Thinking for Ourselves
THE ``wilding'' episode that took place in New York City's Central Park is, by now, old news. But the story just hasn't gone away in the weeks since. East Coast papers continue to carry updates and commentary every few days. And for the teen-agers directly involved in the near fatal assault on the woman jogger, a lot of the story remains to be written. Several face the possibility of years in prison. The story is at the very least disquieting. Not only was the crime heinous, but the individuals involved seem especially young for such a crime -- fourteen and fifteen years old.
How could such a thing happen? Many have speculated that the incident was racial. Some say it was sexually motivated. Others say it was a case of wealth-disparity and so attribute the crime to frustration or a form of revenge. One of the teen-agers, in a written confession, may have offered in fact the most telling comment: ``It was something to do.''1
That sort of statement, however, doesn't explain what was happening in this young man's mind that night so much as it sheds light on what wasn't happening. The results of his and others' actions show us that a horrific price is paid individually and collectively for the mental and spiritual vacuity -- for the lack of self-knowledge and self-possession -- that leads to such brutality.
Mindlessness, ironically, isn't harmless. It fosters a distancing between people -- a coldness and inhumanity that ultimate not only in estrangement, fear, and pain but in criminality and destructiveness.
It is easy, at such times, to want tougher laws, tougher penalties, and to analyze the situation endlessly. But the greater control we yearn for won't come from without or through force. It has to come from within. We must be able individually to police our thoughts and motives, must be able to keep our own actions under control and harmless, if we are to go beyond being law-abiding ourselves to actually helping others. How important, then, that we be aware of what we're thinking and consciously choose that which is true and good, just and right.
St. Paul once wrote to the people in the city of Philippi who were endeavoring to follow Christ Jesus' teachings: ``Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.''2 Paul knew from experience that if one's thought is fixed on the same spiritual realities that governed Jesus, one cannot help beginning to know the freedom, calm, love -- and even healing power -- that the Master knew and lived. To do this, we need to know God better, for it is God who was the Mind ``in Christ Jesus.''
God is Mind, Christian Science explains. He is our Mind. And this Mind isn't many in number or limited in intelligence or abusive by nature, because Mind, God, is One, is infinite and wholly good. Man, as the child, or likeness, of God, reflects this Mind. Part of the definition of man in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, describes man as ``the full representation of Mind.''3
How wonderful to be able to know ourselves as this representation! And we actually begin to experience the reality of this spiritual fact as we consciously, consistently claim God as our Mind. We need, too, to be willing to obey only our highest, purest desires, for these have their source in Mind, God.
Often this obedience involves letting go of a false sense of ourselves -- as either unworthy or pridefully independent of God, for example -- and of any false sense of Mind as both good and evil. This discipline also causes us to become more alert to the fact that we don't have to accept or act on impure, hateful, or violent thoughts. We have the right and ability to think for ourselves, to think the thoughts God, divine Mind, gives us -- and to know what we're thinking.
Science and Health reminds us of something we may already intuitively sense: ``You must control evil thoughts in the first instance, or they will control you in the second.'' It then goes on to explain: ``Evil thoughts and aims reach no farther and do no more harm than one's belief permits. Evil thoughts, lusts, and malicious purposes cannot go forth, like wandering pollen, from one human mind to another, finding unsuspected lodgment, if virtue and truth build a strong defence.''4
The needs of our society and the inner needs of each one of us demand that we become progressively more -- not less -- conscious of what we're doing and especially of what we're thinking. These are essentials if the world, as it grows ever more tightly knit, is to become more of a safe harbor for all of us.
If ``virtue and truth build a strong defence'' through our knowing Mind as God and ourselves as Mind's reflection, we'll be mentally and physically defended. We'll be consciously, actively living under God's government, where man is neither victim nor perpetrator. And our defended thinking will help contribute to a broader mental bulwark -- one that encourages the best motives in our fellow citizens by refusing to put up with the idleness, mindlessness, and mob thinking that are the breeding ground for tragedies such as occurred in Central Park. It's good to know that we can start now -- and that we can start with ourselves.
1Quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, May 5, 1989. 2Philippians 2:5. 3Science and Health, p. 591. 4Ibid., pp. 234-235. BIBLE VERSE Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2