I know the feeling. I also get the impression that there are plenty of us who have felt cynical about the problems society is facing and about the efforts being made toward progress.
There may be several factors behind cynicism – today’s tough economy, public officials’ wrongdoing, and other issues. It seems there’s a growing loss of idealism, a lowering of expectations that the future holds what we’ve hoped for. And so we find caustic criticism on talk shows, extreme partisanship in government, and so on.
The positives we do hear about are often based merely on the point that one person or group could do better than another. Some believe that society would function better with different leadership. But this mind-set doesn’t offer any real hope and just goes along with the negativity.
So if we’ve had ideals that were not fulfilled and then we turn on one another, what’s the problem – and how do we set things right?
My experience suggests there’s something profound at the heart of the problem, more profound than a tough economy or political polarization. The periods in my life when I’ve felt disillusioned have required something deeply spiritual to effect a turnaround. I’ve found that as Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Earth has little light or joy for mortals before Life is spiritually learned” (p. 548).
Awareness of the spiritual lesson we need to learn – awareness of our lives as they relate to the infinite, divine Principle, or God – is essential to addressing cynicism and to finding joy and fulfillment. Ultimately, our identity and purpose are determined by our Creator, who has intended only good and whose laws necessitate order, abundance, and well-being. This all takes some discovery though, just as the process of coming to understand the principles of music, astronomy, or mathematics does.
Also, the discovery process requires some effort toward dropping the merely material or human sense of our lives. The appearance and belief of life as a universe of matter evolving with forces and personalities in conflict is worse than disappointing. It means life going down the tubes, with no principle to hold it together.
St. Paul wrote of something that relates to this. He referred to the “reprobate mind,” an unprincipled mentality. He explained that it can make people “backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant- breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful” (Rom. 1:28, 30, 31). We can resist this type of thinking.
In a way, cynicism about mortal life is very understandable. The conventional, material view of life doesn’t cut it. But we don’t need to settle for this view of life. It’s not the one that’s ultimately in line with our Creator and His universe. Life is spiritual. It was established divinely. It’s all based on God, or good. And He is sure to save us all from being disillusioned about the life that belongs to us.
We learn of the divine Life through simple goodness. Efforts to be honest, to contribute to society, to love our neighbor, acquaint us with a Christian life that has a scientific Principle. And this harmonizes our lives. We find more and more of good, more of God. Mrs. Eddy wrote, “The Hebrew term that gives another letter to the word God and makes it good, unites Science and Christianity, whereby we learn that God, good, is universal, and the divine Principle, – Life, Truth, Love; and this Principle is learned through goodness, and of Mind instead of matter, of Soul instead of the senses, and by revelation supporting reason” (“The People’s Idea of God,” p. 2).
Instead of a mess in front of us, we have a way to find peace, joy, and an adventure of increasingly finding God in the details of our lives.