“Sending You Positive Vibes”
When the world doesn’t want prayer, sending positive thoughts is the social-media-friendly alternative that seems to have just about everyone onboard.
Let’s examine a few premises held by those who send positive thoughts:
- The universe has, or is, some active unseen force.
- We can harness that force, or its energy, and send it to you like a bolt of lightening. Or a text.
- We can make that energy be positive (and positive means whatever I want it to mean) so that it helps you in your time of need.
- Also, let’s leave God to the side on this one. There’s too much baggage in that idea, and we can do this vibes thing just fine on our own, thankyouverymuch.
Hm, how sturdy are these premises — and do they agree with one another, or are some mutually exclusive?
One of the greatest ways I find to expand my mind beyond where it currently sits, is asking someone who holds an idea either that I am not familiar / do not understand or with which I disagree, to first clarify their position (“What do you mean by that?”), and then to articulate how they arrived at the idea (“How did you come to that conclusion?”)
I’d like to ask someone this line of questions when they respond to a friend far away who is in need, that they are either thinking or sending good thoughts, positive thoughts, positive energy, good vibes, etc. Because frankly, I don’t buy it, because I think, even when well-meant, it’s a bit contrived to offer it as a sentiment to the hurt/lost/needy.
First, what exactly does this mean? (Reader: this is an open question. Please feel free to chime in and answer in the comments below.) Is it simply a nice way of saying “I’m thinking about you,” or, “I wish there was something I could do. If there is, I’m willing to do it; just let me know,” or, “I’m not a praying person, but I want to provide you the same feeling of support, and this message conveys it.”?
Or do you genuinely believe that forming a thought, then concentrating on it in your mind can physically alter something outside yourself, that if for example you see a child across the playground whose ice cream is about to slide off the cone, and you take a moment to concentrate really hard on willing that ice cream to stay on that cone.. does it then become more likely to stay? If so, wow, how did you do that? Is there something happening that physicists could measure if they had their instruments all set up around this scenario?
Professor X, is that you? Jean Grey? Houdini?
Or is it metaphysical, meaning it’s not something measurable and tangible — like wind, but not quite wind because it’s something even less noticeable to the naked-eyed observer? If it is, on what plane of existence is this action happening? On a spiritual and non-physical one? What constitutes spirit — especially within a worldview where Darwinian macro evolution explains our physical presence — and how does your brain cause action in this outside plane, simply by observing the situation then firing neurons that move you into a place of empathy? If this is a pretty accurate, albeit oversimplified, explanation for what you can do with your positive thoughts, where does that leave you about questions of what happens when we die (meaning, when our physical bodies stop working — heart and brain flatline — and shortly after start decomposing)? Do our spirits live on? How do we know anything about that, and if our spirits can live on eternally, is there anything/anyone that’s already been, from time eternal prior to when we were made, who can perhaps shed light on things? What informed your opinions on those matters? (And importantly, what haven’t you considered on that particular topic?)
Or is it not metaphysical, but rather it’s just happening on some macro scale that we can’t quite see in our microcosm, because the action is being performed by the universe, in a similar way to karma? Many questions still arise, similar to those above. (And relatedly, the same questions apply to the idea of Karma.) What or who is the universe, and does it have a mind to think about and guide and direct stuff? Have you ever seen something without personhood have a mind that actually thinks and directs? (I’m not talking AI, which is artificial intelligence and only performs what actually-intelligent programmers have pathed it to possibly do in response to a given stimuli.) How can the container direct the contained? Is the mind inside or outside the container, or sort of bobbing right at the edge? And how in the name of Richard did you come to this conclusion?
Have you ever gone down these rabbit holes, if you’re the type who offers to send positive thoughts to your friends during finals week or when their grandma dies?
I think the lack of clarity in this enterprise is one reason why those who hold the Bible in high regard will stick with prayers. And were you to talk to those faithful pray-ers, who have actually thought their words and intentions through, I bet you’d find that they don’t claim to be sending their prayers out to the hurting person or into the universe. Because they know that their prayers don’t have power, in and of themselves, to do anything. Instead, the one who has power to do something in an agent (an actor; not like an actor like Danny Glover, who was great in Angels in the Outfield, by the way; actor or agent as in a person who can do an action) into whose ears the prayers are spoken and whose heart is stirred to action by them. And so it is not thought that the prayers will heal anyone; but prayers sent up to God, it is said, will open up the storehouse of His love and compassion and righteousness and sovereignty over all things, because if the Bible they believe is true, it teaches that God is a great lover of mankind, and wills His ultimate goodness over the human race. (Read my last story again: God’s answered prayer does not always mean the answers we want or hope for, because, welp, we’re not God.)
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