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.
Imagine what aliens might hear if they listened to the earthlings from their space station on Alpha Centauri with their version of a giant radio telescope? Well, billions and billions of different sounds evaporating into time and space - inexplicable sounds, technical noise, explosions, machine guns, dogs barking, birds singing, flouting tea kettles, hundreds of washing machines spinning. Also billions and billions of cries, laughters, lots of technical noise - and an ever present human choir of murmur. Sung by murmurers. Thousands of years ago this choir enter the stage of the human condition, when the Israelites resisted their outlined path from slavery to freedom with complaining, questioning and murmurings - a Hebrew word meaning complaining and a "malicious whispering of slander", as a Dictionary has it. Murmuring is a kind of egoistic resistance to something good, it doesn't improve anything and keeps one pinned on the carousel of challenges. Talk about patience when remembering Moses (and read Exodus 16).
Humanity is a complaining species, one might think when one considers the resistance against the very good proposals for a different way of living as set forth by Jesus. What? Sharing? Humility and meekness? What? Walking a second mile? Giving your coat? Forgiving? The noise of complaint, an inner renitency against everything from accepting governments to doing the laundry to living peacefully with our neighbor to family members, who are different from us. Opposition, opposition, opposition.
Mary Baker Eddy is quoted in the diary of her secretary that whenever she felt tempted to murmur over her trials or burdens she would open her Bible to where the children of Israel murmured and found fault with God. I remembered this recently and have made it a point in leaving the choir of murmurers once and for all. And be willing to accept the abundant life, the freedom, lightheartedness, and joy that flows from the spirituality of being. Little complaints stem from the tale of desperation that material living brings - they make us stumble over small things or slow us down by fastening us with barbed hooks to material circumstances. It is said in the New Testament about Moses that he was chosen for the task to lead the children of Israel out of enslavement for one special quality: meekness. Meekness is the superb quality of being an empty slate before God, letting the supreme intelligence of the universe be expressed effortlessly and without any sense of questioning in our experience. That is the opposite of being a doormat - it means true unselfishness, true individuality.
What a relief to say "yes" to any demand. A life without sighing (not even when the doorbell rings and you have just sat down for a cup of tea and your favorite show), daily life as service. All the time needed to explain why this or that cannot be done: saved, by simply doing it. To refrain from murmurings puts humility into your heart and a joy into your day that supersedes everything else.
If you feel you cannot possibly do this, if you feel you have all the right in the world to feel the way you think you feel, give it a try for one week. Resist every attempt to resist good, eliminate feelings of competition and egotism, say yes to little requests from your surrounding, be generous. Just one week. And while you are up to the task, take a little break once in a while with a dance. This will help you to remember that you also have got that "sunshine in your pocket".
I feel that something of this is captured in the wonderfully gifted composer, performer, and musician Justin Timberlake's "Can't stop the feeling" - and I especially love the fact that it is about some sense of lightheartedness within the workforce. Working people! John, Paloma, Philip - is it a stretch to say, that the sunshine in your pocket is felt where labor is transformed into service and hardships accepted as a necessity to grow? The stand on the farmer's market where I get my groceries has this sense of joy and love day in, day out, spring, summer, fall, winter. Humbling.
My wonderful Christian Science teacher would say: Lets take the lemons and lets make lemonade from it. And how do lemons grow in the first place? With lots of sunshine.
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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