Thursday, August 24, 2006
Camp and global consciousness
From the Porch of Crowsnest
(written while looking out from my porch, across the lawn and toward Valerie Lake)
Someone recently asked me how I, as a spiritual thinker deeply committed to global healing and the actualization of the divine within each individual ...impartially and universally, could spend my summer at a camp high in the Rocky Mountains that serves the children of one religious denomination exclusively.
I have spent many, many hours thinking about this question this summer. Here are my musings (discovered through in prayer)…. for what they are worth:
The days here are filled with opportunities to see the depth of diversity in those things which seem so alike. A field of daisies when observed from a distance seems to repeat a pattern of yellow circular center and white petals, but when I get up from the Adirondack rocker on my porch and wander through that same meadow, carefully observing each flower, I note diversity and individuality that escaped my purview from a safe distance. To get up close and personal, to be able to examine each flower in the context of its surrounding flora (how a blue columbine brings out the sharp loveliness of a daisy's simplicity, how a larger more mature daisy highlights the petite freshness of a new small bud) helps me better appreciate each daisy's uniqueness, as well as the divine intelligence that repeats such a lovely pattern of beauty.
So it is with camp. Yes, each of our campers comes to this glorious place (in the palm of “five fingers” at the base of Mount Columbia) from the common genus of being a student enrolled in a Christian Science Sunday School. But when seen in the context of one another's approach to this common perspective diversity (of inspiration, study styles, application and language for sharing those perspective) becomes clearer in the bas relief of another's individual way of approaching their spiritual journey. We have campers from private boarding schools and urban public schools, from small islands in the Caribbean and from suburban midwest neighborhoods.
This lesson was so clear to me one summer not long ago when we had a camper arrive who, although enrolled and in faithful weekly attendance at a Christian Science Sunday school throughout the year, considered himself an agnostic (someone who believes it is impossible to know whether or not God exists) and professed to feel a growing alliance with atheism (disbelief in the existence of God). Not only was he not sure that you could prove, or experience, the presence of a God that might exist, but he wasn't sure that God even existed at all.
This was unsettling to others who felt that a belief in Christian Science was the common ground that camp was based on. But the requirements were not intellectual buy-in only a willingness to attend a Christian Science Sunday School, which this young man met on a weekly basis throughout the year. In fact, this boy not only attended Sunday School, but was an active and vigorous participant in those classes, often frustrating teacher and fellow students with his genuine and well thought out questioning of what seemed to him to be pat answers to his deep and conscientious probing of mass acceptance of cultural and religious paradigms.
Our first Sunday School class (I have to admit I begged to be assigned to his class) the question was asked of him, by another student, why he didn't believe in God. I intervened and asked her to explain, rather, why she did. And her answer followed the same patterns of scholastic rhetoric that had long frustrated this young man. An answer that seemed well rehearsed about God being all and Truth being reliable. I then asked her (and the rest of the class) to tell us of a time when she had actually experienced the presence of God and why she/they had attributed that experience to the divine. She thought for a few moments and then shared with genuine tears, that revealed deep feelings connected with that experience, about a time when she was alone in the dark and too afraid to get out of bed to go to her parents in the middle of the night and the words from a hymn popped into her head and how she had felt a pure warm peace flow through her and she knew that there was indeed a God.
One after another the students in the class shared their examples until it finally came back to our resident agnostic/atheist. He didn't say anything for a few moments and then shared an experience that he had had as a child that he always came back to when he was afraid. By the end of that class not only had each of us been shown that just because we had all come to camp from the same starting point as Christian Science Sunday School students, but that in that sameness there were diverse ways of thinking through our common desire to know what was true. It was also clear that there was a common thread of experience with the divine that united us. It was our common experiences that nurtured a trust in the diversity of one another's journey towards the arrival at answers that would be satisfying and would bring peace.
So what does this have to do with my own inner confidence that this time at camp is contributing to the pool of spiritual seekers who are becoming well-prepared globally conscious thinkers?
Each day at camp our campers must go through the demands of keeping cabins clean, meeting schedules and deadlines, dealing with critical weather or environmental challenges from a spiritual perspective. These ever-changing demands require them to partner with other campers and counselors who bring a diversity of experience and approach to finding solutions they may have assumed, based on everyone being a Christian Scientist, would be handled in the same way they might. Yet, the fact that they are each bringing new perspectives and vantage points to those challenges or the issues at hand offers important freshness and balance to the process of thinking and praying together for those solutions. What they often realize is ... that what they really have most in common is the simple desire for a solution. That this desire for good, for peace, for harmony or wellness is enough to bring about the needed change. This new perspective has the potential for a new United Nations….a new spiritually confident “security council”. Mrs. Eddy says that “security for the claims of harmonious and eternal being is found only in divine Science” (which she elsewhere defines as “God’s government of the universe inclusive of man”). I love thinking that camp is giving our young men and women the opportunity to find secure and lasting peace. And that they can discover that this deep peace is rooted in their certainty that no matter how different (or the same on the outside) we may appear, we can always trust that the message of Eddy's "Daily Prayer" is not a great humanly designed suggestion, but a divine imperative that promises this kind of lasting peace. It reads:
“Thy Kingdom come
Let the Reign of divine Truth, Life and Love
Be established in me, and rule out of me all sin.
And may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind
And govern them.” - Mary Baker Eddy
As we grow in our experiences of trusting that there is a divine impetus working in each of us to enrich our affections for good, our hunger for peace, our desire for harmony, we will have confidence as peacemakers....surrounded by a glocal community of like-minded, like-hearted peacemakers.
Isn’t this what camp is all about. Starting out thinking we are the same, finding out that we are different, then discovering and resting upon the realization that what is common in us is God working in each of our hearts.
We are raising global thinkers here in the "palm of five fingers", in the heart of the Collegiate peaks and I can’t wait to see where they find their niche in this vast global community. Already we have counselors from this summer heading off to Peace Corps duties in South America, Asia and Africa. We are a training ground for global transformation and I feel privileged to be part of this new generation of spiritually prepared ambassadors for good.