Dear Broadview Family:
Recently, I called a friend to offer some comfort. In one month, she lost her primary job, a cherished romance, and the place where she was living — with plenty of betrayal and unfairness all around.
“I’m practicing upside-down gratitude,” she told me. “I found it on the internet. I’m writing down all the stuff I don’t feel thankful for, then finding ways to be thankful anyway for every item on the list.”
I know the sound of forced cheer. So I asked her gently whether this gratitude exercise was helping. “Not really,” she sighed. Then I shared something I found in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings:
What is gratitude but a powerful camera obscura, a thing focusing light where love, memory, and all within the human heart is present to manifest light.1
Camera obscura means “dark room.” On one wall is a pinhole to the outdoors. Through some optical magic, the pinhole projects the outdoor scene onto the opposite wall in a bright circle, where the outdoor image gets flipped 180 degrees.
Back in the day, artists used this technique to capture the accurate proportions of a landscape. It’s the forerunner of the modern camera. But why did Mrs. Eddy use it as a metaphor for gratitude?
Perhaps, to her, the dark room was the “closet” or “sanctuary of Spirit,” where Jesus urged us to pray.2 And perhaps the bright circle was our topsy-turvy material experience turned right side up through prayer. After all, Mrs. Eddy often used the word “inverted” for false reports from the material senses.3
Listening to this, my friend was intrigued. So instead of trying to force gratitude like a hothouse bloom, she called a practitioner; got very, very quiet; and pondered what the practitioner told her: that her life is filled with good, because that’s all there is.
“I was sitting in a pool of lamplight,” she later told me, “with chilly rain outside and the room all hushed and warm. Suddenly the last month felt perfect. Not in human terms, of course. But I could feel every bit of it, perfect. I felt cradled, cared for, protected. I felt: ‘He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust….’”4
“If we take Eddy’s camera obscura seriously,” she added, “we won’t try to force gratitude in an artificial way. Instead….” She paused to find the right words. “Gratitude is the atmosphere of our encounter with God. It’s the moment of release into right side up. We think of it as a doorway to prayer — but maybe it’s really the destination.”
Now this is just one person’s experience. But to us it seemed profound. We share it in case it helps you deepen your experience of Thanksgiving this year. If gratitude is “the moment of release into right side up,” we hope you reach that destination again and again this holiday season.
Thanking God for each of you!
Marivic Bay Mabanag
1 Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 164
2 Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 14-15.
3 See, e.g., id. at 301 (“[M]aterial sense … presents an inverted image of Mind and substance with everything turned upside down.”); see also Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, p. 70 (“Mortal mind inverts the true likeness….”);Mary Baker Eddy, Unity of Good, p. 53 (“[E]vil and all its forms are inverted good.”).
4 Psalm 91:4 (KJV).