How I Flunked the Science Fair but Saved the World

In the ninth grade I did a project for the city science fair. It was about photosynthesis. I set up a little lab in my bedroom with colored lights on African Violets. I had no idea what I was doing and I learned nothing. I would rather have been playing baseball.

When the big event came, I displayed my experiment in the sprawling exhibition hall, next to kids who actually knew what they were doing. Science teachers milled around the hall, inspecting the projects and quizzing the students. A teacher approached me, and the conversation came around to genetics. “If you cut the tail off of a rat, will its children have short tails or long ones?”

The answer was obviously “long ones.” But since my mind was with the Yankees more than hypothetical mice, I answered, “short.”

The teacher nodded briefly, said nothing, and moved on.

I didn’t win the science fair.

Fast forward many decades. I’ve moved on from the Yankees to A Course in Miracles and other spiritual studies. The Course Workbook repeats one lesson more than any other: I am as God created me. One morning I wake up and a stunning realization gobsmacks me like a hundred-mile-an-hour fastball: The baby mice have long tails because the external changes to their parents cannot alter the genetic blueprint passed along to them. The parents’ innate wholeness is their legacy to their children. What is imbedded deep within the parent is not affected by external manipulation.

Our spiritual nature ensures that we are whole and perfect. We are created in the image and likeness of God. What goes on in the external world cannot change who we are or affect our true nature. No matter what happens to our body, personality, relationships, career, finances, or worldly politics, external events cannot affect who we are at our core. Our divinity remains intact.

I learned about a healing method in which when a child is born, the parents save the placenta and freeze it. If, later on in life, the child contracts a disease, the parents take some of the placenta and infuse it into the child’s body. The placenta contains the original code for the child’s wholeness or, we might say, innocence. When a threat or denial of innocence attacks the body, its strongest response is to return to innocence.

The title of Marianne Williamson’s book Return to Love captures this principle. When the world assails our well-being, we will not prevail by pushing harder, working more furiously, or attempting to manipulate external circumstances. Instead, we must drop into the place deep inside of us that has never been touched, changed, or damaged by the world. At our core we remain who we always have been and always will be. I am as God created me.

If I am as God created me, so are you, and so is everyone. We don’t need to fix or improve ourselves. You cannot improve upon perfection. The only thing we need to fix are our thoughts that define us as less than we are, limited, broken, ugly, unforgiven, and unsavable. The Course tells us that it is not what we need to be saved from that is important. It is what we need to be saved for. Our destiny is to come home to our original innocence. All that appears lost will be restored as we recognize that we can never lose ourselves. There is no loss in heaven.

In the movie Bedazzled (2000 version), nerd Eliot has an industrial-strength crush on the gorgeous but unattainable Alison. The devil comes along and offers to help Eliot woo Alison in exchange for his soul. Eliot agrees. What the devil doesn’t tell Eliot is that every scenario in which he gets the girl will leave him disappointed and suffering. Finally Eliot ends up in jail, awaiting the devil to take her due. When he tells his cellmate about his predicament, the fellow (who is an angel) tells Eliot, “No devil can take your soul. It’s not yours to give away. Your soul belongs to God.” What God created cannot be damaged, compromised, or lost. The God in you is God forever.

Many of us regret decisions we have made. We believe we have sinned, offended God, and set in motion karma that will hurt us and others. A Course in Miracles tells us that none of this is true. It declares, “. . . all that you believe must come from sin will never happen.”  The world in which sin seems real, the Course explains, is illusion. The world of forgiveness, love, and wellness, is reality. The title of a book based on the teachings of spiritual master H.W.L. Poonja, known as Papaji, captures this liberating principle in three simple words: “nothing ever happened.”

After the science fair I went home and studied about the mice and their tales. I realized that my answer to the teacher was dead wrong. Even if a parent has been damaged, the child is born whole. Now, many years later, the lesson has sunken in. I flunked the fair but learned how to redeem the world. You can lose your tail, but not your soul.  

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Alan Cohen

Alan Cohen is a heart act to follow. One of the most popular inspirational writers and speakers in America, his books, tapes, syndicated column, and transformational seminars have touched the lives of millions of people who have found the courage to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. He is the author ofauthor of many popular inspirational books.

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