THE United Nations conference to address concerns about global pollution and the state of the atmosphere, including the ozone layer, begins tomorrow in Berlin. These are complex issues, but through prayer, each of us can support wise efforts to find practical solutions to pollution, whatever its source.
One way to begin praying is to consider our own mental atmosphere--the thoughts we think, the types of mental environments we spend our time in. It may seem that our lives are far removed from the global scene. But what each of us thinks, and how we act on those thoughts, contribute--positively or negatively--to the atmosphere of thought in much the same way that a single polluting (or nonpolluting) smokestack affects the air we breathe.
Christ Jesus brought out the importance of the thoughts behind our actions in Matthew's Gospel when he said, ''A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things'' (12:35).
If we look at this instruction from the Master in terms of our global atmosphere, we can see evidence of greed, hatred, fear, anger, selfishness, and a host of other polluting thoughts leaving their marks on the environment. Some of these wrong beliefs are the product of hatreds such as are warring in Bosnia, Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, and elsewhere. Others stem from the materialism that would blind society to the universal welfare. But all can be traced back to the thoughts and acts of individuals.
To purify our earth's atmosphere, then, we begin by embracing good in our own individual lives. The highest form of good is God Himself--divine Love, or Spirit. The Bible tells us that God created man to be like Himself--pure, perfect, intelligent. It follows, then, that the good, or spiritual, man reflects Spirit's nature. This is the true being of each of us, whether or not we understand or accept it.
One thing that keeps people from recognizing their spiritual identity is the belief that we are material, made up of genes, cells, hormones, and a host of other material elements. This material nature--with its warring drives and desires--leads to greed, selfishness, and moral weakness. To overcome pollution of any kind, we need to reject this carnal outlook.
To embrace spirituality--man's likeness to God, Spirit--as the reality of our lives brings about a significant change in focus. We rely more and more on Spirit's direction. Because we are less likely to be motivated by anger or fear, we find it easier to express genuine love for our fellow beings, to give up greed for generosity, to work for peaceful solutions if trouble arises.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, explains Spirit's influence in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In one place she writes, ''Spirit is symbolized by strength, presence, and power, and also by holy thoughts, winged with Love. These angels of His presence, which have the holiest charge, abound in the spiritual atmosphere of Mind, and consequently reproduce their own characteristics'' (p. 512).
As we purify our thoughts and actively strive to bring good things out of a good heart, we are embracing the ''strength, presence, and power'' of omnipotent Spirit, divine Love. The atmosphere of peace and confidence that we naturally exude as we do this can't help but have an effect on those around us. And any change for good in their thoughts will have an effect on those around them--and so forth.
Will it take work to purify the earth's atmosphere? Certainly. But as we pray to express only spiritual qualities, truly to live in an atmosphere of Love, we are helping to eliminate the fear, hatred, anger, frustration, that are the primary pollutants. And the change this brings about will cleanse not just the climate of thought but the earth itself.
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. -- I John 1:9