"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." These words are not potent in and of itself, but because they stem from experience and demonstration - the life of Nelson Mandela, who would have turned hundred July 18, 2018.
One of the puzzle pieces that kept Nelson Mandela alive and hopeful in prison was The Christian Science Monitor. This newspaper, founded in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy, founded on an idea, is one of humanity's miracles of unselfishness and care. Its honest mission is to "injure no man but to bless all mankind". It breathes and stands on this idea.
In 1990, quickly after being released from 27 years of prison in South Africa, Nelson Mandela, on a visit to Boston, went to see the Church that published The Christian Science Monitor. He met one of the Readers of the Church and the Editor at that time, Richard Cattani. And this meeting was a humble and special one, unannounced --- as I heard from a friend of Cattani's who had noticed Mandela standing in front of the Publishing Building on One Norway Street in Boston's Back Bay and looking up and wondering how to get in and thank the editors for their work. A journalist working away at his desk suddenly exclaimed: "I think there is Nelson Mandela standing outside!" Read more about the Christian Science Monitor and this visit here.
July 18 also, unnoticed by many, the most recent peace treaty between Ethiopia and Eritrea was put into practice with a flight linking the two countries which had been engaged in a brutal border war for the past twenty years. Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, is behind this stunning development of reconciliation and peace, a Prime Minister who underlines the need "for a country to be built on ideas, not on division under guise of 'nations and nationalities'." Ideas!
So on board of this first commercial flight linking the two formerly war torn countries, the 315 passengers were reminded of the historic moment. On the flight families separated from loved ones sat next to dignitaries - the war is ended, the future is an open book.
Mary Baker Eddy states the most powerful idea of all:
"One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfills the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry,—whatever is wrong in social, civil, political, and religious codes..." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 340)
A wonderful visual of the family of man is in this video. Matt is dancing with humanity, you see him dancing in several African countries, too, and, very special, on Robben Island, the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned 18 of his 27 years, the island which was reached by The Christian Science Monitor, delivering its message of the unconditional meaning and promise of man, based on an idea. The idea of "One infinite God, good...". Robben Island.
In an interview with Emma Thompson, she shares ideas in regard to the #metoo debate. ("Ein Erbe auf das man stolz sein kann", SZ July 3, 2018). She underlines the need to overcome humanity's desire to leave something behind, footprints for example. She notes the aim of humans, men, to live in a way that others will take note, making a mark on the planet - by conquering and subduing, to leave footprints, to create a lasting legacy.
"To leave a footprint" is a different way of saying "to make yourself a name" (Genesis 11:4) - the description linked to the building of Babel in Biblical times. You might think of monuments dedicated to men and their desire to put their name on top of it. You might think of the sculpture of US presidents carved with force into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, changing forever nature's natural beauty. In this week's Christian Science Bible lesson, which anybody is invited to study, the events prior to Jesus' execution show two individuals with a strong desire to leave their mark, Herod and Pilate, by putting to death "the best man that ever trod the globe" (Science and Health, p. 52).
In studying this topic of leaving something behind like a "well- remembered name", I can see the opposing need to live in such a way that we leave few footprints actually. Native American wisdom invites us to "tread lightly". Isn't the need greater than ever to do so - to seeing our place within God's world and understanding that it is not about our own footprints on the planet but rather about Truth's footprints in our lives? Life is not about us, after all, it is about Life, Truth, Love. It is about oneness rather than about 7.6 billion sets of footprints. It is about Spirit not limitation. Mary Baker Eddy writes (Science and Health, p. 241): "One's aim, a point beyond faith, should be to find the footsteps of Truth, the way to health and holiness." And she adds (in Miscellaneous Writings, p. 310): "To impersonalize scientifically the material sense of existence — rather than cling to personality — is the lesson of to-day." Finding the footsteps of Truth heals us from clinging to personality.
And how do we find the flow of life, the unselfish care and love for others? I think by putting our heart and mind to it daily - not just on special occasions. The flexibility, lightheartedness, and the spirit of adventure needed to follow Truth's lead come easier when our yearning to leave something behind is conquered with courage. It is not about us. Even more so when most of us will never have a monument built to them or take out a jackhammer to change the face of the earth.
The desire to leave behind "a well-remembered name" could tempt individuals to regard church work, social work or any work as a private legacy. Another seemingly innocent but actually quite harmful way of leaving a footprint might be the pride of one's children. Others might regard their footprint as a company they built - or books they wrote. Or the one decision they forced their surrounding to live by.
There is something totally freeing and redeeming in seeing that it is Truth, and Truth alone, that matters - and that our life's work is best when we leave the least footprints of our own. This will mean reducing mental weight and putting more air into the lightheartedness of motives. Something like flowing through life with the winds of the Spirit blowing rather than stomping through our days with personal conviction. Listening for Spirit's intuition and nurturing humility, enjoying in more unselfed thoughts and deeds every day. After all Life's song cannot be truly about us, but about Life itself, the wonders of creation including man, created, guided, and inspired by something so much bigger than we all combined.
Our true selves, our names, are already written "in the book of life." (Philippians 4:3). After all footprints are fleeting and God remembers who we truly are anyway. No mortal footprint will ever get any better than that --- and not only humanity is blessed by this spiritual design of our days but also our planet rejoices. It is the spiritually sustainable way to live within the oneness of Life. Tenderly. Patient. And kind. Like in this wonderful poem, which gave this blog post its title.
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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