While visiting friends in another city, I borrowed their car to get around. After a few days of driving, I needed to get more gas (petrol), and so I filled the tank. However the next evening when I was using the car to get back to my friends’ house after some meetings downtown, I was putting the car into reverse to pull out of my parking spot, the gas gauge went from full to empty, and the light came on indicating I needed to get gas right before my eyes. That’s strange, I thought… and I turned the car off and hopped out to look where I put the gas in the car and checked that the gas cap was secure. I got back in the car and restarted it, and the same thing happened. I was very confused because I knew I had just filled it the night before, so there was no way it could be utterly empty. I called my friend, who told me that it happens sometimes, when the tank is filled all the way, the computer “freaks out” and shows empty when it is really full. I certainly trust my friend, and yet I still asked if he was sure. He said yes, it has happened to his wife before and he assured me that I would be just fine and I would be able to make the hour drive back home to their place. I decided to 1) trust my friend, and 2) pray to calm my thought and feel a sense of Divine assurance. And sure enough, I made it to their house with no problems.
I was thinking about how this is a helpful analogy and was able to turn to it in the weeks following. It was tempting to believe the illusion of an empty gas tank because the was what the car was telling me, even though I knew with total certainty that I had filled the tank just the day before. Just like it was tempting to believe that my own “tank” was pretty empty after hosting a big holiday family feast and spending days preparing – cleaning, shopping, cooking – and then hosting. It was also tempting to buy into the illusion of sickness and contagion when supporting a friend both metaphysically and practically with visits and meals the following week who seemed to be suffering from in sickness. But each time before going in to visit, I would assert my freedom as an idea of God. And I really dove into this oft repeated passage from Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures –
“When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust…” (p. 495).
I have heard this passage so often, I had almost become numb to its meaning and power. But I realized the picture before me of sickness or fatigue was an illusion, much like the gas tank. And when I cling to or turn whole-heartedly to God, the source of my life, health, wholeness and love, and understand my identity as God’s spiritual reflection and expression…and feel the allness and ever-presence of God’s love for me and everyone, including my friend, I was able to keep out fear and doubt and remain clear, calm and trusting in the truth and power of God’s love for us.
I thought about how an illusion is like mist or fog, clouding our clear view, but that is all that it is.
And when the light of truth shines, the fog dissipates and we can see more clearly the true picture before us.
I understood this passage in a deeper way and could see how it clearly applied to this situation supporting my friend. This seeming sense of sickness was not any more true about him, as Love’s perfect, divine creation, than the gas tank being empty. I could trust completely that neither of our tanks could ever be empty when our life is supplied and maintained by God who is our Life. With that I was so unimpressed with the symptoms that I could see right through them and was never susceptible to contagion. My friend also improved rapidly and had a complete healing shortly thereafter.
How are you seeing through the false picture or mirage of an empty gas tank, and trusting the truth of your being?
Yesterday as I was sitting by the lake with my dog on this chilly, but sunny fall day with the wind blowing through the few trees surrounding us and casting ripples upon the water, I was reminded of a favorite poem or hymn from the Unitarian faith tradition, “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.
Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.
I got to thinking especially about the line “Roots hold me close; wings set me free…” and it led me to think about two of the synonyms that Mary Baker Eddy, discover and founder of Christian Science, uses to describe God in her seminal work Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures – Soul and Spirit.
God. The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.
I’ve found over the years of studying this text and Eddy’s definition of God, that Soul and Spirit were at first the most difficult for me to grasp. But since getting a clearer sense of those words, their meaning and how they apply to my life and being – as the image and likeness of God as described in Genesis in the Bible – I have found them to be two of my favorite synonyms to pray with, as I continue to learn more about God and my relationship with God in my daily life.
I love to think about Soul as the roots that “hold me close”… some of the attributes of Soul that we express as the reflection of Soul are strengths,depth, resilience, power, dominion, abundance, richness, uniqueness… I see Soul as the source of my strength, what keeps me and my life grounded and “rooted”… It also feeds more with abundant goodness and richness, color and flavor and culture… much like a root system feeds a tree and holds it to the earth… providing stability and resources. When I think of a soulful person, I think of someone who is rooted and has real depth and the strength and resilience to get through things, even when it doesn’t seem humanly possible. I think of someone with the unique individuality and a richness and vibrancy, like a painting with bold colors, which makes you pause and ponder… or a piece of music that you can feel at the deepest reaches of your being and has the power to move or inspire you.
