PETALUMA, CA, Jan. 18, 2016 – The comments I’ve gotten on Facebook about my most recent column, “Is ‘The Force’ a metaphor for God,” are telling.
Some have answered the question with a simple “yes” or “no.” Others have wondered why the question is being asked in the first place. One commenter even accused me of taking advantage of the hype surrounding the release of the most recent “Star Wars” movie as a way to convert readers to my religious beliefs.
Few, it would appear, have read beyond the headline.
To be fair, I’d say I’m as guilty as anyone of weighing in on a discussion based solely upon the title of an article I haven’t actually read. It’s amazing how little it takes to ignite the flames of self-righteousness. But for what it’s worth, there have been occasions when I’ve been able to keep such snap judgments at bay and experience the positive effects of a better informed, more enlightened response.
Let me explain.
Let’s say you see a headline in your local paper that reads, “Southbound rail tracks converge.” What would be your response? If you were someone whose morning commute involved riding a train that happened to use these tracks, you might choose to take the bus instead. Or, someone a bit more determined might elect to fix the problem themselves with the help of a large crow bar and a couple of able-bodied friends.
But what if the article wasn’t about some physical convergence but, rather, a 6-year-old’s perception of what he saw as he stood looking at the tracks in the distance? Chances are the man with the crow bar, who had read only the headline, would feel pretty foolish.
The same holds true when we find ourselves reacting too quickly, even unnecessarily, in other situations. A recent example for me actually has nothing to do with newspaper headlines, but my perception of others and myself.
Late one night I found myself writhing in pain as I tried to maneuver my body into bed. For whatever reason a muscle in my shoulder had become so constricted that it was nearly impossible for me to get comfortable.
As I lay there, feeling a bit sorry for myself, a voice inside my head said, “Love knows no stress, no strain, no restriction.” As simple as that may sound, at the time it felt like a pretty radical idea and was exactly what I needed to hear.
During the week or so prior to this, my schedule had become pretty much consumed with getting ready for a family visit – preparing meals, planning activities and the like. And somewhere along the line, maybe even that night, I think I bought into the idea that eventually I would run out of steam, or that some circumstance or the actions of some individual might get in the way of an otherwise happy gathering. While that might not sound all that unreasonable, once I realized that this activity was backed-up not simply by good intentions, but by love, I began to feel better.
The “headline” in this scenario was the pain I was feeling and the assumption that something was physically out of place. However, as the situation began to unfold and I became willing to consider the entire story – including my own growing understanding of the inexhaustible nature of love – I could see that the only adjustment needing to take place was mental, not physical.
So what was it that inspired this change of thought and my subsequent relief? Tempting as it might be to think that it originated somewhere in the brain, I like to think that it came from that singular divine Mind that Christian theologian Mary Baker Eddy defines as God. “Whatever cannot be taken in by mortal mind – by human reflection, reason, or belief – must be the unfathomable Mind,” she writes in Unity of Good, “which ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.’”
I’m not always that good at expressing the humility, grace, and patience required to take in all the wonderful things this divine Mind reveals. Thankfully, though, I am getting better at not reacting so quickly to the constant barrage of headlines, both actual and metaphorical, that would try and upset my mental and physical apple cart.
Now, if I could just do a better job of not reacting to my readers’ comments.
Eric Nelson writes about the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs. Continue the conversation on Facebook.