THIS week marks the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus's voyage to the New World. For many people in Europe, this was undeniably a monumental discovery. And the impact on civilization, culture, and religion would be beyond what was imagined at the time. Like many early explorers in the Americas, people today still sometimes feel the need to conquer and subdue their world. But the social and environmental challenges we face are calling for something else--for a new discovery of value and meaning, for greater respect for the planet and all its inhabitants, for deeper caring, for healing.
In his book The Rediscovery of North America, Barry Lopez draws a parallel, for contemporary men and women, with Columbus and his crew and their uncertainty about what awaited them. Lopez writes: ``We lie in the ships with those men, I think, because we are ambivalent about what to do. We do not know whether to confront this sea of troubles or to stand away, care for our own, and take comfort in the belief that the power to act lies elsewhere.
The power to act--to live and love unselfishly, universally--lies immediately before us. It is, in fact, the tremendous, unique power of God. We can turn to God and see that there exists a spiritual force to bring balance to the way we inhabit this world. Real stability, purpose, and lasting good are found in gaining an understanding of God and His perfect spiritual creation. This creation includes no ``conquering mentality, no shortsighted selfishness. The words ``Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thysel f, cited by Christ Jesus in answer to a lawyer's question, actually have a broader application than we generally realize. They are God-inspired, and people naturally respond to them.
Whether there is a need for renewal or a call for better protection and resourceful management of a particular area in the world, heartfelt prayer, faithfully lived, subordinates human wants and opinions to the power of God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, `Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihila tes pagan and Christian idolatry,--whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.
Columbus's discovery impelled a multitude of changes, including many that were good and some that proved to be destructive. Today, a spiritual discovery, plumbing the depth and reality of God's creation, can dramatically change the face of our own times for the better--for each of us and the world. It is a discovery of God as divine Love, and of God's resultant deep care and love for everyone. A consequence of turning to divine Love is an upwelling of our own care and love for everyone. Balanced, steady progress is born of such spiritual discovery.
The spiritual charge to love our neighbors as ourselves is truly the fulcrum to balanced living with one another. Even though the temptation to compromise purity seems widespread, adherence to God-inspired purity is an example, a model of thinking, for children and adults that, when lived, can actually purify the conditions of our environment. We can discover and cultivate more and more the spiritual purity that causes God's goodness to be seen and felt in daily life.