I love to think about Spirit as the wings that “set me free”… I think of someone who is spirited, or we may say “she has spirit”… that quality of enthusiasm, joy, life, light… a serene sense of peace… a pure sense of joy… radiance… Spirit is what lifts me up and causes me to soar above the seeming drama and darkness of the day… it is what bring a sense of freshness and newness to life. It is what allows us to delight in the beauty around us… in the simple joys and pleasures of a playful puppy, a cheerful child, or a budding bloom…it’s that Spirit of Life, as the song states…
So as you go about your day today… perhaps you can find ways to connect to a deeper and higher sense of the Divine as Soul… and as Spirit.
 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 587
About the photos:
Baobab trees have resilient root systems (photo taken in South Luangwa, Zambia)
The Albatross has a wingspan of up to 3.5 meters or 11.5 feet!! (photo taken off the coast of Dunedin, New Zealand)
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
As Shakespeare so eloquently put it… and so it is with curiosity.
As a professor and abroad director, I hoped to instill a sense of curiosity in my students… what I hoped for was to see a sincere desire to learn more about the world, other people and cultures and ways of life. I think the more we turn outward and learn about others, the more we can cultivate a culture of compassion and empathy… where we can see our common humanity.
However, I’ve recently noticed that curiosity can also have a negative purpose… and I’ve see this popping up over and over lately. This seems to happen when the motive behind the desire to know something isn’t inspired and then it seems to gravitate from curiosity to fascination or even obsession… This would be cast as voyeurism… or even “morbid curiosity” which an online dictionary defines as a curiosity which is so compelling that the curious person is driven to satisfy it, even though he or she knows or strongly suspects that they probably won’t like what they find, or otherwise find something which is irrelevant or unsatisfying…
I first noticed this notion of curiosity being possibly a negative in some cases from a story book I was reading my nephew called My Father’s Dragon. In the second book in the series the main characters a boy and a dragon end up on an island filled with canaries that were all “dying of curiosity” because the king canary was so sick with curiosity about an ancient secret passed down over generations… anyway, it got me wondering if there are situations where curiosity could be a bad thing…
I heard it once said, “never ask a question if you don’t really want to hear the answer”… and this may be some good advice in a way… or perhaps allow us a moment to check our motive… why do we want to know? What purpose does knowing X serve? Will it help the situation?
You may be wondering what I’m getting at, and thinking that it is always good to know more information than less… but let me give you some examples that may help illustrate my point…
Sometimes I hear friends say they want to know more about their partner’s history with past relationships. I get it, I’ve been there… but at these times, I’ve had to ask myself. Do I really want to know? Probably not… but if so, why? Will it lead me to feel better or worse about myself, about my partner, about the other person? Will it lead me to compare myself to others… and does that ever go very well? (Not usually… either we put someone else down and puff ourselves up, or put ourselves down… and either way the entire premise is off because we are often basing our view of ourselves and others not as the image of Love, a perfect, whole and complete creation of the Divine … but as a faulty human)…
In another situation, someone told me that they had gotten more details than they wanted about someone’s passing and couldn’t get the images out of their head. They said they should have stopped the flow of information, but were just so curious about it, they just let happen and now they couldn’t seem to undo it. This is tough stuff… when someone passes, it’s tempting to want what some may call the “gory details”… but do you really want that in your thought? And related to that, it’s easy to get caught up in the trauma and drama of a tragic event… we want to know why it happened? Who’s to blame? What were they thinking? What are others thinking? Why now? Why this way?
These are all examples of what I am talking about when I say that curiosity can have a negative side… I’m not saying it’s wrong… and some may say “human nature” to wonder about these things… and I am not saying that it is not good to be informed to learn from and prevent tragic events from happening in the future… that’s different.
It’s the bit where fear generally gets us spun up asking these questions… and we become consumed with fear in the asking… but in all of that… aren’t the real questions deeper than all that… aren’t we really wanting to know — am I safe? Is he/she safe? Am I loved? Are they loved? Am I worthy enough? Am I good enough? Are they? Will I be ok? Will they be ok?
I find that it is helpful when wondering “what if” it is good to pause and this about “what is”… What is true about me and my fellow man from a spiritual vantage point right now and always…Well for me that always starts with God, with Good, with Love… which I know to be all-powerful, ever-present and eternal. It begins with knowing that I (and everyone else) am created by God, Good… that I am whole and complete… that Life is truly eternal and that Love is truly ever-present… and that not one of us can ever be separated from Love or Life for a single moment. When I get present to that fact, then the questions fall away… and I feel more at peace.
I find the “what ifs” keep us in the past or the future… and to find a sense of peace and the answer to those deeper questions… it’s helpful to stay in the present… in the eternal now… and declare that Love is present and powerful and wrapping us up and keeping us safe and whole. Paul states in Second Corinthians “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
 2 Cor 6:2 – New International Version Bible
“Pure and simple and nothing else…” that is what came up at the very bottom of the definition when I clicked “Look up” on the word “pure” in something I was reading on my iPad. I love that idea!
