Century Marks

Century Marks

Strike a chord

Choral singing is the most popular and durable arts-related participatory activity in the United States. Nationally 28.5 million people sing in one or more of about 250,000 chorus groups. There may be mental and physiological reasons for this: singing, particularly in groups, makes people happy. While singing releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical of the brain, choral singing has the greatest effect on people's happiness. In an Australian study in 2008 choral singers on average expressed greater happiness than the general public, even when those singers were carrying greater burdens than the average person not singing in choirs. The benefits of choral singing in particular come from the fact that it is a social activity, which gives people a sense of belonging and combats loneliness (TLC.com).

Slippery slope

According to Cul­len Murphy (God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World), the church did no worse in using torture than modern states, and there is some evidence to show that the church behaved better. The church put limits on the use of torture: how severe and how often, when it could be used and by whom. But the limits could be stretched. If a second session of torture was prohibited, its use was sometimes construed as the continuance of a previous session (American Scholar, Winter).

That’s life

John Dear SJ introduced the Gospel of Mark to teens in a confirmation class in a remote parish in New Mexico and asked them what they liked or didn't like about the text, what they thought made sense, what seemed crazy. "What is this 'kingdom of God'?" he asked. One student impatiently responded, "The kingdom of God is life." That seemed to Dear like an insight worthy of a Thomas Merton or a Thich Nhat Hanh. Yes, Dear thought to himself on his way home, God's reign offers fullness of life for everyone, friend and foe alike (Lazarus, Come Forth! Orbis).

Coming out

Some of the children of the wealthiest Americans have been involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. One held a sign reading, "I have more money than I know what to do with. Tax me more." A sign held by twins read, "You would know our dad, if we told you who he was." Some of children of the 1 percent said it was hard to decide to get involved-it was almost like "coming out" (The Week, December 30–January 6).

Patient care

Dr. Stephen Workman, an internist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has reflected on what doctors should and shouldn't say when patients are dying. When he senses that death is possible, he says to patients: "You could die during this hospital admission. Is that something you've been thinking about?" He might follow up with, "What have you been thinking, and what are your expectations?" He thinks doctors should not say that a patient is failing to respond to treatment; rather, they should say that the treatments are not working. It is the treatments that fail, not the dying patient (New York Times, December 20).