With an intensity probably unknown to any other period in humanity's history a lot of energy is being invested into the mere surface of things, of events, of people. The way things look (instead of what they are), how people, events, or things are perceived (rather than truly are), and who has the best show (in times when trust among is crumbling away, this is what is left). There is a relentless appeal to the surface, the outmost layer of a physical object or space, in a speed that is breathtaking.
Depth and surface are central to debates about virtual reality, computers, and television. Depth and surface also relate to tweets and facebook, fake news and showtime, also in regard to cosmetics, body images and plastic surgery, visual impressions and contrived images, simulations and fakes. In his seminal work Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1995), Frederic Jameson investigates the "depthlessness" of postmodern culture, in particular within the art world. But it applies today, in the 21st century, to many more phenoma. There is f.e. a rapidly growing interest in virtual realities — in holographic projections, computerized games, and technologies designed to create heightened sense impressions. The emphasis seems to be on seeming and feeling, rather than on being and doing.
Interestingly the symbol of the media world is the screen - the symbol of the surface culture.
If surface is all there is, if "depth" is just another superficial layer beyond the initial surface, then nothing remains that is profound. And yet humanity's hunger for meaning is the most significant movement of thought underway in human culture.
Logic tells me there is no way that the five physical senses can ever take us beyond the surface. That is all they can touch, see, hear, smell, or taste. Sensebased knowledge is incapable of grasping something that doesn't have material parameters. It requires thinking and faith — a quiet heart — to perceive something different, something beyond the millions of layered surfaces presented by popular culture.
This "something beyond" was what Christ Jesus saw and taught. Here was someone who literally walked over water — surface — in defiance of material limitations. But as Mary Baker Eddy also noted concerning Jesus, "He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause" (Science and Health, p. 313). Jesus penetrated the surface of the material world that we call "real." He showed that there is a God who is transcendental to the human mind. She adds: "We cannot fathom the nature and quality of God's creation by diving into the shallows of mortal belief." (Science and Health, p. 292)
God's messages break through misperceptions of what is real and show us something else, the reality of Spirit and spiritual existence. In the modern age, long before our present surface culture, Mary Baker Eddy writes: "When examined in the light of divine Science, mortals present more than is detected upon the surface, since inverted thoughts and erroneous beliefs must be counterfeits of Truth. Thought is borrowed from a higher source than matter, and by reversal, errors serve as waymarks to the one Mind, in which all error disappears in celestial Truth" (Science and Health, p. 267). So do we need to believe all we see and hear? How do we get the facts - about Life, about our being?
All it takes to help forward the search for depth is a simple yearning for something beneath and beyond the surfaces of everyday life. We are being invited to dive into the dephts. And we are being asked every day by Life itself: "Hast thou walked in the search of the depth?" (38:16).
How spiritual perception healed someone who had attempted suicide you can read about here: Infinite good - the dawning and the meridian (by Allison W. Phinney)
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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