by Eric Nelson, guest contributor
Serving as a spokesperson for Christian Science, much of my time is spent correcting inaccuracies and misconceptions about my faith that appear in the daily press and, rarely but occasionally, the entertainment media. In one particular instance, however, I was pleased to find that few such corrections were necessary thanks, in no small measure, to the performance of one woman in Jamie Pachino’s stage play, "Splitting Infinity."
The play explores the apparent conflict between science and religion; between those who rely solely upon mathematical and empirical evidence as a means of understanding the physical universe, and those who turn to prayer to connect with the infinite Divine. The characters employed include a Nobel laureate astrophysicist, her lover, a rabbi, and a devout Christian Scientist.
It would perhaps be tempting (if predictable) to pit one side against the other in this cosmic quest — the rational empiricists against the irrational religionists. And it might be equally tempting (and equally predictable) to create and cast stereotyped caricatures of the respective viewpoints presented. But this is not what I found in “Splitting Infinity.” Instead, I found that these characters actually had a lot more in common than not.
As I watched the play — paying particular attention to how Christian Science was both presented and portrayed — I was surprised to see a balanced, if not entirely accurate, presentation.
Sure, the scripting could have been better. For instance, none of the Christian Scientists I’ve ever known are categorically opposed to the medical profession, as was implied in the play. No Christian Scientist I know would ever knowingly allow their child to suffer. And no Christian Scientist I know would ever sacrifice their child in the name of religious dogma. That said, the woman who played the Christian Scientist did a commendable job of presenting a sympathetic character — thoughtful, intelligent, and caring.
What I saw in this character was a woman acting in consonance with her highest sense of right; a woman whose decision to rely solely on prayer for healing — and her expectation of healing — was born of her personal success in keeping her own diabetes at bay; a woman not unlike many of those in the audience perhaps facing similar challenges, similar crucibles, similar decisions.
The end of the play leaves the audience considering two symmetric if unanswered questions: Was the Christian Scientist betrayed by her faith in God? Was the astrophysicist betrayed by her quest to discover a Godless universe?
I won’t give away the ending (or my bias) by saying whether I agree or disagree with the answers presented, but I will say that I’m glad that Christian Science was at least included in the discussion. Rather than proliferating the idea that science and religion are absolutely and eternally incompatible, its practice has proven for me and countless others that, in the words of Albert Einstein, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
Eric Nelson lives in Hayward, California and serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. He also works as a Christian Science practitioner, helping those interested in relying solely on the power of prayer for healing.
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Shubha Bala, associate producer
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The World Cup final expects to draw 700 million viewers in a few hours. And with all the fanfare and elaborate ceremonies preceding this championship game, soccer at its core is a game of universal appeal and absolute simplicity. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the continent of Africa itself.
We saw a continent come together to support its last surviving participant, Ghana, when all others were eliminated. Can you imagine the English doing the same for their Scottish brothers, or Americans celebrating Mexico advancing?
As photographer Jessica Hilltout, who documented the many ways in which the sport is played across Africa in her series "Amen: Grassroots Football," points out in her interview with The New York Times, “The beautiful game exists in its purest form in what I saw — people playing for the joy of playing.” And, the game can be played almost anywhere using almost anything: driftwood fashioned as goal posts, leather sandals as soccer shoes, pitches as gravel parking lots, and even balls made out of old socks and plastic bags and twine.
This passion for play, regardless of one’s environment or circumstances, takes place in the farthest reaches of our planet. The slide show below is a selection of photographs from Flickr capturing that joy of the game.
(photo: Child in Soale, Ghana by Jessica Hilltout)Comments
by Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer
Anoushka Shankar performs at the Wychwood Music Festival in 2007. (photo: Damian Rafferty/Fly)
"…when you’re improvising, it completely forces you to be in the moment, and every bit of your mind and your heart has to be involved with nothing but the melody that you’re playing, the time cycle you’re playing, and what’s happening with your musicians. And that being in the moment is, I think, one of the most important things you can possibly do, whether it’s through meditation or music or studying religion. And that’s always the goal of any meditator is to be in the moment always and not to have your head stuck in the future or stuck in the past. And when you’re able to do that, that’s the whole idea of Zen, I think, as well. And so that’s really beautiful."
I’m taking an an introductory Everyday Improv class right now, and it’s been a delightful challenge to step out of my thinking brain and trust that I don’t need to script or plan into the future — that what I blurt out in the creative rush of the moment will be better and truer than whatever I might concoct in anticipation. I relish the central tenets of performance improv, like accepting every idea as a gift, saying “yes and” to whatever manifests in a scene, trusting my gut, and staying authentic in the moment. It’s not always easy to live up to these principles, but I’m having fun trying.
We’ve heard recently from some listeners about improv is enriching their daily lives. Jim Martinez, a former Wall Street IT professional and teacher in the South Bronx, responded to our recent program with Adele Diamond about how he’s helping schools to meld performance improv and technology in ways that are playful and collaborative.
I hope that we can devote a full program to the theme of improvisation in the future. I see this building on past shows like "Play, Spirit, and Character" and our Repossessing Virtue series on the economic downturn where some of you shared how you’re learning to live improvisationally in the face of greater financial uncertainty.Comments
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer
After a group conversation about which Star Wars movie was the best one (discounting the new trilogy, obviously, my favorite The Empire Strikes Back has a strong following), I went out for lunch. In the food court nearest to our building, I saw at a distance a man sitting at a table, pencil in hand, his palm squeezing his forehead. He was looking down at some paper, and looked like he had to figure out a way to balance his finances or die. As I got closer, I saw what he was working on: a crossword puzzle. He was completely taken.
As I walked back to the office, I thought, “Gee, I should take up a new hobby.” I thought of just a few weeks ago when I was playing with my cousin’s son, following the instructions of a Lego jet, sifting through the pieces to find a red block with two studs, and feeling this kind of meditative calm come over me. I remembered being lost, as I would be in childhood, sifting through the blocks the same way. Maybe I should become a Legomaniac as an adult. (Unfortunately, sitting on the floor isn’t much fun anymore.) I guess I’m noticing all this because we just recorded some promotional language for our upcoming rebroadcast of Play, Spirit and Character.
(photo: “crosswords" by m_m_mnemonic/Flickr)
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Our program on the spirit of play continues to garner attention. This time Krista’s appearance at the New York Public Library with Stuart Brown is the entry point for Robin Marantz Henig’s long-form piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
The program’s trajectory has been a curious one, with a long tail no doubt. I watched the PUSH participants gasp in awe when Stuart Brown showed images of a polar bear and tethered sled dog frolick in the Canadian tundra. The collective sigh amounted to more than an “oh, isn’t that cute” sentiment.
I suggested the topic and Stuart Brown as a potential guest. To my surprise, Krista liked the idea. The idea of play didn’t explicity touch on religion or spirituality, but its implications spoke to the humanity of our nature, as children and now as adults.
We received a healthy number of comments after the radio broadcast/podcast release. And, more unexpectedly, the companion narrated slideshow of animals at play was so successful that it crashed APM’s Web servers. It’s been viewed by more than 2 million people - getting picked up by social recommendation engines such as Digg and by newspaper blogs in Boston and Seattle.
For me, this program is a reminder that one obligation of journalists is to be proxy agents for the public, to stand in and report on events you aren’t able to attend and tell stories that are relevant to your lives. I think we exemplified this, and have inspired other journalists to do so as well.
(photo: Tom Schierlitz for The New York Times)Comments