IT'S strange, isn't it, that when we're living along in a conventional way, we're apt to think and talk a lot about minor slights and indignities, shortcomings of family members, wanting more time, needing more money. But then another sense of things can come quite suddenly. Possibly it comes as you're reading an account of someone's years of struggle for simple human rights -- how he or she has surmounted political imprisonment and even torture. Or perhaps you know of someone closer to home -- a high-school girl who persisted in spite of a family life that was a horror of drugs and abandonment. She turns it into inspiration for all.
It makes you sharply aware of how much more you could be doing with your own life. You strive to get down to serious living.
For most of us, ``serious living'' would mean, at the very least, remembering to love. Not being too busy, too sunk in a routine sense of things, to care for others. St. Paul's words say it with devastating clarity: ``Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.''1
Isn't what is happening at such moments of awakening that we are being jarred out of our absorption in a mortal self, with all its narrow self-interest? We reach out and take hold of the good we really do know but have let be submerged. We stop thinking of everything in reference to that imperfect material selfhood.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, there's an explanation that helps us understand how we can live this way more consistently. ``Absorbed in material selfhood,'' Mrs. Eddy writes, ``we discern and reflect but faintly the substance of Life or Mind.''2
That's a remarkable concept. Doesn't it indicate that we don't need to be thinking constantly in terms of a limited material selfhood that has to be defended, satisfied, built up, improved?
To be always referring to a material selfhood with its history, its likes and dislikes, abilities and inabilities, is to be so absorbed that we fail to discover very much about our true, infinitely larger and better individuality. We take hold of this spiritual individuality by turning away from a limited, material selfhood and by entering deeply into unselfed love -- by reflecting divine Love. This is when you feel most yourself, most substantial and fulfilled.
As we love, and as we learn something more about divine Life, or God, we learn also about man, about ourselves and about others as well. We begin not only to find out what is at the center of human life but to discover that God, Spirit, or Mind, constitutes the real and only Life of man.
One of the elements that is very much a part of getting down to serious living is repentance. We do have to repent of that terrible absorption in mortal self-centeredness which keeps us from acknowledging what we know to be most real and significant.
Another way of speaking of this kind of serious living is to speak of being saved. Waking up from the dulling and deadening of sin, we feel the help of the Christ, or Truth, which saves us from the hopelessness of a material sense of existence.
But is this kind of living too serious? Might it be worthwhile and moral but ascetic and empty? Actually, no! It's unawakened, conventional sense that's empty, inane, and dreamlike. The truth is that humor, color, joy, warmth, spontaneity -- all the qualities we associate with the very best of life -- these we have more of as we're willing to get down to serious living.
1I Corinthians 13:1. 2Science and Health, p. 91. This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the December 5, 1988, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.