Makers and making a difference

A Christian Science perspective: The "makers movement," community, and the spiritual underpinnings of successful collaboration.

Buckminster Fuller – inventor, architect, engineer, and poet – was also the father of synergistics, which studies people’s roles as both participant and observer, and how each person’s actions affect outcomes within the whole system, be that social or economic. His purpose in life was to apply himself to the highest advantage of others. He once said, “You do not belong to you, you belong to the universe” (Quest Magazine, November/December 1979).

At the intersection of participant and observer, ideas and action, exists the opportunity to share one’s inspiration with others. As conveyed in this week’s cover story about makerspaces, collaboration and sharing inspiration most often result in something greater than the sum of the parts.

Collaboration requires initiative to act on one’s inspiration and to participate with others to give rise to invention and entrepreneurship. In many cases it is only fear that prevents us from taking the initiative necessary to turn ideas into acts. We don’t need to accept the notion that as just one person we could not make a difference in the advancement of society.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement and one of the leading thinkers of the early 20th century, wrote: “Goodness never fails to receive its reward, for goodness makes life a blessing. As an active portion of one stupendous whole, goodness identifies man with universal good” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 165).

When an individual aspires through unselfish participation and inspiration to become that “active portion of one stupendous whole,” he or she helps make “life a blessing” for the larger community. The Bible’s New Testament references Abraham, who, when seeking guidance, looked for a city whose “builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Turning completely to our divine source of all ideas, we, like Abraham, will receive the inspiration needed. 

The roles of both participant and observer are important. The observer analyzes and separates what is meaningful from what is mere clutter. In doing so he or she identifies with the universal goodness Mrs. Eddy referred to, through conscious listening, which is one way of praying. Inspiration is the result. The participant builds on that inspiration, and progress follows.

Author and poet Maya Angelou gave us the answer to the crossover between participant and observer, saying, “When you get, give; when you learn, teach.” The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth provides a corollary: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (II Corinthians 9:7, 8).

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.