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Turning toward light

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MUCH attention is focusing these days--and rightly so--on the mental health of the younger generation. As the media continue to report incidents of teen-age suicide, the adult community examines the mental and emotional forces that are shaping young lives. It is common knowledge that the young are an easy mark and lucrative market for escapist elements, and ``their'' music, books, and films are full of those elements. One letter to The New York Times cited the lyrics of popular songs and the incidents of suicide in movies as specific, contributing influences in recent teen-age suicides. A ninth-grade teacher I know agrees, and also has insights about the influence of parents: ``I've noticed how many of my students pick up on the feelings of futility their parents have. If parents start to believe there may not be any future life to look forward to, their kids start to devalue the life they have. This makes self-destruction seem like something acceptable, even rational. We are really coping with the spiritually empty expectations of parents, which reinforce darkness for their kids.'' The implied question is unavoidable: How can adults--not just parents and teachers but advertisers and neighbors and salesmen and songwriters and television producers and journalists--how can we examine and lift up our own mental environment and evaluation of life? If we don't, how can we hope our children will? The need is to bring to bear on family life an enlightened sense of God and of the nature of man and his possibilities. We can find this higher view in the Bible. It is worth recalling that many people have been led out of hopelessness through the deep truths of the Bible. The Bible is a record of how, time after time, mankind has threaded a way out of despair, hedonism, war, prison, disease, through relying on spiritual power, the endurance of God's Word. The inspired Word of the Scriptures shows us that God Himself is light and that His offspring are children of light. The Bible tells of actual people and their actual convictions of the spiritual nature of reality under God's government. Their prayers and expectations were not the stuff of flimsy optimism but were forged from confrontation in a superstitious world with factors as amoral, vindictive, escapist, and contaminated as we sometimes see today. ``God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,'' 1 we read in the Bible. The authority for speaking of God as light and as Love is the example set by Christ Jesus, who healed the blind, lame, insane, and sensuous through divine power. Jesus' works prove indisputably that spirituality is a central fact of life. Jesus said, ``I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.'' 2 This life that Jesus affirmed originates in God's unconditional love for His children. Its pattern is the truth that man can never be separated from his Maker. It is worth investigating this standpoint of reality, which we can perceive through spiritual sense. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: ``Spiritual sense is the discernment of spiritual good. Understanding is the line of demarcation between the real and unreal.'' She continues later, ``This understanding is not intellectual, is not the result of scholarly attainments; it is the reality of all things brought to light.'' 3 In this spiritual light we begin to discern that even human existence can promise something quite different from the apparent clutches of fear, fading horizons, material conclusions. When spiritual light dawns in thought, anyone--adult or child--can begin to feel moments of joy, small incentives for caring about life. It's somewhat like the freedom and joy the beginning swimmer feels when he discovers for the first time that he really can float in the water. One of the psalms says: ``Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. . . . He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.'' 4 If we who are adults can seek and trust in the spiritual authority of divinity, we will bring more light into our homes. Perhaps our children's need for direction can shake us into seeking spiritual light, and finding the comfort of reaching out of dark thoughts to take God's hand. 1 I John 1:5. 2 John 10:10. 3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 505. 4 Psalms 112:4, 7. 30{et

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