INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.
This definition of insanity is often attributed to Albert Einstein, sometimes to Benjamin Franklin, and to author Rita Mae Brown. However, it is most likely to have originated with Alcoholics Anonymous, and they and other 12 step programs repeat this adage often. It definitely did not originate with Einstein. At any rate, whatever its origins, this quote sums up, quite succinctly, some of my feelings about Christian Science and my rather long connection to it. Christian Science doesn’t work as promised, and to try to keep making it work is at the very least stupid; at worst, dangerous; and quite possibly insane. I’ve often thought I was completely insane to have stuck with Christian Science as long as I did. Perhaps, however, I wasn’t. What if this was something I had to experience?
Since I finally made my break with Christian Science, I’ve often grappled with a sense of anger and regret over how long I stayed with it in the face of the ever present doubts that I always harboured, and the mounting evidence in my own life experience of its complete inability to heal as it promises it can. I’ve often felt that I wasted 40 or so years of my life in this faith of false promises when I could have been more honest with myself, acknowledged my doubts and the truth behind them, and gotten the hell out years ago. How could I have been so stupid for so many years? I’ve asked myself that question time and time again.
Recently, I attended, and participated in as a helper, a Sun Dance ceremony. Sun Dance is a very sacred ceremony in First Nations culture and while I believe it originated with the Lakota people, it is widely practiced by many First Nations throughout North America now. It’s a ceremony that tests the dancers’ physical and mental stamina, but most importantly, it is a healing ceremony–for everyone who is there–be they dancers, helpers, or those there to watch and support. I got healing this time in ways that I never expected.
While I was at the Sun Dance, I shared with an Elder this frustration I had regarding my time that I saw as wasted in Christian Science. He shared with me a simple, but very profound truth. He told me that in order to get where we are now, and to appreciate the “place” where we are now, we have to have walked the path we’ve walked to get there. There can be no other way. I had to go through my time and experience as a Christian Scientist, along with all of my other experiences, in order to be where I am now in my life.
I’m a huge Star Trek nerd, and as I follow this train of thought as I write this, I’m recalling one of my favourite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode is called “Tapestry” (which inspires the title of this post). In this episode, Captain Picard is given the opportunity to reverse a pivotal incident in his youth in which he suffered an injury resulting in the need for an artificial heart–which was to potentially cause him an early death later in life. As a result of the reversal of this incident, his life is drastically altered and he turns out to be a very low achieving uncourageous man–not the courageous captain of a starship as he was in the original timeline. He realizes that he would rather live as the man he was, with the imperfections that came with it including the heart condition that was likely to take his life, than the man he had become. Ultimately, returns to his previous life exactly as it was, and he is successfully revived. The episode ends with a scene where Picard gives this quote that I’ve never forgotten: “There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of…there were loose threads…untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads…it had unraveled the tapestry of my life.”1
In many other aspects of my life, I’ve seen and recognized this truth–especially when it comes to my circuitous and varied career path, but for some reason, I didn’t always connect this truth with my spiritual path. It’s true, in all aspects of our lives, that where we are now, who we are now, is the sum total of everything we have experienced, both good and bad. Our lives indeed are a tapestry and to pull at one thread in that tapestry would be to unravel the entire thing. As I think now of my spiritual path, and my time as a Christian Scientist in this context, much of my anger, regret, and resentment is dissipating. I’m coming to realize that my time as a Christian Scientist wasn’t wasted–it is part of me, it is an integral part of who I am; I had to go through it to be the person I am now, and to live the life I have now. I love where I am in life now, and for the first time I feel like I am living the life I was meant to live. I couldn’t be happier! Everything I’ve been through has brought me to where I am now, and the things I have experienced are a part of who I am now. For that, I am grateful beyond words.
1 “Tapestry (episode)” Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki. nd. Web. 19 August 2013. <http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Tapestry_(episode)>