A tiger on the path
Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel
Defense against a hidden, lurking foe demands the most acute alertness. Fear is not an ally of this high level of alertness. Fear can paralyze good judgment and obscure the right action - or even right non-action. Fear is illusory; it even vanishes in the presence of bravery and valor. The question "Weren't you afraid?" is sometimes asked of someone who has been thrust into sudden danger and has come through it. The fact is that fear disappeared in the urgent need to do something. Unpremeditated bravery is often accompanied by a burst of quick wisdom and resourcefulness, and fear does not play a part.
A brief and unusual account from Mary Baker Eddy's text on Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," offers an example of that wisdom and resourcefulness: "By looking a tiger fearlessly in the eye, Sir Charles Napier sent it cowering back into the jungle" (pg. 378).
The fuller account of this incident tells of Napier riding horseback along a jungle trail. A tiger appeared suddenly along the trail. Napier stopped, fixed his gaze on the tiger, and it turned away into the jungle.
Bravery? Certainly. Absence of fear? Surely. The animal would have attacked fear. Alertness? Yes, and more. The tiger encountered authority, command, composure, character, and found nothing to attack in those strong qualities of thought. Sir Charles was prepared for this sudden threat by his life and seasoned character.
The world is at a high state of alertness at this time. The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., were acts of moral idiocy. The attempt to cloak them in religious fervor is a self-deception. The threat of terrorism in any form and any place is fundamentally animal in its nature.
Napier met the threat from the tiger in the jungle with the mental resources of his extraordinary character. Today, this is needed - and more. To meet and defeat the crouching threat requires a divinely developed character, a spiritual awakening, an unconditional love that can only come in sufficient quality and quantity from God, who is Spirit and Love.
A deeper and more spiritual understanding of God is the path to overcoming evil and the fear it uses to deceive and demoralize. In contrast to the prospect of more violence, many voices have foreseen a new world order, an awakening to the highest purpose, a quickening of spirituality, and the fulfilling of unselfish hopes for all mankind. The overcoming of evil and the triumph of good are necessary to such a new world order. Mrs. Eddy's description of the nature of the conflict between good and evil is seen in this paragraph from Science and Health: "This material world is even now becoming the arena for conflicting forces. On one side there will be discord and dismay; on the other side there will be Science and peace. The breaking up of material beliefs may seem to be famine and pestilence, want and woe, sin, sickness, and death, which assume new phases until their nothingness appears. These disturbances will continue until the end of error, when all discord will be swallowed up in spiritual Truth" (pg. 96).
In this present world "arena," there is a holy sufficiency in a character connected to God. That connection is a divine right because it is the true nature of God's creation, in which all is good and Truth is triumphant. The most vivid example of the real and useful connection between God and creation is seen in the life of Christ Jesus. When attacked by the Pharisees, he put them to silence with a few well-chosen words. He passed through a crowd unseen when they tried to stone him. His spirituality made him unafraid. In the spiritual relationship of God and all His creation, the divine rescues the human. This is as true today as it was in Bible times.
Again, at this time of conflicting forces, the omnipotence of God and the power of His expressed spirituality in our lives are superior to fear. Cultivation in our own lives of more of the divine character of Jesus will guide us, without fear, to turn the 21st century tiger of terrorism back into its own self-awakening and self-destruction.