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Heaven on earth: only in 'Avatar'?

A Christian Science perspective.

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Filmmaker James Cameron’s recent blockbuster hit "Avatar," which is now the highest grossing film of all time, even surpassing Cameron’s "Titanic," has people talking. It’s hit a nerve, on both a technical and emotional level.

The film features a virtual utopian planet, Pandora, inhabited by seven-foot-tall peaceful blue natives called Na’vi. But some moviegoers are finding it difficult to leave this imagined utopia. Over 1,000 people, posting on the fan site “Avatar Forums,” have apparently reported experiencing “post-Avatar” depression. Many complain that they can’t stop thinking about Pandora and dreaming of what it might be like to live in a similar beautiful space. Some say this has even made them feel suicidal. In contrast, Earth, the real blue planet, looks to them like little more than a drab counterpart, scarred by dwindling and abused resources and wasteful humans.

Aside from the movie’s obvious viewer appeal, these negative side-effects raise an interesting question. Is it possible to find utopia on earth? Or, rephrased in spiritual terms, can one actually experience heaven on earth?

That’s a question clearly answered in the life and teachings of the master Christian. For instance, Jesus told Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came to him under the cover of night, that to see the kingdom of God you have to be “born again.” When Nicodemus questioned this, Jesus eventually replied, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (see John 3:1–13). This seems to suggest that to understand and experience heaven – life from a God’s-eye view – one has to completely abandon a human perspective and see things from a spiritualized vantage point. To be “born again” is, in effect, to live life without mortal beginnings and endings, but from the starting point of infinite Spirit.

Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is here, now. And he proved it again and again, by setting people free of ailments and disabilities of almost every kind. Imagine what the world must have looked like the morning after the man’s healing at the pool of Bethesda (see John 5:2–9) or the woman’s healing of the issue of blood (see Matt. 9:20–22). Their days were no longer dictated by the inability to walk and live normal lives, but by restoration and wholeness. You could say they were living in heaven.

Mary Baker Eddy, the religious pioneer who discovered the Science behind Jesus’ healings and explained it in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” defined heaven in a unique way: “Harmony; the reign of Spirit; government by divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul” (p. 587). Just consider for a moment the word bliss, meaning “extreme and perfect happiness.” Bliss – right here on earth – is not something gained by death, lost or found according to external factors. Elsewhere in her writings, Mrs. Eddy explained that the kingdom of heaven is “a mental state.” And she continued, “Jesus said it is within you, and taught us to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come;’ but he did not teach us to pray for death whereby to gain heaven. We do not look into darkness for light” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896,” p. 174).

Films often provide such realistic depictions that it’s easy to be swept up in a false view of reality. But when the credits roll, how important it is not to let our emotions roll with them. The idea that suicide can provide joy by erasing problems is a false lure. Equally misleading is the preoccupation with thinking perfection and satisfaction can be found only in a fantasy world. Both mental states deprive one of present joy, which belongs to each one of us by divine right. Even if an extreme measure like suicide has never occurred to you, how important it is to exclude from consciousness any persistent thought suggesting God and His harmony are absent from our lives.

In answer to the question of finding heaven on earth, perhaps each of us can take part in cultivating the thoughts that lead us closer to having that “mind, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5), so that we can be better healers and forces for good. The following statement can guide this desire: “Let us have a clearing up of abstractions.... Let us open our affections to the Principle that moves all in harmony, – from the falling of a sparrow to the rolling of a world. Above Arcturus and his sons, broader than the solar system and higher than the atmosphere of our planet, is the Science of mental healing” (“Miscellaneous Writings,” p. 174).

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The space we occupy is so much grander than the physical planet we call Earth. In fact, our orbit revolves around God, who will always be at the very center of our lives. We can’t ever extricate ourselves from that divine circle. When we see this as the only reference point in our lives, we move away from looking elsewhere for joy. Instead, we bring the light of healing – true heaven – into our own and others’ lives.

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.


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