Century Marks

Century Marks

Folly of war

In 2010, Bob Woodward interviewed President Obama as part of his research for the book Obama's Wars. As the president ushered Woodward out of the Oval Office at the end of the interview, Woodward showed him a quotation from a book on World War II. The quotation said that war is corrupting and that it tarnishes the soul and the spirit. Obama said, "I have sympathies with this point of view." Then he told Woodward to go home and read his Nobel Peace Prize speech. Woodward took the president's suggestion. In that speech President Obama concluded that though "war is sometimes necessary . . . war at some level is an expression of human folly" (Woodward, Obama's Wars).

Courage to be

Bonnie Ware has long worked in palliative care, spending time with the dying during the final weeks of their lives. Over the years she's heard the same regrets from the dying. They wish they had had the courage to be themselves, rather than trying to meet expectations. They say they should not have worked so hard—a lament heard especially from the older generation of males. They regret not having had the courage to express their feelings, even if doing so would have caused others pain. They say they should have stayed in touch with their friends and given more time to nurturing friendships (Activist Post, November 30).

A hitch in the review

Christopher Hitchens thought ethics was a matter of action, not intention. To illustrate his point he told how he had had a chance to review a book by an author who had given one of Hitchen's own works a bad review. It was a wonderful opportunity for revenge, but Hitchens realized the book he was reviewing was brilliant and he had to say so. His only obligation was to the truth. Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, died last month at age 62 of esophageal cancer (Chicago Tribune, December 17).

On deck

A well-read Amish man told David McConnell, a professor at the College of Wooster, about his warm-up routine for reading a book: he first skims the table of contents, then he pages through the index. "It's like being in the on-deck circle," the man said. "You rub your hands, you spit, you watch the pitcher and then you have some idea of what's coming" (Men­nonite Quarterly Review, October).