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Indestructible ideas

From the October 2014 issue of The Christian Science Journal

As a classroom teacher of writing, I am expected to inculcate in my students habits of critical thinking. The questions I pose to them often lead to deep philosophical discussions on any number of subjects. One of the topics we’ve occasionally discussed, which has profound metaphysical implications, is the mutability of material objects versus the indestructibility of ideas.

I’ve turned to numbers to illustrate the point. I write the numeral “2” on the chalkboard, adding that I then propose to destroy “2.” I erase it, thereby destroying it. “But have I really destroyed it?” I ask. Then I write the same numeral again, again erasing it. Two stick figures follow, erased; two trees, gone. “What’s the point?” I ask, rhetorically. “If a bus should catch fire and be destroyed, is that the end of buses? Or do we not build another bus using a plan and design? If the wooden street number attached to your house appears weather-worn or has chipped paint, does that mean its original idea has aged or become impaired? Can ideas ever be destroyed, deformed, or modified?” 

This is perhaps a simple point, and yet—in a far deeper, more spiritual sense—is this not what Christ Jesus was getting at when he depicted the indestructibility of his own individuality? “Destroy this temple,” he said, “and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). He was referring to his crucifixion and resurrection, the resurrection of his human body. This supreme demonstration over death showed not only Jesus’ own immortality but also the immortal being and life of every woman, man, and child. Each one of us, as the image or idea of God, is as eternally unerasable as our Parent, or Maker, God. 

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