The plane is full. Exasperated passengers try almost in vain to stow their luggage in the overhead bins. A long-haired young man smiles, even though a bossy flight attendant puts his bag somewhere else. In the commotion around me, laptop on my knees, I wait for the takeoff on my return flight from Phoenix to Boston.
As a writer and editor, I am remembering a conversation that took place yesterday about what's involved in writing about spiritual ideas. And I'm thinking of readers who are seeking these ideas.
Behind me, crammed into the last row, a toddler cries desperately, soon joined by another one nearby. The young man goes straight to them and sits down in an empty seat near the children. In a split second, screams and sobs are transformed into giggles.
Doors close, routine announcements are broadcast, we take off. Not a peep from the babies. They play happily, as we keep climbing. I admire the young man's calm authority. Instead of reacting to the confusion around him, he comforts them and helps them have fun.
We reach cruising altitude. Going back to yesterday's conversation: Writing needs to give the reader something good and lasting, some idea that brings comfort and peace.
When there is commotion or chaos, we, too, can rise. Not up to the sky, to a physical altitude like the aircraft, but to a spiritual altitude, where we understand God as an overriding presence - not in order to ask God for health or peace, but rising to understand that His peace is a concrete reality. A reality so solid that it can be the starting-point for worthwhile reasoning, a perspective from which every man and woman can find his or her true identity as descendants of God, who is Life, the offspring of the very origin of all existence.
Life is the spiritual reality, where all is well already. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote, "Entirely separate from the belief and dream of material living, is the Life divine, revealing spiritual understanding and the consciousness of man's dominion over the whole earth. This understanding casts out error and heals the sick, and with it you can speak 'as one having authority' " ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 14). The Science of Christianity, which was taught by Christ Jesus and is explained in this book, confers such authority.
Reasoning like this doesn't mean entertaining abstract concepts. It does not require erudition. On the contrary, it touches every aspect of daily living and helps to prevent chaos. Holding in thought the spiritual reality is like staying at cruising altitude. It is an awareness that what maintains our health and well-being is Principle, God, who lovingly governs everyone's life.
In God's ever-presence, pain and disease withdraw and disappear, so it becomes unnecessary to fixate on the human body and check whether it is functioning properly. "Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and immortality. Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts" (Science and Health, pg. 261).
A few hours later the plane begins to descend. In the back row, an occasional giggle from the toddlers comes through - but no crying. Prayer, too, produces a happy landing, or beneficial results. Like a flight that takes passengers from one city to another, spiritual reasoning moves us forward. Having felt the Allness of God's harmony, our lives get better.
We don't need to fly between cities in order to rise in prayer; we can seek an intelligent understanding of God right where we are. It does a lot of good, for us and for the world.
As we taxi to the gate at the Boston airport, my laptop is now stowed in its case, with some ideas tucked in it. Actually, I've since found out that they turned up on this page. They were the result of climbing to the heights of prayer.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor