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The Capacities of Man

THE series featured midweek in the Monitor over the past month has spotlighted progressive changes that have been going on quietly in some of the world's poorer nations -- places like Honduras, Mozambique, and Bangladesh. Those of us who live elsewhere are used to hearing about these countries and the hardships they struggle against in terms of the millions in loans that are allocated annually for large-scale development projects. But we may not be as aware that frequently these projects have ended in failure. A single photograph of a piece of high-tech farm equipment rusting in a field or an abandoned textile mill more thantells the story of well-meant aid somehow misconnecting with considerable need. One of the most heartening things brought out by this Monitor series, however, is the good news that profound differences are possible -- and are being made -- in the lives of some of the most desperate of humanity's families through modest loans, local channeling of funds, and the building up of indigenous, small-scale businesses. This approach is helping to sow and reap changes in attitude and tradition even as it is contributing to an upgrade in living standards.

But there is an even more significant story hinted at among the seedling family farms, workshops, and schoolhouses -- one that still needs to be told, and one that we all figure in, whether we're conscious of it or not. Prosperino Gallipoli, who has been working with peasants in Mozambique since the 1950s, perhaps puts it best when he shares what to him is the most pressingneed and its solution in his adopted country: ``Underdevelopment is a spiritual problem, it's a lack of active, critical thinking, initiative, and self-confidence....Vegetable farming in the co-ops is a means, not an end. The objective is to bring out the capacities of man in all his dignity.''1

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That may sound like a pretty high-toned goal. But the present state of these countries shouldn't persuade us that the goal is out of reach for the people there or that the development problems confronting them are any less our problems because we happen to live a half a world away.

The world, of course, is not by necessity divided up into ``underdeveloped,'' ``developing,'' and ``developed'' nations. Those terms have currency only because they provide a useful handle for discussing certain economic and social situations. But used routinely and persistently, those terms can virtually doom individuals and even whole countries to generation after generation of changeless, unprogressive outlooks and behavior -- condemning the so-called ``underdeveloped'' and ``developing'' to nearly permanent poverty, and deluding those who live in nations considered ``developed'' into believing that growth is a matter of accumulation and inheritance rather than progressive, earned achievement.

Development, by its very nature, involves growth, maturation, expansion. And there isn't anyone anywhere who doesn't yearn for the possibilities to discover and use more of his or her capacities.

The desire, just as the need, for growth is an ongoing one. But the roots of real development are not fundamentally economic. They're not even fundamentally educational. They're spiritual. And that's because our deepest need is spiritual -- it is, in fact, to know that we are spiritual. We sense this innately because we are only truly, lastingly satisfied with spiritual things -- with knowing God and understanding the limitlessness and goodness of His kingdom and creation. The Psalmist said of his relationship to God, ``I shallbe satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.''2 Christ Jesus taught that God is Spirit;3 he demonstrated the reality that man -- the real being of each of us -- is the very image of God.

We progress humanly only as we develop spiritually. And this is possible only to the extent we see God and man as they truly are -- infinite, immortal, pure, perfect, whole; divine Spirit and spiritual man, not typecast in material or even humanistic terms. The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy,4 confirms this rule of progress: ``The human capacities are enlarged and perfected in proportion as humanity gains the true conception of man and God.''5 And elsewhere it states the corollary to that rule, alerting us to the fact that the actual impediment to progress in every case is a mistaken, matter-bound sense of existence. Mrs. Eddy writes, ``The illusion of material sense, not divine law, has bound you, entangled your free limbs, crippled your capacities, enfeebled your body, and defaced the tablet of your being.''6

By learning more of our God-given capacities, through prayer, and utilizing them, we contribute to expanding the capacities and useful output of mankind. Through our perceiving and embracing the actuality of Spirit, God, and His spiritual creation, man, those in positions to contribute to or distribute funds and resources are enabled to grow in their abilities to cooperate and invest wisely, demonstrating genuinely intelligent compassion. So, too, those on the so-called ``receiving end'' who see something of the spiritual nature of existence, are able to move forward with greater industry, confidence, creativity, and enterprise. The temporary designations of ``haves'' and ``have-nots,'' ``developed'' and ``undeveloped,'' then gradually become less meaningful and so less definitive. And we begin awakening to another capacity in ourselves -- the ability to see in the face of a poor dirt farmer or a prosperous bureaucrat the brother or sister who really is there.

1The Christian Science Monitor, March 1, 1989,p. 13. 2Psalms 17:15. 3See John 4:24. 4The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 5Science and Health, p. 258. 6Ibid., p. 227.

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