To defeat dementia

A Christian Science perspective.

A recently concluded five-year study of a thousand initially healthy seniors yielded some remarkably upbeat findings (The Week, May 13). Go to church, volunteer for a charity, have lunch with friends – in other words, get out of the house and interact with your neighbors – and you’re 50 percent more likely to ward off signs of dementia. For the most socially active seniors, the ones getting out of the house all the time and doing more for and with others, the statistics are even better. They are 75 percent more likely to fight off mental impairments.

Whether or not the findings of this study stand the test of scrutiny, it is always a good idea to heed what Christ Jesus saw as the two great commandments. The second of the two is perhaps especially applicable here: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:31).

True, neighbor-to-neighbor love might, on the surface, appear as pretty casual – a friendly chat over the back fence, the get-together of a few friends for a barbecue, or a neighborly game of cards. Beneath those superficial niceties, however, is the truth of that second commandment. It goes deeper and involves harnessing thought to a holy purpose, to a healing action.

Living real neighborly love at times pushes an individual beyond his or her comfort zone, while fulfilling that holy purpose and meeting that neighbor’s need. One might, for instance, seek out practical ways to buttress someone’s hope that they are not forgotten, that life has not passed them by, that unhappy events have not drained their life of meaning.

Both the giver and the receiver of second-commandment-impelled actions are blessed. Both parties may even feel as if they’ve reaped a spiritual bonus – that hopeful feeling of having done something good for another. The defeating of old limitations and the winning of new freedoms is furthered.

One characteristic of various mental afflictions is their claim to march on unopposed, as if no power could halt them. Look at that claim closely though, and you realize it is a bid – albeit an unsuccessful one – to break the first commandment. It is a bid to pass itself off as all-powerful. But wait! Just because the carnal mind claims a disease has power does not make it a valid claim.

Look at what Jesus said of the first commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). There is one God. One ever-active Mind and Life. One power that is pure Spirit, and one creation that is purely spiritual. Your role is to love the one true God. Then the delusion that there are other powers begins to loosen, eventually to fall away entirely.

Consider a few truths that originate in the Mind that is God, and that abide at the core of your being – the truths of your spiritual clarity and focus; of your inerasable vitality and recall; of your God-given capacity for crisp and clear reasoning. These are native to who you truly are as the idea of pure Mind, the expression of unfading Life.

When you are out of the house and socializing with friends, it’s a great time to realize these spiritual truths. When you are in the house and alone, it’s another great time to realize them. Each spiritual truth lets in the light. The right resolve to remain active and alert comes into focus.

Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, because of the extraordinary demands on her time, had little opportunity for an active social life, especially during her later years. Yet she remained keenly active, purposeful, and alert all the way through a long and uniquely productive career. (For instance, for several years she gave a free pair of shoes to each needy child in her community.) Her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” has been the cornerstone to the prayers of countless readers, many of whom have sought, and found, freedom from a whole range of mental impairments.

Whether the book is new to you, or you come to it as an old friend, here is a passage to launch you, or launch you anew, on your journey to see healing for yourself, a loved one, or a neighbor. A marginal heading next to the passage announces it’s about “Immortal memory.” The passage itself reads, “If delusion says, ‘I have lost my memory,’ contradict it. No faculty of Mind is lost. In Science, all being is eternal, spiritual, perfect, harmonious in every action. Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite. This spiritualization of thought lets in the light, and brings the divine Mind, Life not death, into your consciousness” (Science and Health, p. 407).

With this, the haze retreats. Your God-bestowed capacities come into sharper focus. Healing dawns.

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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