Century Marks

Century Marks

Neural health

Just as our muscles atrophy with inactivity, our ability to connect with other human beings weakens if we spend too much time alone or engage them only via technologies like smart phones, according to Barbara L. Fredrickson, psychologist at the University of North Carolina, and her team of researchers. Social connection also enhances health. “When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other,” Fredrickson wrote. “It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health” (New York Times, March 23).

Iraq, a hard place

Ten years after the beginning of the Iraq War, Americans remain deeply divided over it: 46 percent say the United States mostly achieved its goals in Iraq, while 43 percent say the war was mostly a failure. Americans also continue to disagree over the invasion of Iraq: 44 percent say it was the wrong decision, 41 percent say it was the right thing to do (Pew Research, March 18).

Outsourced weddings

A focus on elaborate wedding ceremonies has led to the quest for the perfect wedding and rising employment for wedding planners. Wedding planners often play the role of pastor and therapist. Expensive weddings cause some wedding guests to joke that they hope the marriage lasts long enough to pay off the wedding (Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Outsourced Self, interviewed by Mars Hill Audio Journal, vol. 115).

Plagued

The massive infestation of locusts in Egypt right before the Jewish Passover struck many Israelis as downright biblical. Millions of grasshopper-like insects swarmed over Israel’s neighbor, and some made their way to southern Israel. Israeli agricultural experts are on high alert, fearing that the locusts could devastate crops. Some Israelis have noted that varieties of the leggy pests are kosher. Locusts were the eighth plague visited upon the Egyptians, according to the Exodus story (RNS).

Stressed

Rising levels of stress are causing more depression among pastors. Stressors include declines in membership and contributions, personal financial worries (often due to educational debt), and discord in congregations. One of the top predictors of depression is social isolation. Pastors moving from hospital visits to funerals to weddings experience a range of unpredictable emotions—another indicator of depression. On the positive side, some pastoral counselors see an increase in the number of pastors who are willing to seek professional help and are open with their congregations about their emotional difficulties (ABP).