“If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist,” Brené Brown was told by a research professor when still an aspiring PhD student.
Now, many years later and a research professor in her own right, she begs to differ.
A video, based on insights from a large number of “human connection” stories she has amassed, proved her point. The TEDx talk, focusing on “our ability to empathize, belong, love”, resonated so deeply with the public that it went on to clock up 14 million views.
“Perhaps stories are just data with a soul,” Dr Brown told her audience in Houston.
In similar vein, stories of a health dividend from a “divine connection” – often called prayer – are slowly but surely being woven into the growing debate about the importance of life’s immeasurables.
One story, shared on the internet with a touching sincerity, is that of a young woman slowly dying from a severe case of sepsis. After several disappointing visits to church meetings devoted to healing she was – much to the surprise of her specialist – cured during a one-to-one prayer session with a pastor.
“Never have I met a girl in all of my practice who went to death’s door: knocked at it, opened it up a little and peered inside, then slammed it shut and walked away as though nothing happened,” her doctor later told her.
For the young woman, her story didn’t end with the death-defying healing and her freedom from a daily cocktail of 50-60 pills and intravenously-delivered antibiotics, as dramatic as all this was.
Like many who have been healed through prayer, she experienced a significant “spiritual side effect” – gaining a new insight into the nature of the divine and our relationship with it.
“I have found that sometimes we put God in a box, and we make the God we serve a reflection of man instead of us being a reflection of God,” she wrote.
This is also a key point in a Bible-based approach to healing that has met my healthcare needs over the last three decades. I’ve learned that the only possible benefit of imploring a magnified “reflection of man” to help us is the mind-body effect that a blind faith can have on our wellbeing. Because, put simply, there is no such God to answer those prayers.
But what if God were an unseen, underlying principle of non-judgmental love, instead of an amplified, capricious personality? And what if prayer was the “unspoken desire” that brings us nearer to this “source of all existence and blessedness” (Mary Baker Eddy), opening our eyes to what it really means to reflect, or express, that principle?
None of this would be objectively measurable in and of itself, but if it repeatedly brought an actual health benefit to mind and body it would certainly offer compelling evidence of a loving, divine presence and power, at least to the one benefiting from it.
Data that measures the measurable is clearly an invaluable scientific tool that has led to many pivotal innovations we now can’t imagine living without.
But the value of “data with a soul” and, indeed, of healing “data” pointing to the existence of the immeasurable divine soul, is quietly but persuasively gathering momentum.
This was first published on Huffington UK as: If It Heals You Does It Need to Be Measured?