There they were again: the shoes, marching across the top of my screen in an ad on the site where I was doing some Bible research. These were the same shoes I had clicked on while scrolling through a social media site. I had actually ordered the shoes and returned them because they didn’t fit.
It was exasperating to feel that I couldn’t hide from this ubiquitous temptation to click away from where I had intended to keep my focus.
A month or so later I was listening to an episode of the TED Radio Hour on NPR about the seemingly relentless distraction of our various devices and their screens. After listing a number of ways in which social media and marketing companies attempt to keep us engaged with our devices, the speaker, Jaron Lanier, said that he didn’t feel these things were really what people found stimulating. Then he made the point, “I think that the more accurate description of modern times is that we’re starved for reality.”
Mr. Lanier’s thought-provoking statement, what one might consider an honest appeal for more substance in human life, resonated with me. Sometimes it seems that the influence of materialism touches every aspect of our lives. The internet, for example, while useful in many different ways, can also be used as an outlet to over-indulge, such as by spending too much time on online shopping!
So we need to find the right balance. No matter what form it takes, the attempt to satisfy our desires through material means leaves us feeling separated from goodness and joy – from the spiritual mindedness that the apostle Paul described as “life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
In Christian Science, “reality” is a word used to describe not just the current actual state of things but the truth of creation as the spiritual emanation of a creator who is Love itself, a creation that includes you and me. Because God, whom the Scriptures refer to as Spirit, creates only that which is spiritual, each of us is actually an idea of Spirit. Referring to this creator, the Bible says, “When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing” (Psalms 145:16, New Living Translation).
God is constantly supplying His ideas with spiritual inspiration. In spite of that, to consistently experience God satisfying “the hunger and thirst” we feel for spiritual reality in a material world requires persistence, prayer, and a devotion to being spiritually minded. It means being watchful about the thoughts we entertain, and rejecting those that aren’t coming to us from God, good.
Having found myself lured into spending too much time in online window-shopping, I increasingly recognized it was leaving me feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Just as those shoes I ordered had been too small, the definition of myself as a profile defined by web marketing no longer fit. I realized that nothing but discovering more of what is truly real – God’s spiritual creation – would bring satisfaction to my days. Learning more about spiritual reality, I saw how fulfilling it was to express spiritual qualities such as goodness and love by looking less inward and caring more for others.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, writes: “The infinite will not be buried in the finite; the true thought escapes from the inward to the outward, and this is the only right activity, that whereby we reach our higher nature” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 159). The teachings of Christian Science point to the example of Christ Jesus, who showed the naturalness and joy of living entirely for others rather than being caught up in self-centered thoughts and actions. He proved that the best way to be conscious of God’s reality is to base one’s life on a love for God and man.
When I’ve struggled with feelings that can pull me into a spiral of unproductive thinking, I have gained much strength in looking to the example of Jesus and better understanding, and striving to live on, the basis of what Christian Science teaches. It reveals each of us as Christlike, naturally inclined to express the same qualities that Jesus lived.
Through seeking divine strength and lasting satisfaction, I have found release from browsing habits that drag me away from what feels most authentic and purposeful. We are all designed for a much greater purpose than being “buried in the finite,” and we all have a right to escape that limited focus and enjoy activities – online and off-line – that open our thought to living more loving lives and satisfy our natural desire for reality.