Mind over Matter: E-pistle 03.18.11

I always thought “mind over matter” hearkened back to religious beliefs or practices of Hinduism and Buddhism. Like levitation when learned yogis could, focusing their attention, leverage spiritual power to lift some object without touching it or applying any visible, physical force.

Researching the phrase, I learned it was first cited from 1863, originally referring to the increasing evolutionary importance of brain capacity over muscle strength in mammals, including humans. Though popularized during the 1960s and 1970s when used to explain paranormal phenomena, in general, mind over matter denotes a belief that reasoning and human spirit finally offer greater possibility, even power, than brute force. It’s every puny, smart kid’s consolation!

I’ve never seen anyone levitate anything (though I don’t totally disbelieve in the possibility)! But we’ve all seen how ideas and emotions and beliefs and commitments can turn the whole world upside down and around.

For me, in its simplest form, mind over matter is my friend Diane making it through over four months in India without ever experiencing the stomach conditions everyone else suffered. When asked how she managed this feat, she just laughed and explained she willed herself not to get sick. Psychosomatic illness is the negative version. The power of positive thinking is the creative example.

My own “perhaps uniquely-Michael” interpretation (referring to a tendency I’ve notice more lately– that I make connections others don’t always see, much less believe; let’s just call it “creativity” that a certain friend, Sally, seems to have loosed in me!) is confidence that “things invisible” can affect our physical, visible world.

One doesn’t even have to be a theist in order to believe this! Look no farther than love to recognize an “invisible power” that regularly and dramatically affects our physical world, maybe mostly by effecting us. The same applies to any other of the emotions that animate our relationships.

But, as believers in God, we go further. Not only do humanistic impulses or motivations, such as love or loyalty or justice or service, matter in our physical world. Other invisible forces, outside of our human impulses and interactions, also have effect. Not just causes beyond our control. But forces from beyond us. We speak of God as such a force. The first cause. To me, this doesn’t seem such a long shot.. or even leap… of faith. Instead, it’s just humility.

The parting the Red Sea in Exodus, the resurrection of the dead in the Gospels, and people floating up in the air in Revelation are all biblical examples of how the physics of our material world aren’t the whole story. They illustrate dramatically, albeit metaphorically, how God’s will effects matter. In fact, the Bible seems to be chiding, even warning: the effect of the invisible can be much greater than the invisibility of its means might lend us material creatures to believe!

Maybe as we move towards Easter, you should ask yourself: how can God have an affect on me?

I give thanks that we live in a world where there is more movement and something stronger than that which meets the eye!

As I write this, I am thinking…in awe… of the technicians and workers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Clearly they recognize the harm of continued exposure to the radiation. And yet they stay and serve in order to try and prevent a meltdown that would endanger many more. They offer, sacrifice really, their own safety and well-being, their lives, to prevent others harm.

Mind over matter… or spirit over all the narrow calculus of reason and self-interest.

See you in church,

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