The Soul’s Eye

Two recent news items point to interesting links between the digital and the human.

In one, scientists propose that the popularity of Internet stories correlated with their appeal to human emotions.  What makes videos go viral?  According to the latest research, it’s not the use of clever computer algorithms but the ability to capture high-arousal emotional content (positive or negative) that can be spread like a digital contagion.

The other story points to a different “part” of the human make-up.  Just announced is a new app that lets people snap a photo simply by focusing their brain waves.  By staring straight and thinking hard, MindRDR does what its name implies, allowing users to take and share photos “without so much as lifting a finger or uttering a word.”

Google-Glass-MindRDR-jpg(click on the image to see MindRDR at work)

Sometimes heart-warming, sometimes mind-boggling, digital technologies are extending human dimensions of emotion and thought beyond a person’s body.  But even without technological assistance, humans can access higher powers through their own imagination.

Four centuries ago, St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) demonstrated and taught how forming images of the sacred can have a profound effect on one’s heart and soul.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit these mental pictures have “an inestimable efficacy to enlighten the mind and move the will” (On the Preacher and Preaching, p. 50).  Whether in preaching or praying, using the imagination is necessary for producing an awareness of God’s presence in human life.  As the saint acknowledges in his classic Introduction to the Devout Life, “Although faith assures us of (God’s) presence, yet because we do not see him with our eyes we often forget about him and behave as if God were far distant from us.  We really know that he is present, but because we do not reflect on that fact we act as if we did not know it” (part II, chap. 2 p. 74).

So, if you want to experience God – and more vividly hear his words or feel the effects of his touch or see the wonders of his power – just picture it!  Imagine the reality of what you already believe:  that God remains always present with us.  Then you’ll “see” how divine revelation, more so than digital technology, empowers us to know the truth more fully, to show goodness through mercy, or to praise the beauty of the world around us.

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