of the environment, be informed about politics and understand what it means to be a citizen - it is even more important to support our local ... anything. Truly loving locally, the people we know, the people we meet, our immediate surrounding. It was natural to be aware of an elderly lady in this fancy bakery - remember, I was there to buy a loaf for the dinner after the wednesday meeting at church - who inquired shyly the price for each loaf (each bread handmade, so the price more on the higher end) and invite her for a loaf. She looked at me and said: "Where in the world does something like this happen?" To which I replied: "Here and now."
John didn't believe a word when people said they loved God but weren't interested in people. Something like caring for humanity, but disliking people right in front of them. John's thing was not "abstract caring", but concrete, active love. In the beautiful translation of J.B. Philips it sounds like this:
"If a man says, “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love the brother before his eyes how can he love the one beyond his sight? And in any case it is his explicit command that the one who loves God must love his brother too." (I John 4: 20,21)
John had learned this kind of thinking from the Master, from Jesus himself. During his execution, Christ Jesus' ability and willingness to forgive, what he did on the cross, changed the world. This forgiveness and love went so deep that it included the soldier who had actually fixed Jesus' hand with a steel nail to a cross. Christ Jesus' unconditional love was more local than we can possibly imagine - and that is our model. Here you have it.
Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its fact sheet on "depression", and shared this assessment: "Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease." (see it here.) What a stunning observation - if there were a way to overcome depression, humanity would benefit also physically, this statement seems to say. So anybody who as anything to contribute should share something, and I am presenting to you three different perspectives in this text.
Behind the scenes is a vivid debate about the treatment of depression, with or without medication. It is a debate whether psychotherapy or prescribing is better, and many individuals in the medical world are part of this debate. This tells me again, that every single case of the 300 million people worldwide diagnosed with depression is individual. And that there is no institution or verdict that is truly applicable to everything and everyone. When I heard again at the phone someone saying that the doctor consulted said that she would need hospitalization and would have to take prescription drugs for her entire life, I could honor her reluctance in taking this step and saw already her insight that something more than giving in to the verdict of one medical professional was necessary. Anyone who has been diagnosed with depression, or was in the position of helping someone diagnosed with depression or had to help someone find healing by first helping the individual to see what was at stake, knows what I mean. Knows something about the empathy, consecration, patience, persistence, unselfish love, patience, patience, patience that is needed for healing. And that is the real need that has to be met. And that is being met with something deeper than human will or effort. Don't reckon without one's host - discovering a higher view, more dignified and whole, of man is key.
I observed, first, that some of the cases I was supporting (as a professor, as a family member, as a practitioner) had a similar theme - this theme being a conviction that the life that these individuals were living wasn't theirs. Somehow a life that didn't fit - that the way they were living wasn't right or appreciated by the family or surrounding, that their talents couldn't be expressed to the full, that what they really wanted was unacceptable to the surrounding and that expectations felt like unsurmountable obstacles. Communication stopped and all the attention collapsed into the inside. What was perceived as adding to the burden was the unsolicited advice or the demand to pull oneself together. This is simply not how this works, I observed over the years. What works is the most tender care, quiet support and humility, not unsolicited advice. It makes a huge difference to feel that we are o.k., to feel strength and power from Spirit in an individual way, and to discover the independence that stems from the fact that what we are and how we live is really a matter between us and God. Of course, this is sometimes a tall order, but Mary Baker Eddy assures us: "If we would open their prison doors for the sick, we must first learn to bind up the broken-hearted." (Science and Health, p. 367)
Second, I remembered from a report of a healing, how important it is to activate gratitude while at the same time refrain from denying that the negative pull exists. Ostrich-like methods just don't help, mental activity does, which uses spiritual sense as a means of seeing in the dark. A healing of depression by Pierre Pradervand, author of The gentle art of blessing, illustrates this powerfully. It gives hints and tips and was published in The Christian Science Journal in 2001 - you can read it here. You will see from this deeply moving account that the Christian Science approach takes into account spiritual resources unknown before and builds on self-knowledge, Spirit knowledge and a deep sense of goodness.
Third, I find food for thought in this short lecture by Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of the concept of "non violent communication" (please scroll to the end of the post). It is again a different way of looking at depression, a thoughtful and tender way, I find. Sometimes healings of depression are on the spot, sometimes they take years and start with accepting that there is something to learn and live with for a while. In any case there is always a way out. Always. Our destiny is not to remain in the dark and feel not at home in Life. Our destiny is to see the beauty and rightness of our being, to acknowledge our independence from the approval of others and to discover our most vital and most powerful link of all, the link to our creator, divine Love. Goodness is a law in Love's dimension of healing.
The Psalms, wisdom of the ages, give words to the sad heart and share also words for the joy when the sense of Life is permanently regained in acceptance and healing.
"How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 13)
In The Message, a Bible rendering by Eugene Peterson, this same Psalm is translated like this:
Long enough, God--
you’ve ignored me long enough.
I’ve looked at the back of your head
long enough. Long enough
I’ve carried this ton of trouble,
lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies
have looked down their noses at me.
Take a good look at me, God, my God;
I want to look life in the eye,
So no enemy can get the best of me
or laugh when I fall on my face.
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms--
I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
I’m so full of answered prayers.
Has everything to be perfect? Your family life, your job, your wedding day, any day? If everything has to be just right, the stakes are high that the first step is not taken lightly. If everything needs to be perfect we hesitate to live with less weight, apply for a new job, press the "ship it" or "go" button, refrain from proposing an idea that is around for some time and resist the inspiration to look into something new.
Forward is the only way and we can start from what we have and we are now. It is enough. No need to living in fear that you will make mistakes by not understanding all the moves down the road (or draws on the chess board). Our world is filled with imperfect, and humility acknowledges where we stand. This is the way to pass through imperfection. Perfection is God's prerogative, perfection is spiritual - and it is for everyone. No one is more "perfect" than anybody else. Perfection is spiritual. It is the signature feature of the kingdom of heaven - the realm of the real, the dimension of Spirit.
From this spiritual, realistic perspective the Bible is a huge inspiration - it tells us about normal, imperfect people and imperfect settings. It talks about the arrival of Jesus in a modest manger, writes about followers and disciples of Jesus as people with flaws, doubts, tempers, questions, and courage. It describes upbringings in impossible surroundings, unexpected setbacks, betrayals and hopes, not to mention challenges confronting men and women of truly gigantic proportions. Imperfections and shortcomings everywhere.
Mary Baker Eddy, a spiritual reformer and author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures - a fabulous Bible commentary in its own right - has this advice for us:
"To do good to all because we love all, and to use in God's service
the one talent that we all have, is our only means of adding to that talent and the best way to silence a deep discontent with our shortcomings." (from Miscellany, p. 195)
Our shortcomings are similar to the ones of everyone else, don't you agree? So can we stop judging ourselves and start using what we have? We want motion, so the only way to move is --- to move. Trust more in God's loving support than your own ability to figure it all out. Sweep away all sense of exposing yourself to ridicule - take out of your efforts all sense of pressure. Do what you can, this will be enough. We can move forward with the simple desire to love - and see where it leads us. While Love's all-inclusive presence holds us close and guards our steps.
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and as a writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
US +1 617 701-7475
Great Blogs of fellow