What would Agatha Christie Do? In 1971 she put her name on a petition urging the conservation of an endangered species: the traditional Latin mass, threatened with extinction in the aftermath of Vatican II. The petition noted that the preconciliar mass, a thing of beauty in its own right, was the inspiration for countless works of poetry, philosophy, music and other arts throughout the centuries.
Josh Waitzkin, the chess prodigy who was the inspiration for the film Searching for Bobby Fischer, describes his approach to learning in a new book, The Art of Learning. Waitzkin refers to his experiences, first as a child learning chess, and then as a young adult learning to become a martial arts master.“It is rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top,” he says, “but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skill set. Depth beats breadth any day of the week, because it opens a channel for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential.” Waitzkin calls the process “a journey in the pursuit of excellence.”
Jeremy M. Loveless. Nathanael J. Doring. Richard A. Bennett. James A. Funkhouser. J. Adan Garcia. According to a recent article in the New York Times, these are the names of the five soldiers killed in Iraq over the three-day Memorial Day weekend this year. If I had nothing else to say in this column, I would also name the 24 soldiers killed over Memorial Day weekends since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, along with the 4,000-some Americans who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since the wars in those countries began. I wish I could also name the Afghan and Iraqi dead, but I do not know anyone who keeps track of their names.
I have a recurring nightmare about the final exam on which my college graduation depends. Thinking I am prepared, I open a blue booklet only to discover that I am being tested in a language I do not know. I try to explain that there has been a terrible mistake, but the proctor is unforgiving. I am sent back to my chair to take a test that I have no hope of understanding, let alone passing.
The current spate of atheist, antitheist and antireligious books has made me ask myself whether I ought to be working, strictly pro bono, for the defense. Fortunately there are a host of reasonable and well-spoken public intellectuals like Alister McGrath, Keith Ward and John Haldane who are willing to undertake this tedious but necessary job.
The focus of geriatric doctors on testing for memory loss, which leads to possible diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, is part of a war against the old, according to Margaret Morganroth Gullette, resident scholar at Brandeis University. She likens it to educators being preoccupied with testing schoolchildren. “‘Dementia’ is a label that dehumanizes,” she says. What aging people need is social support, which itself can enhance a sense of well-being that contributes to better memory. “In thinking about memory loss, we do well to remember two simple precepts,” she says. “Do not panic about your own. Be gentle toward other people’s” (Interpretation, April).