History now

FROM the Mediterranean waters off Turkey, the oldest discovered wrecked ship is being excavated. The cargo vessel went down some 3,400 years ago, in the time of Egypt's King Tut and when the city of Troy commanded Asia Minor. It tells us more about the Bronze Age, its remarkable shipbuilding and trade.

We are often struck by the intelligence of earlier people, the practical knowledge of navigation, provisions for voyages, engineering and architectural skills; the wisdom of early thinkers as recorded in the Bible, the writings of the Greeks and Asians; the aesthetic sophistication of stone buildings and monuments; the delicacy of France's early cave drawings. The moral, spiritual, and psychological dimensions of the human condition as described in Scriptures seem particularly modern and suited to the peoples living today. In an important sense, as we learn about their ''now,'' we are continually reminded of how complete these earlier peoples were in their gifts, abilities, activities, musings. The more we learn about history, in fact, the more it seems like a continuous now - as complete today in its potential for full expression of relationships, social structure, commerce, invention, learning, and art as it has been or will be.

There is something comforting in linking our now with those of the past and the future. It reassures us that we have not really missed out on what has been, and we need not regret we will not be physically present to observe the marvels of the coming millenniums. Our now lacks none of the essentials of human experience.

At the same time, we can recognize development and progress. Gains in understanding the essentially spiritual origin of man, created by a loving and not a merciless God, have seemed to come in illuminating peaks of human experience, following dark stretches of confusion, suffering, and enmity. Even today, at one moment, the phases of past human meandering seem to be enacted somewhere in this vastly more populous world, while the peaks of healing, reassuring illumination are visible to thought for guidance and direction, too. The proportion of light in today's human experience must increase.

Tomorrow, Dec. 8, many thousands of Christian Scientists will assemble in halls and churches in some 140 cities on several continents to consider humanity's need for collective peace, freedom, and progress. The theme of this satellite meeting, ''To Live for All Mankind,'' underscores the individual commitment implicit in perceiving more clearly God's reign in human affairs.

In such perspective, this is as grand a moment to share on the human scene as there has been or will be.

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