Pure and simple joy
Pure and simple love
Pure and simple truth
And the list goes on… the applications are endless! I love the idea of simplicity combined with purity… our human lives at times seem so hectic and complicated… there seems to be so much drama in the world today. From politics, to relationships, to TV shows, to tweets, to global issues and challenges… there seems to be no end of complications and drama. But in the one true, pure, honest relationship – our individual (and collective) relationship with God, with Divine Love… there is no drama, there is nothing complicated… it is as simple as it is profound. We are the loved of Love.
In looking up the work pure (and purity)… I also found it means – innocence, cleanness, quality, clear, true… spotless, untainted… being that and nothing else…
It means independent of sense of experience – as in pure knowledge.
And it means absolute, utter, sheer – as in pure joy! Pure or sheer joy… like that of a young child playing or dancing …or a puppy frolicking or rolling in the grass… isn’t that the kind of uncomplicated joy we all truly want? Or pure love… untainted and uncomplicated… simple, yet profound… unconditional…
There was a time when I would bristle at the term “purity”… or at least the way that I perceived it being used by religious institutions. When I was younger, it seemed like being pure meant on the one-hand – boring – without the flavor of experience. It seemed like a term for “goodie-two-shoes”… not someone who really wanted to live and experience life to the fullest… experiment and try new things… Or it was for those that were holier-than-thou and filled with self-righteous judgement of others, and it seemed that if you strayed from a life of purity, you should feel shame and guilt… as if you were unredeemable… and a bad __X__ (fill in the religion of your choice). That certainly doesn’t sound simple… but filled with complicated drama.
When I recently dug a bit further and looked up the terms “purity” and “pure” in my Dictionary.com app … and what I found was interesting… some of the many definitions start with the word “freedom”… I found that interesting because I think in the past, a lot of what I was seeking through experimenting with things that may be considered part of an “impure” lifestyle was a sense of freedom… freeing my mind and body… freedom from the shackles and constraints of what I “should” be doing… or from societal expectations and pressures… or an escape from the burdens weighing down my thought, putting them on hold or pausing them by filling my experience with other things that made it possible to forget or ignore them and even world around me… or the dark thoughts I would sometimes have… I mean when you read the news, there is a lot of trauma and drama in the world, let alone in my little life… and sometimes you just need to drown that out a bit… or at least that’s what I thought at the time.
I’ve found other ways to deal with these things in the many years since then, by finding a deeper connection to the Divine which brought healing and a strong sense of security.… but I still struggled with the idea of purity, in part because of my past and thinking that I was not “redeemable”… or at the very least I was judged…
So back to these definitions of “purity” and “pure”… and the fact that it’s about freedom… I made a list from these definitions… freedom from:
- Foreign elements
- Anything that debases
- Anything inferior
- Extraneous matter
- Anything that tarnishes or taints
- Discordant qualities
Wow! Well, I do want freedom from those things! Freedom from guilt, discord, blemish or taint… that would be great! And it IS great! I strive for this each day and have found so much freedom in growing and digging deeper into a more spiritual sense of joy, freedom and purity.
These ideas have given me a lot of food for thought about where I do see and desire purity in my life… pure joy… pure love… pure goodness… that sounds lovely… simple… uncomplicated… and without judgement… With that child-like freedom to find joy in the simple things… I’ve found to be a truer, deeper, lasting and more satisfying and fulfilling joy… much more so than the temporary happiness I may find in complicate or dramatic elements… or finding an escape from it all… instead I seek out that pure and simply joy… in watching the hummingbirds flutter about the flowers and veggie plans on my porch, dog walks in the woods, cooking for family and friends, sitting quietly by the lake and communing with Spirit, reading a children’s story to my nephew… Maybe it sounds Polyana-ish to some, but basking in pure and simple, spiritual love and joy can bring healing and allows us to break free of drama and love our neighbors.
That is the life I am already leading… because I learned that redemption is always possible… and it we are always able to claim our innocence and purity as God’s beloved child in whom He is well-pleased, because that is an unchanging fact. Just as the moment the prodigal son turned from his life and came back to his father seeking forgiveness… the father ran to meet him and embraced him… and he was instantly redeemed by that fatherly love. That is true for any and all of us… we can find that sense of freedom…
And we can all rejoice in a life that is filled with pure and simple love, joy, goodness… if we are willing to seek out the good… “pure and simple and nothing else.”
 Matt 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22 – speaks of Jesus as his Son in whom He is well-pleased, but I believe this applies to each and every one of us as God’s sons and daughters… the children of God
 Luke 15:11 – 32