I had a few hours between flights in San Francisco. Near the gate where my next flight was to leave was a peaceful, tastefully furnished room open to the public. I took advantage of it to do some reading.
At one point I glanced up at the wall clock and was astounded at what I saw. There were lines all over its face that bore no relation to the function of a clock. Confusing and ugly! Terrible design! I thought.
Then I moved my head a little, and the whole picture changed. Those lines were simply reflections of the lights and the lines on the ceiling.
What a differnece a change of viewpoint can make. This is especially true when conflicts need to be resolved. We may have to do more than move our head a little to the side, but it's possible to gain a fair view of the opposing side. This can help reconcile differences and bring resolution.
Take one area of frequent conflict - between developers and conservationists. Suppose a developer has a piece of land with a swamp on it, and sees the swamp as something to be drained to create more building sites. Or maybe as something to be deepened to form a recreational lake.
The conservationist, on the other hand, sees the same swamp as a wetland, as essential to the survival of certain birds, fish, and other wildlife, and to the purification of water. His or her concern is that the country's wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate.
An appreciation of the conservationist's view might encourage the developer to leave at least a major portion of the swamp as a wildlife preserve and make it an attractive feature of the development. The conservationist might realize that as long as a good part of the swamp is preserved, the rest could be left free for other development. This could lead to a solution that would take both needs into account.
There are some encouraging examples today showing how this type of reconciliation is possible.
The most basic change in any instance, however, is not just to move from one human perspective to another - but to shift from a material to a spiritual viewpoint. To consider how God fits into the equation. This can make the greatest contribution to conflict resolution.
Our environment is so much more than what we observe with the eyes. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," says the first verse of Psalm 24. And a book about the Bible offers this: "To material sense, earth is matter; to spiritual sense, it is a compound idea" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 585). This indicates that behind everything good and useful that we see with our eyes, there is a spiritual idea - a thought, a fact, about how it relates to God.
If ultimately both development and conservation can be seen as having God's ideas behind them, the relationship between developers and conservationists can grow more collaborative and less confrontational.
Is development, then, a useful concept? Does it have spiritual backing? One answer might be that "God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis" (Science and Health, pg. 258).
Likewise, is conservation a useful concept? Yes. Spiritually speaking, "the divine Mind maintains all identities, from a blade of grass to a star, as distinct and eternal" (pg. 70).
Mind is a term defining God. It helps us understand the supreme creative power, the governing intelligence of the universe. In this intelligently governed universe, no thing, no good idea, can ever be lost or consigned to oblivion, nor can it conflict with any other good idea. God's harmony is the ultimate reality behind all that we observe. There must always be a way in which human conflicts can be brought into line with this harmony, since God is omnipotent.
Considering these ideas makes up a powerful prayer that promotes conflict resolution. It can bring something of the harmony of heaven to earth.
Articles like this one appear in 13 different languages in the magazine The Herald of Christian Science.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society