The Realm of the Good People

The time is always right to do what is right. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. – Thomas Paine

When I do good I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.  – Abraham Lincoln

Definition for “happiness”: The full use of your powers along lines of excellence. – John F. Kennedy

Let the male and female of God’s creating appear. – Mary Baker Eddy

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I was once on a discussion board where the question came up: “Where are all the good people?”  I was new to the board, and didn’t realize that the poster was asking where all his favorite posters had gone.  I wrongly assumed he was actually asking where the “good” people are, and eagerly jumped into the dialogue to tell him:  They’re all around us, I posted. They’re everywhere. The good people we mostly hear about are the celebrity-types who donate their time and money to worthy causes, and get their names in magazines and on television for their donations.  But there are also, I wrote, many “everyday” people who are what I would call “good” people.  They live their lives with joy and humor, stopping to help someone with a flat tire, helping a short person (me, for instance) reach the can of food on the top shelf at the supermarket – without being asked – and looking at the world with courage and hope. “They can be,” I posted, “teachers, doctors, plumbers, secretaries, cashiers, policemen, firemen, Democrats, Republicans, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, Lutherans, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Catholics, Wiccans, teenagers, and the elderly.” It is, in fact, my belief that good people can be found in every race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and age group.

This is when the poster who originally posed the question set me straight and told me that’s not what he’d been asking. There aren’t, he told me, really any good people.  He let me know that we’re all sinners, undeserving of mercy, and that it’s only by God’s good grace we’re not all doomed to hell. Or something like that.

I suppose I could have gotten in an interesting discussion with him about the differences in the way we see God’s creation – I could have maybe pointed out that right there, in the very first chapter of Genesis, it says that God created man in God’s “own image and likeness; male and female created he them” and that he saw everything he had made, and, “behold, it was very good.” I could have expressed my belief that it would be impossible for a perfect, all-loving God to create individuals that weren’t also perfectly good, and that it seemed sort of insulting to God to say that her children – made in her image and likeness – were sinners.

But I did not go there.

Instead I started my own thread, and asked people to tell me about the “good people” they’d known in their lives, and that thread became a celebration of the generosity, courage, kindness, intelligence, wisdom, and talent of Good People everywhere.

***

I first started thinking about “The Realm of the Good People” when I was reflecting on my dad’s life. He had been born in 1918 – at the end of World War I. He’d survived The Great Depression with his family, served in World War II, climbed on the highest mountains on earth, been to the South Pole, and close to the North Pole, had moved easily among world leaders, and traveled the world with a close group of fellow adventurers and explorers.  He’d worked as a photographer, cartographer, geologist, hydrologist, artist, mountain guide, ski instructor, and author. He’d moved through life with no sense of limitation about what he might accomplish or where he might go or who he might meet, and that – what I guess some might call “naïve” – sense of freedom had served him well in his life.

I had and have huge admiration for the way he’s lived his life. As I type this, he is, at the age of 93, preparing for a trip to Colorado next week to receive an award from The American Alpine club. He’s a little puzzled as to what he’s done to earn this award – but he’s glad to be getting it, and excited about the opportunity to visit with his mountain cronies.

Once I started thinking about my dad and his friends and the world they traveled, I began to look at other people around me – and I realized that there is actually a whole realm of “good people” moving amongst us. Of course, not all of them have had the kind of adventures Dad has had, but their sense of limitless freedom, and the generosity of spirit and courage with which they’ve approached their lives, have lifted them above the mundane and dull, into lives that never cease to inspire me.

My mom, for instance, was born just before The Great Depression, and somehow she and her parents and nine siblings all managed to make it through those challenging times. They came through our country’s economic crisis with a knowledge of how important community is, and how important it is to share with one another.  Mom ran track in college, was the first of the eight daughters to graduate from college, climbed Mount Rainier twice, birthed and raised three children, and has lived a long and active life. What makes this all rather remarkable is that as a youngster she’d had rheumatic fever and developed a heart murmur – something I didn’t know about until recently – and I gather she was supposed to have lived a quiet, sheltered life.  I like that she didn’t.  Beyond all her physical adventures – Mom is the most loving, open-minded person I’ve ever known.  She’s one of the “good” ones, for sure.

I am, in fact, surrounded by good people – sons, husband, friends, neighbors. People who, like my mom, have managed to create full, free lives for themselves without regard to the physical limitations conferred upon them by “experts” – or in spite of those limitations. People who, like my dad, failed to recognize that there was anything that was “impossible” to do.  There are an abundance of people who, as the wonderful old phrase goes, are “leaving the world a better place for having been here.”

I believe those people are the ones with the real power.  Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable.”  I agree with those sentiments.  And looking around and seeing all the good in the people around me, I am filled with hope for the world.

This maybe sounds naïve (but then I am my parents’ daughter, after all, and I suppose the fruit really “doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and if I sound a little naïve about what’s possible and what’s not, I guess we can blame my folks) – and I’ve hesitated to put this out there because I know there will be people who will write me off as idealistic and a little loony for saying this – but what the heck? – I’m going to say it, anyway: I really do believe that all of us are “good.” Yes, really. I think what separates people like my dad and mom from others is that they seem to recognize their capability for “good” better than others seem to recognize that ability in themselves.  I think we all have the potential to do tremendous good in our lives and in our world – we all have access to incredible power. And when we come to finally recognize that about ourselves and our fellow man, nothing will be impossible to us.

***

        God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis. – Mary Baker Eddy

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Celebrating Spring!

