Perspicacity and uncommon sense

Today’s column examines how looking beyond the material surface of things to a spiritual perspective of the world around us brings solutions, harmony, and healing.

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The first time I saw artist René Magritte’s self-portrait “Perspicacity,” I was completely captivated by it. He portrays himself sitting at his easel, studying an egg, yet painting a graceful, fully grown bird in flight. What a powerful depiction of imagination and creativity!

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how Magritte’s painting actually presents even more than that. To me, it illustrates what’s possible when we turn our perception away from mere surface appearances toward more discerning views.

In one dictionary “perspicacity” is defined as “acuteness of discernment or understanding.” I like to think of it as uncommon sense – the ability to rise above the conventional and customary view that would look at an egg and then, well, paint just a replica of the egg.

Perspicacity is a quality I’ve come to appreciate even more fully through my study of Christian Science. The teachings of Christian Science encourage the spiritual seeker to consider a sense of reality that is different from – deeper than – what the physical senses present. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered this Science, describes throughout her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” how a spiritual perspective has a practical impact. For example, she says: “A knowledge of the Science of being develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man. It extends the atmosphere of thought, giving mortals access to broader and higher realms. It raises the thinker into his native air of insight and perspicacity” (p. 128).

I’ve often seen how understanding God can and does meet our needs by inspiring thought to appreciate and apply the extraordinary spiritual concepts that God is constantly communicating to us, such as the idea that as divine Love itself, God is the source and sustainer of harmony for all of us.

That idea helped me in a workplace situation I faced a number of years ago, when I worked with a large manufacturing company. A young staff member became argumentative, insubordinate, and deeply unhappy. One day I discovered him at his desk working on his résumé and sending out job applications to prospective employers – and he wasn’t even trying to hide it from his coworkers. Company policy dictated that pursuing other jobs on company time was grounds for immediate dismissal.

However, since I’d often seen how praying about workplace issues brings needed solutions, I realized there was an opportunity here for actual improvement in the employee’s experience and in our office environment. I also knew this young man was a creative individual whose talents had benefited our company.

My prayers affirmed the deeper, spiritual identity of everyone, including this employee, as God’s individual expression of Himself. I saw that in this light, we are inherently responsive to good alone, not governed by anger or retaliation. I recognized that this man’s “latent abilities and possibilities” couldn’t be extinguished by some rising tide of rebellion. And I understood that these spiritual facts form a strong basis for the restoration of calm and progress in our day-to-day lives.

And so, instead of following the conventional practice of firing this man, I approached our human resources department to set up a probationary period for his continued employment, with weekly reviews. The turnaround was notable. Not only was he able to keep his job, his subsequent performance improved markedly. A number of years after I’d left the firm, I learned he was still there – and now in a management position.

You and I have free access to this spiritual perspicacity that sees above and beyond the surface picture to discover what is actual and good according to God’s view of His creation. The lens that helps me see this is prayer – a quiet communing with God that lifts thought from a merely material sense of what’s going on to the divine possibilities that listening for His guidance presents, which bring harmony and healing.

Think of the possibilities for our world as we each become more conscious of our own and others’ “native air of insight and perspicacity”! As our spiritual understanding expands, we’ll discern more clearly everyone’s fundamentally spiritual and good nature, and we can increasingly become uncommonly good problem-solvers and peacemakers­, clearer thinkers, and even healers.

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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.