To love our neighbor as ourselves takes a million forms, gazillion forms actually. One simple one, often overlooked because it is so simple, became clear to me this week. To love our neighbor as ourselves means to search for good in our neighbor. Really search and see. Mary Baker Eddy writes that "blessed is that man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good." (p. 518)
The realm to which I immediately could apply this enlarged dimension of love as search is the realm of work. We often work with others, we work in teams or schools or communities or churches together. We also encounter the work of others in the workplace, in schools and universities, in companies and agencies. We also encounter the work of others in our daily life which is shaped by people and contractors in the building world, our email providers, phone companies, electric companies. There are farmers who produce the food we eat, people who are selling us something we want to buy, providing services we need. In our neighborhood people live who work, every day. In my neighborhood I encounter daily vivid businesses, from restaurants to handmade soaps to photography. I live about a photographer's studio, down the street are many small shops and businesses, all local, all honest and good. All work, work, work.
So when it comes to a connection - I can enjoy to take a special interest in the others' work and place it above my own. And check off "Love your neighbor as yourself" immediately. Done! We must do this for peace and mutual understanding. That is how the kingdom of heaven - the dimension of Love - is built. And it is built locally.
Paul writes: "Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people's point of view." (Phil. 2:3, Philips)
There is never a reason to be harsh to anyone, even if our own need seems pressing or urgent. There is no excuse ever for putting our own needs ahead of the needs of others. I am learning this every day. We can see things from other people's point of view, and a great way to start is the honest interest in the other's work. Is there a team project going on? Can you start by looking at the others' contributions first before presenting your own? Is a business transaction under way? Or a school project you prepare with others? Or a normal walk down your street in which you notice something? Can you enlarge your world by shrinking your sense of yourself and let others' grow a little bit more - by really being interested in what they do and why they do it? Take a peek over the shoulder of another person and find out what he or she is doing as we speak. Be he/she your colleague or neighbor, an accountant, journalist, clerk, plumber, agent, architect, swimmer, farmer, practitioner, teacher, artist, cook or student. Just an honest interest. Pure and simple.
The warmth of Love, dear divine Love, is breezing around you as you do this. Because this is the way Love recognizes you - now you are a factor in Love's project of healing and peace for all mankind. You've entered the stage.
It is not ignorant, uninformed or uncool to not have an opinion on a given issue. Our lives are built on eternal facts, immortal facts, which operate in a different realm and not needing our approval. To refrain from forming an opinion means to side with Truth, which is always on our side, on everyone's side. To side with Truth is natural, but our culture discourages often this path. Often the only thing that is asked of us, is an opinion, an intense emotion. Like? Dislike?
During a heated debate at my university on a topic I certainly had an opinion about, I felt a need later on to pray and listen. Earnestly. Deeply yearning for a higher view. And the result was, that I realized the glory of not having an opinion and the wisdom in unselfishly supporting the peace of mind of everybody. The mental work that followed has changed my experience in more fundamental ways than I could have imagined. One being that I am not a friend of unsolicited advice anymore.
Since that time a favorite insight from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy has grown even dearer to me:
"In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless." (p. 341)
An opinion really cements a human perspective which our ego relies upon. It leaves little space for understanding and holds us in a constant spot of flutter and fuzz. For anything in life and in Life is really not about an opinion, it is about understanding. Do you like this individual? Or dislike that person? Do you like this artwork? Do you dislike that decision? Based on truthful living how about these questions: Do you understand this individual? Or understand that person? Do you understand this artwork? Or do you understand this decision? What do you really know? And how does it feel to love with a universal love?
To move out of the combative fabric of public culture - or private culture - out of the back and forth of the opinion driven culture is a tall order. It asks for a lot of humility, inner work and ego busting. I rarely read a more moving account of this process and the shining results that followed than an account by Mary Trammell, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Florida. You can read the entire interview with Suzanne Smedley here. This part relates the healing of a prolonged period of weakness which prevented her from leaving her house, while she continued her practice work from home:
"I remember I was lying on the sofa one day, alone in the house, and I thought, 'If I ever get completely healed, I want to be a new person, and I’m going to give my whole life, like I never have before, to God and to the practice of Christian Science—to its healing mission.' And then, it was almost like a voice said to me, 'Well, why can’t that begin right now?' And so, I made the commitment right then that I would give it my all in a way I never had before. I think it was from that point forward that I began to see light at the end of the tunnel, and I had a complete recovery. (...) And as you know, Suzanne, I’ve been quite healthy ever since.
From then on, the practice became my life—the center of everything, whether it was family, church work, writing, editing. Without that, the rest would be meaningless. And I think I came out of that experience with a new sense of God as Love.
Prior to that, I’d spent a lot of time in an academic atmosphere, where the intellectual put-down, or arguing back, was a skill—you were encouraged to be a little combative. But after that healing, I couldn’t feel combative about anything, except fighting for the Truth. I found that even with our kids, who were teenagers at the time, I didn’t want to get mad at them anymore!
I remember soon after that experience, our son accidentally dropped a whole pile of plates, and broke them all, and felt terrible about it. I heard a big crash and went out to the kitchen, but you know, I wasn’t upset. I said, 'Well, let’s clean it up,' and he looked at me, and he said, 'Mom, you’ve come a long way. Two years ago you would have gone ballistic about this.' Since that healing, I haven’t ever had it in me to get really mad about anything."
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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