August 17th, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 6


Attitude is everything, it seems.

A few weeks ago I blogged on how the emotions are not as nondescript, dysfunctional, and inutile, as we’ve usually been taught in our linear, logocentric, Enlightenment culture, where the mind is king!

There’s more to this than meets the eye. Feelings can actually influence our brain. Really!

Just the other day, a study in the journal Psychological Science showed that the ritual of singing “Happy Birthday” before consuming that calorific slice of birthday cake actually makes said cake taste better. Science once again stepping up to the plate! (Or stepping up to the palate!)

A couple of nights ago, I ate a steak, after singing “Happy Birthday” to myself, quietly, sans candles, sans friends (after all it wasn’t my birthday at all; it was just an experiment). And guess what? My steak—done medium, with roasted garlic, and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts with smoked applewood bacon—really tasted terrific.

Actually, it’s not about the singing at all. Rather, it’s about the rituals that accompany the eating, whether it be how one opens a candy bar, or make a coffee, or sets a table, or …. Kathleen Vohs, Land ‘O Lakes Professor of Excellence in Marketing at the University of Minnesota thinks these “repeated, episodic and fixed behaviors” result in our enjoying whatever it is we are eating, simply because of the anticipation it builds up in our minds. Prof. Vohs’ experiment involved getting two groups to eat chocolate bars. Group 1 had to unwrap half the bar and eat it, wait for a bit, then unwrap the other half and eat that. Group 2 were given the freedom to eat the chocolate however they wanted to. Guess what? Group 1 reported a higher satisfaction level with the candy. In fact, they were even willing to pay more money than Group 2 for the same bar!

All this to say, life is a “liturgy,” a sequence of habits/rituals/imaginations, that train, discipline, form, and mold us. These orient us to the world, one way or another, for better or for worse. Perception influences practice. It’s not always (if ever), the case that rules and axioms, and logic and data, move us or persuade us to act. This perception is not entirely a cognitive process; it is more “subcortical” (below the cortex). “Facts” are only seen in light of this affective perception–background. As one writer said, “Feeling is not just an add-on, a flavoured coating for thought: it is the heart of our being, and reason emanates from that central core of emotions.” Strong stuff! It should cause us to reevaluate the old-school approach.

Life usually follows the ritual (or should I say, the larger “story”, the vision, the worldview?). It all depends on whose story we are perceiving, feeling, imagining, and appropriating.

For Christians, Scripture is the Sourcebook that calibrates and shapes and primes our imagination for kingdom life—life the way God wants it lived. As believers and Christ-followers, our imaginations must be shaped by the ritual/story/vision that God offers in Scripture.

I am finally figuring out that this is what Psalm 119 is all about—an adoption of a divine worldview!

Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.
Make me understand the way of Your precepts,
So I will meditate on Your wonders.
I shall delight in Your commandments,
Which I love.
Psalm 119:5, 18, 27, 47

So sing “Happy Birthday!”


  1. Siji Susan August 22, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Commentary on “Attitude” hark back the “Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.

    The way you act is determined by your attitudes and intentions. People and circumstances may influence you, but you do not have to give in. You do what you decide to do (cf. Matt. 15:18,19; 12:34-37).

    Million different scenarios are there to describe attitude. However you have used the simplest way to make everyone think (starting from children) about the significance of attitude.
    In a nutshell I believe, the only difference between a good and a bad day is your attitude. Master our emotions and actions with faith, prayer and contemplation so as to deal situations better.

  2. Pablo August 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for this insight!
    It seems like a good balance of both mind & heart/emotions is essential in our Christian journey.

    • Abe Kuruvilla August 21, 2013 at 12:06 am

      Thanks, Pablo. I agree with you: both mind and heart are integral to our humanity and the image of God we are made in.

  3. Richard August 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Lets communicate back to that author of the study in the journal Psychological Science that singing Happy Birthday before all our consumption of food will get old quickly.

    Feelings flowing from obedience to God’s Word in gratitude and generosity makes my food taste better too! Bowing my head and giving utter thanks to the Father for His meeting my daily need of food once again and eating with a sharing heart not only makes me feel great, but the food to taste wonderful too. (irrespective of my mediocre cooking)

    Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Ephesians 5:19b-20

    Thanks for popping the hood of our minds. Life truly is a sequence of habits/rituals/imaginations, that train, discipline, form, and mold us. May God’s Word be the guiding light which accomplishes that goal for all nations and tribes and psychologists.

    • Abe Kuruvilla August 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      Thanks, Richard.

      (Just remember that “Happy Birthday” is copyright!” Now you know why those restaurant folks sing those bizarre tunes!)


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