Century Marks

Century Marks

Note that song

Four-part, a capella singing was used widely in 19th-century churches, especially in the South. Songbooks like The Sacred Harp with shaped notes were used that made it easier for people to read music. This type of singing has experienced a resurgence in recent years. Shape-note hymn sings and conventions draw people with very different theologies and people of no faith. Many shape-note songs, with archaic harmonies and old-style lyrics, were written by English composers such as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. They were set to old English dance tunes and brought here from churches in rural England by colonial settlers (RNS).

Textual togetherness

Scriptural Reasoning (SR) was introduced to college and university chaplains last spring at their annual professional meeting. A number of them are introducing SR on their campuses. The SR process, begun at Cambridge University and the University of Virginia, is a way for small groups of people in the Abrahamic religious traditions to read and interpret their scriptures in conversation with one another. Each group has a facilitator, but no one acts as the authority. The use of interpretive tools like commentaries are downplayed. Students are eager to talk about religion, especially on secular campuses, said Joshua Stanton, who thinks SR may well change the shape of campus ministry (Huffington Post, August 5).

Low demand, high payoff

When Sameer Bhatia, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, came down with acute myelogenous leukemia, a business associate sent an e-mail to more than 400 acquaintances about Bhatia's situation. Those e-mails were forwarded to others, and Facebook and YouTube videos were used to promote the Help Sameer campaign. Nearly 25,000 people registered in a bone-marrow database and eventually a match was found. The key to using social media for promoting causes like Bhatia's, says Malcolm Gladwell, is not making high demands on people (New Yorker, October 4).

Fool me twice

Paul Hoffman was editor of Discover in the 1990s when for five years the magazine published a hoax each April. Many people were taken in by the April fool articles. Hoffman, an avid amateur chess player, was himself taken in recently by the "discovery" that 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen, ranked the best chess player in the world, is a second cousin to actor Matt Damon. Smart people are some of the easiest ones to fool, says Hoffman. They think they're too smart to be fooled, they've learned to believe in things that are counterintuitive and they know scientific explanations often defy everyday experience (Discover, October).

Different business model

Sadie was a successful businesswoman. She started out with a dry goods store that expanded to include everything from bulk foods to hardware. Then she opened stores in other areas, eventually owning eight stores. But there was one problem: Sadie is Amish, and the Amish believe, as one put it, that "bigness ruins everything." So Sadie sold off some of her holdings to other Amish, including some of her employees, keeping her own enterprises small. Spreading the wealth came at a price to herself: she had gone into business to help cover the considerable medical expenses of her children (Donald Kraybill et. al, The Amish Way, Jossey-Bass).