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Thursday, August 09, 2012

On the Unhelpfulness of Good Vibes.

(or) The Thermodynamics of Prayer

I am not a physicist, but Jim Parsons plays one on TV, so what the hey. I really wish that I were a Heinlein, but I shall have to muddle through.

It has become chic for unbelievers, or Those Fallen Away, or New Agey folk to encroach into territory once maintained for the Practising Believer, that of Praying. It has been normal for persons with need to ask fellow believers (or people they know to be believers whether the needy is one or no) to pray for this or that situation, problem, or crisis. "Please pray for me.", then is a tacit, if last-ditch recognition that there may be a Source of help yet unplumbed, and that prayer is a way to access that help. However, often on facebook, when prayers are solicited, some responders will offer "good vibes" or "good thoughts" to the supplicant, sometimes with the caveat "Well, you know I don't pray, but...." When asked for a tool, they offer a Crackerjack sticker.

"Well, Mr. Aardvark, you are certainly being critical of other people's spirituality."

When I ask for roadside assistance because my engine has blown, giving me a bottle of homebrew oil additive ain't-a-gonna help.

Your Aardvark was an Environmental Studies major, and his favorite prof was G. Tyler Miller, who summed up the three laws of thermodynamics thusly:

1) There is no "away".

2) You cannot get something for nothing

3) You can't even break even.

I would like to concentrate on the third law. There is always loss in a system. Some of the water in my glass evaporates; I cannot drink that amount. When I run current through a wire some of the electricity is lost to resistance and becomes waste heat. Even using superconductors, there is still measurable loss. I pump in x, I get out less than x.

Prayer is the application of energy in a system, an entropy-ridden system. No matter how hard I try, I will come out with less than I put in, unless I am connectiing with an Outside Source to pump more energy in than I am capable of doing, and that, kiddies, is the whole point. "Good thoughts", "good vibes" are all in the system, subject to entropy (a result of sin. Thanks, Adam!). Do your good vibes help you, beyond a measure of feel-gooding? Do your good thoughts bring in a raise from an obstreperous boss? The only solution is pumping in more energy from outside the system, from a loving God. The believer's prayers to God provide the conduit to bring energy from outside the system, energy that can bring provision, wholeness, answers, and blessing into our lives.  It disciplines us into more obedient sons and daughters of the King, which makes the system more efficient.

Thinking at one another on our Silent Planet is subject to the third law. Only by plugging into what is outside the system can we surmount our entropic sin-ridden lives, and bring true help where there is need.


Giraffe said...

"Good thoughts", "good vibes" are all in the system, subject to entropy (a result of sin.

Not sure. I don't think thoughts are material and therefore aren't subject to thermodynamic laws. (Perhaps you are being allegorical and I am being my typically dense self.)

But your point remains that they are useless.

One wonders why people who don't believe always seem to look for a supernatural substitute. Anything but Jesus.

Most likely, they are looking for something comforting to say instead of "I hope that the collection of molecules that makes up your body doesn't cease to function in the manner that we call life" I don't know how you can comfort a materialist.

The Aardvark said...

I am being mildly allegorical. To me, entropy resulted from sin, and so the entire creation groans for its redemption.

Yes. Always. ANYTHING but Jesus. I have a friend, an anime voice actor, whose life has gone to hell, but by goo, he'll do Tarot readings for you! They have not helped him in any apparent way.

JY-raffe, you have uttered profundity. "I don't know how you can comfort a materialist." That is the issue. The other is: how can a materialist comfort you?

Michael W said...

@Aardvark: "How can a materialist comfort you?"

Well . . . macadamia nut cookies wouldn't be a bad idea. I'm not saying they'd solve the entire problem, but it's worth a try.

The Aardvark said...

Michael W.

I have been quite vanquished by your ineluctable logic, these past 5 yahrens....