“For lo, the winter is past…The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” – Songs of Solomon 

“Nature voices natural, spiritual law and divine Love,  but human belief misinterprets nature. Arctic regions, sunny tropics, giant hills, winged winds,  mighty billows, verdant vales, festive flowers,  and glorious heavens, – all point to Mind, the spiritual intelligence they reflect. The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity. Suns and planets teach grand lessons.  The stars make night beautiful, and the leaflet turns naturally towards the light.” – Mary Baker Eddy

Presence is needed to become aware of the beauty, the majesty, the sacredness of nature…You have to put down for a moment your personal baggage of problems, of past and future, as well as your knowledge; otherwise, you will see but not see, hear but not hear.  Your total presence is required.” – from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

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When spring arrives, I feel my heart start to sing.  I walk out the door and am surrounded by the joy of creation – birds singing, lambs bouncing around in the fields, daffodils bringing their cheery sunshine to the meadows, the smell of newly-mowed lawns and pungent blossoms filling the atmosphere – and it feels like a party, a celebration, a gift.  In the spring,  it’s easy for me to feel the playful, joyous presence of my Father-Mother God, Love.

There’s this great line from Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) : “Life will find a way.” That’s what Spring feels like to me – like Life is just bursting out all around me, breaking through the winter, clothing the trees with new leaves, unfolding in the blossoms – and bursting out of me, too. There is renewal here. Nothing can stop it. Life is finding its way.

Lately I’ve made a conscious effort to shut out all the dialogue that’s continually going on in my head and just tune in to the sights and sounds of the world outside me  – the birds singing, the whooshing sound the leaves on the trees make, traffic in the distance – and I’m seeing things maybe I never noticed before – individual petals on flowers, the flickering of individual leaves, the changes from one moment to the next – and it’s just amazing the way everything around me is moving in harmony, dancing to some universal rhythm – and everything is where it should be, moving where it should move, filling its own niche, serving its own purpose.

I know many people consider God to be a supernatural being. But I consider God to be supremely natural – the name for all that is good – Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, Love (synonyms for “God” given in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy). In the spring, it’s easy for me to see evidence of Her everywhere – in the harmony and rhythm of a continually unfolding creation, and in the joy and energy of new life.

For me, springtime represents the constant “newness” of life, a rebirth, an opportunity for new beginnings.

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Morning has broken

Like the first morning,

Black bird has spoken

Like the first bird.

Praise the singing!

Praise for the morning!

Praise for them springing

Fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain’s new fall

Sunlit from heaven,

Like the first dewfall

On the first grass.

Praise for the sweetness

Of the wet garden,

Sprung in completeness

Where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight!

Mine is the morning.

Born of the one light

Eden saw play!

Praise with elation,

Praise ev’ry morning,

God’s recreation 

of the newday!

– words by Eleanor Farjeon

“I am woman, hear me roar…”

So God created man in his own image and likeness; male and female created he them. – Genesis 1: 27

Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God… The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy

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As a Christian Scientist, I believe God to be both Father and Mother, and all men and women to be made in her likeness. I believe that if we, as a society, fail to appreciate or value the expression of God’s feminine nature, we’re not appreciating the full expression of our Father-Mother God.

As you probably all know, March is Women’s History Month. Tonight, as I was giving thought to the financial, political, and social challenges that women around the world are currently facing, an old Helen Reddy song came boldly bounding into my thoughts:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back and pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

CHORUS
Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
’cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
’cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

CHORUS

I am woman, watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand…

Helen Reddy and Ray Burton

This song was a kind of anthem for me as a young woman. It was one of the songs I hummed to myself as I climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier.  It was with me as I launched myself into my career, and it was with me as I tried to figure out my place as a woman in American society. It inspired me to be strong and brave and confident. “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman,” sang Helen Reddy, and I sang right along with her.

I married, had children, raised a family, entered a teaching career, climbed more mountains and hiked more hills.  New songs took the place of I Am Woman.  I suppose at some point I began to think of I Am Woman as too simplistic or schmaltzy or shallow or something.  And finally I am Woman faded completely into the distant recesses of my mind.  Until today, I don’t think I’d thought about that song for years.

But today it came back to me – and it didn’t enter my thoughts in a dainty or delicate way, either – it came bursting in, all unapologetic and vibrant. I found it on youtube and listened to it again, and felt myself becoming inspired, just as I had as a young woman three decades ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUBnxqEVKlk&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=AVGxdCwVVULXdW3YgNT-BsHvNXAaqMSO2y

Biologically, I have brothers, and I have sons, but no daughters or sisters.  Although I love all the wonderful men in my life – right now, today, I want to take time to celebrate women.   I’ve been blest to have a wise, wonderful mother, and, even though I have no biological sisters, I’ve had a life filled with the inspiration and support of “sisters of the heart” – strong,  courageous women who’ve been an example to me of the power of womankind. Today I want to celebrate the courage and daring of the pioneer women who helped build our country; the suffragettes who worked tirelessly so that other women, like me, could vote; and the courageous female leaders who are working right now to ensure that women’s lives and rights are protected.

And I want to make a commitment to being the best representative of womankind that I can be, too.  Today I resolve to fully express the courage, strength, and love that are attributes of my Father-Mother God.  “I am woman, watch me grow; See me standing toe to toe, as I spread my loving arms across the land…”

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Christian Scientists must live under the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out  from  the material world and be separate. They must renounce aggression, oppression and the pride of power. Christianity, with the crown of Love upon her brow, must be their queen of life. – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy