You’re probably reading this on a screen. You already know we live in an advanced age. In significant ways we’ve progressed far beyond anything our ancestors would have imagined.
Every hour of the day we’re reminded of this obvious point of comparison – technology. In one of my closets I have a manual and electric typewriter. Both have been collecting dust for years.
Speaking of relics, what happened to the neighborhood brick-and-mortar music store? And just last week while flying from Washington, D.C., to Boston, it was clear we wouldn’t make our scheduled arrival time because of bad weather, so thanks to on-board Wi-Fi, I e-mailed my wife about the problem and she messaged back in moments that she was ready with an alternative plan. Time and distance are basically irrelevant thanks to technology.
Where we’ve hit a snag is in society’s efforts to improve health. Plain and simple, we’re not getting better. We’re not riding the wave of advancement. Sad to say, the tide is going in the opposite direction.
While many look forward to a day when innovations in technology will put our lives on a healthier trajectory, I don’t find that a reassuring promise. In fact I feel that pinning our hopes for better health on future generations of microscopic silicon chips is completely disconnected from a deeper need we have.
What I believe we’re starved for is the spiritual more than the technical; the thought more than the thing. No matter what dazzling, hyperfast devices may be on the drawing board, and no matter what amazing capabilities these objects will possess, they’re still the byproduct, not the source, of ideas.
We need breakthrough thinking in the world of health. We need stirring, awakening, paradigm-busting ideas. It’s that kind of thinking that restored Emily Jaeger’s health many years ago.
Emily was a college student studying biology, and one evening, while sitting in her living room preparing for her class, she began to feel incapacitated. She was frightened by the sudden difficulty she had in breathing and her inability to use her legs. She even wondered if she was dying.
But that mind-set didn’t keep her down. She fought the temptation to be mesmerized by what she imagined as a worst-case scenario and instead turned her thought to the Divine. What pierced the fear was a simple, spiritual idea: that Life is infinite and always present and comes from Spirit. She pondered that idea – literally prayed with that as her premise – and within a short time felt free again. She was normal and well and continued with her studies through the evening. That took place over two decades ago, and there was no recurrence.
If health were solely a physical phenomenon, it wouldn’t make much difference what Emily’s state of mind was, whether she was fearless or frightened, happy or sad, supported or alone. Neither euphoria nor depression would change the physical condition.
But experiences such as hers and years of academic and professional research suggest that what influences the human mind greatly affects the body. “Qualities like faith, hope, and forgiveness, and the use of social support and prayer seem to have a noticeable effect on health and healing,” reports one university study.
This shouldn’t, and doesn’t, affect the bright promise of technology. It will continue to develop and flourish, and no doubt at an exhilarating pace. Someday we’ll look back on today as a fairly primitive period in human history.
Still, brilliant technological outcomes will follow brilliant ideas. It’s fresh thoughts, not things, that lead us forward.
For those striving to have healthier outcomes and live healthier lives, there’s a need for better thinking. It’s worth cultivating a healthy mentality – whether through regular time for prayer, contemplation, spiritual study, or all of the above – in order to experience the health-promoting effect of spiritual ideas. If that means having to part ways with your electronic device for a few minutes in order to, as the Bible says, “set your affection on things above," so be it.
First published on Psychology Today’s 'Our Health” blog.