Century Marks

Century Marks

Mormon candidates

The Republican Party may have two Mormon candidates running for the presidency. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is already in the race. Jon Huntsman, a distant cousin of Romney's, former governor of Utah and until recently Obama's ambassador to China, is also considering throwing his hat into the ring. Huntsman was a Mormon missionary to Taiwan where he learned Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien. He's a bit coy about his religion: he refers to himself as a very spiritual person who is proud of his Mormon roots, but declines to say whether he still belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Time, May 23).

Underfoot

A decade ago singer-songwriter Paul Simon went through a period of self-loathing. He kept hearing a voice inside himself tearing him down. Simon's doctor referred him to a skilled psychiatrist who had quit his job to work for a church in Baltimore. The psychiatrist told Simon that it wasn't unusual for writers to hear such inner voices condemning them. He advised Simon to imagine the voice as that of a comic figure like Bugs Bunny and to put the voice under his shoe. The experience ended up being referred to in the line "Who's that conscience sticking on the sole of my shoe?" in Simon's song, "Sure Don't Feel Like Love" (Rolling Stone, May 12).

Fairy tale?

In 2009 cosmologist Stephen Hawking was gravely ill. He was asked recently whether during this time he feared death. His response caused an outcry: "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." In his bestselling 1988 book A Brief History of Time, Hawking had written about what a great accomplishment it would be if scientists could come up with a theory of everything, "for then we should know the mind of God" (Guardian, May 15).

Praying for Osama

At the request of a parishioner, a Catholic church in West Palm Beach, Florida, prayed for the soul of Osama bin Laden during a mass last month. The prayer angered many of the other parishioners, but the priest said his church has never turned down a request for prayer (arcamax.com, May 18).

Miscalculation

May 21 came and went and the Rapture didn't happen as radio preacher Harold Camping had predicted. Followers of his had donated thousands of dollars toward a media campaign to warn people of Judgment Day. Some of them quit their jobs or dropped out of school in anticipation of Christ's second coming. "Life goes on," said John Ramsey of New Jersey on May 22; his pregnant wife thought she'd never get to see her unborn child. Ramsey and his mother both need to find another job since they quit theirs in anticipation of the end. Camping, owner of the Family Radio network, said he wasn't wrong, his prediction was off by five months. The apocalypse will happen October 21 (Huffington Post, May 23; Boston Globe, May 24).