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The new/old normal

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

September 24, 2002



It was a turning point. I knew my thinking had to change, but I was confused. How I had faced challenges in the past did not measure up to the new demand. I was really tormented. Then I read this verse in the Bible: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Cor. 13:11).

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I still remember my feeling of relief. My shoulders relaxed, and I knew I wouldn't betray earlier convictions by changing my modus operandi. It was all right to grow. I didn't have to hold on to old ways. Changing the way I looked at things and how I acted did not necessarily indicate that I had been wrong. It just meant that I had to embrace a higher standard for thinking and acting. In short, circumstances were calling for more mature, less self-centered reasoning.

This important change from old ways of thinking and acting has come to my memory recently as we hear about the "new normal." This new normal was replacing the old norms of materialism, indifference to family, and taking safety for granted. There is a recognition that a new normal exists but also that the "old normal" is creeping back.

There seems to be a consensus that the new normal prevails when it comes to being alert, even a bit edgy, about vulnerability to terrorist attacks. What is slipping back into the old norm has to do with something deeper. Immediately after the tragedy, many people took a good look at what was really important to them and adopted a higher standard for their lives. As time passes, though, this new normal appears to be losing significance.

The question now is, How can we keep from falling back into the inferior old ways. The answer, I feel, is to see what underlies the rush of a higher idealism. I believe that most of us know deep in our hearts that the good lived in loving our families, loving our neighbors, loving and helping those less fortunate than ourselves, is the norm we want to achieve.

Mary Baker Eddy, in founding this newspaper, set a high standard, or norm, when she wrote, "The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 353). This object was the purpose of her life, and one might safely say the real goal of most of our lives, too. Living as a good family member, a good neighbor, a good citizen of the world, will continue to lift our standards and be that which we consider to be normal.

It is axiomatic that there is really no status quo in human behavior. As we confront the world and evil, we are either going up higher or falling back. There is a great need for an invariable, spiritual normative on which a progressive standard can be placed.

Mrs. Eddy, who earlier had discovered Christian Science, wrote, "According to Christian Science, perfection is normal, – not miraculous" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," pg. 104). Reasoning from the assumption of there being one good, all powerful God, we naturally assume that His/Her creation is perfect.

Such assumption becomes absolute conviction as we get clearer and fuller views of God. We gain this clear view through heartfelt prayer and a willingness to change, to be Godlike.

Our lives are uplifted by living in accord with this understanding of Deity, the divine and supreme ruler. Naturally our attitudes change. We put away childish things. We mature. The verse quoted at the beginning of this article is preceded by, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (I Cor. 13:10).

Old norms based only partly on God's love will yield to ever higher standards as we gain a fuller understanding and acceptance of the God that is Love. Loving as deeply and universally as we can today, we are raising the standard of behavior for generations to come. This has to raise the norm of human behavior so that peace in the world will be natural and eternal.

Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I Corinthians 13:12

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