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What is entertainment?

From the July 7, 1997 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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The entertainment industry is a booming business. Cable television, videos, theaters, computer games, the Internet, sports complexes, and talk radio—with all these it might seem that no one could ever be bored. If, however, a cable or an entertainer were our actual link to joy, we could be cut off or let down in a minute. But we can't be cut off from joy's true source. God, Soul, gives us delight and happiness freely, and nothing less. This is joy that cannot be taken from us.

Dynamism, symmetry, agility, focus, spontaneity—qualities we love in sports and in the arts, are, in fact, qualities of Soul. We glimpse in them something of the spiritual nature of being. And whether they appear as tones, textures, action, or balance, these qualities are not physical characteristics at all. They are elements of Soul's symphony unfolding to and through man.

Man already includes all good because man is Soul's expression. As this truth is understood, we won't settle for anything less than the joy and goodness that are naturally ours. God's rousing call for us to embrace real happiness is heard in the book of Isaiah: "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. ... For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace" (55:2, 12).

Both boredom and the unthinking search for entertainment originate in the mistaken belief of a mind apart from God. That which tells us we're bored can never be truly satisfied. To find the satisfaction, rest, and joy we yearn for, the false sense of mind must be put off, not indulged or entertained. It would absorb us in self-centeredness and even in the suffering of others in the name of entertainment. Our thought does not need to be dulled down or allowed to drift into escapism. We are to live dynamically the spiritual purpose and delight Soul is expressing through us.

Though it seems otherwise, it is impossible for man to possess a limited, personal mind or to be either a bored or an entertained mortal. Man is spiritual, the eternal idea of Mind. The understanding of this truth does not involve a loss of joy. It brings us closer to Soul, the source of joy. This understanding does not entertain or build up belief in a personal mind; it reveals the one Mind, God, to be the basis of all true thought and action.

Newness and vibrancy, qualities of Soul, are discovered through spiritual sense, not in endless video games, a sexual fling, a dream trip, or a daydream. We cultivate spiritual sense by turning our thought to God, Soul. Spiritual sense counteracts destructive, immoral, wasteful tendencies. Paul in the book of Philippians gives this counsel, indicating the focus of spiritual sense: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (4:8).

We can't be cut off from joy's true source.

Probably we each have felt, at the end of a busy day, that flopping in front of the television or curling up with a novel was our reward. But these are times to open thought to the truth that man is spiritual and reflects the sustaining, dynamic Mind. We are not mortals who wear down daily. Mary Baker Eddy writes: "Human reason becomes tired and calls for rest. It has a relapse into the common hope. Goodness and benevolence never tire. They maintain themselves and others and never stop from exhaustion" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 165). While it's not wrong to view shows and read books, if we are not challenging the view that life is mortal, we will not be truly refreshed or inspired, and may even become more entrenched in materialism and mortality.

Science and Health offers an insight helpful in making choices in this area: "It is the tangled barbarisms of learning which we deplore,—the mere dogma, the speculative theory, the nauseous fiction. Novels, remarkable only for their exaggerated pictures, impossible ideals, and specimens of depravity, fill our young readers with wrong tastes and sentiments. Literary commercialism is lowering the intellectual standard to accommodate the purse and to meet a frivolous demand for amusement instead of for improvement" (p. 195).

Of course, Soul's perfect idea, man, has no need of improvement. Our spiritual identity is established by Soul and forever continues to express holiness and harmony. It is the mortal concept of Soul and its expression that needs redeeming. The carnal mind's conception of man must yield to the immortal idea of Soul. This yielding does not take place in our lives if we are holding on to the mortal view.

Even reading the Bible and praying daily could, to a degree, be a form of self-amusement if we never let go of the mortal concept of being. There is a big difference between the discipleship that lives the Bible truths and the mistaken sense of Bible study that never moves off emotionalism and belief in a mortal, personal mind, separate from God, the only Mind.

True spirituality does make a difference; it teaches us to gain from each experience more of the higher joy. Performing in a band that entertained thousands each year, I found that I was able to reflect God in expressing talent, improvisation, and harmony. But I began to feel there was even more I could be doing. Acting in a movie brought another opportunity to glorify God. Again, I felt there was more. And now, I have found in the Christian Science healing ministry the true sense of "entertaining."

Through helping others we all have the opportunity to entertain the spirit of Truth and Love, which cares for those in need. Science and Health states, "By the truthful arguments you employ, and especially by the spirit of Truth and Love which you entertain, you will heal the sick" (p. 418).

No matter what our job or situation, we will find, through spiritual growth, that we are to entertain rather than merely be entertained. We can entertain the spirit of Christ and, in increasing degree, bring the comforting, healing influence of Soul into our lives and to others. We'll love joy and live joy, and so, be blessed by it.

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