Thoughts on My Way to Epidural Ecstasy

*WARNING: I begin this writing with a warning label.  You are about to enter the philosophical and theological world of a man dazed by several weeks of lingering back pain, but determined to have something to say, so enter this essay ONLY at risk of thinking deep thoughts.  I just hope it does not bring you too much pain! 🙂

With time on my hands and a pain in my leg (that emanates from my back and sprays fireworks down to the top of my foot, stopping periodically at my knee for a conference call with the pain demon), I find myself drawn to an article I read several months ago.  I had stored it in my “writing ideas” folder and while waiting on a call from a doctor to tell me he would be glad to stick a few needles in my back and smile on the way to the bank, while I hopefully smile on my way to epidural ecstasy!

The article comes from David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times and is entitled, “Moving Toward a Richer View of Human Nature.”  He says our failures as a nation spring from “reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature” which makes us “divided creatures.”  Our division comes from the belief that reason is trustworthy, but emotions, are suspect, therefore our society progresses only to the extent that reason can suppress our passions.  In other words, we are good at discussing material things, but bad at talking about emotions!  Hmmmm!

Hoping to escape this “amputated view of human nature,” he references a group of researchers from neuroscience (you know, the folks who give epidural shots … still waiting for that call … see why I was drawn back to this article), psychology, sociology and behavioral economics.  This growing body of research offers key insights:
•    The unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place.
•    Emotion is not opposed to reason:  our emotions assign value to things and are the basis for reason.
•    We are not individuals who form relationships.  We are social animals, deeply connected with one another, who emerge out of relationships.

In simple-speak, what does all this mean?  For me, it confirms what I understand and experience living in this mind and body over a few decades.  Paul knew about “this treasure in earthen vessels” (II Corinthians 4:7), and warned us not to separate our minds from our hearts, our thinking from our doing, the intellectual from the spiritual.  

We are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).  We are designed in and for relationship and Jesus could not have been more clear about ”how” we are to live in whole and healthy relationships:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Brooks says this research identifies a range of deeper talents, which overcomes this amputated view of human nature that continually separates reason from emotion.  He lists 5 of these talents, but the one I find significant is what he calls “limerence.”   Hang with me now!

He says “the conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God.”  Finally, he offers the punch line of the whole essay:  “Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others.”

Duh!  Honestly, haven’t followers of Christ been saying this for centuries?  To finish Paul’s previous thought, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels (conscious mind), so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God (experience this drive more powerfully) and not from ourselves (unconscious mind).”

My point in all this intellectual wonderings … well, even the smart people ultimately come to the same, simple truth.  We are loved and long to love! 

By the way, I still haven’t heard from the shot doctor about my epidural ecstasy, but my heart, soul and mind are completely at peace!

After over three decades of managing and motivating people in the local church as a pastor, I now spend my waking hours heralding the call for living in redemptive, reconciled relationships. I simply call them “stay in the room” relationships.