I am a self-confessed, avid follower of the Downton Abbey series. The series finale last Sunday made headlines in all major news sites, as it was a worldwide success for the Public Broadcasting System – never seen in any previous production.
What drew the millions of viewers? Yes, the sets and costumes were period perfect and the (at times) soap-opera like drama of the characters was catching. But it seems to me that the universal appeal was the qualities expressed by most characters, regardless of the latest crisis. The executive producer, in an interview, told CNN “they were always working to do the right thing.”
Was that the appeal to fans? A new Gallup Poll suggests that a majority of us feel we increasingly lack moral values to ground our decision-making. Are we, thus, drawn to this show because it offers a reminder of what our families and communities can be when people know what is “right” and they strive to do it?
Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy, as a result of her own research, observations and study of the Bible, took a spiritual view of understanding and doing what was right. Eddy believed that we can all find a higher purpose in life. Her conclusion was grounded in the Biblical statement of our true nature as God’s creation found in Genesis 1 - man made in His image and likeness; and, in Jesus’ works, which proved the healing power of knowing God, good, and loving our neighbour as ourselves.
Her writings have given me much insight on values important in life’s journey and on how we treat each other. Living life according to God’s laws of good – a system she called Christian Science – brought healing to people in her day of not only moral character faults, but various health challenges. These principles continue to heal and bless.
I especially like where she writes in her collection of Miscellaneous Writings: “A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God.” (Mis. 354:15)
Sounds like a healthy moral compass for making excellent decisions in life.
Seeking and finding a moral compass that heals our lives isn’t relegated to the past. David Brooks, a successful New York Times columnist, reached a point in his life where he wanted to gain inner peace through expressing more humility and integrity. “I came to the conclusion… that the people I admired had achieved an … inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments,” he states in an interview.
In his recent book “The Road to Character”, Brooks shines a light on the sort of moral virtues that have largely been discounted in our modern age, yet, have a lot to offer us. Admitting that his life had been one of ‘smug superficiality’, he now spends more time studying morality and religion in search of a richer, more spiritual life.
Today, we often have the opportunity - through a television drama or stage production - to observe how man’s compass of character can make or break a relationship, a family, a business or even a whole nation.
But moral character is not something that we can learn from a script. And our moral compass may waver at times to find the ‘true north’ of integrity - the inner virtue. But making a consistent effort to understand that we are the offspring of a truthful, all-good creator, we can trust in the promise of the prophet, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isa. 30:12)
The prophet wasn’t talking about a direction, he was talking about a “way” to live our lives - i.e. with grace, pure motives, and consecrated tenderness; exquisitely displayed by so many of the Downton Abbey characters.
Wendy Margolese is a community blogger for Metroland and writes regularly on the relationship between thought, spirituality and health, and trends in that field. She is the media liaison for Christian Science in Ontario. Contact her at Ontario@compub.org. Follow on Twitter: @wmargolese