Century Marks

Century Marks

Hit number

The singing of "Ubi Caritas," a composition by Paul Mealor, a little-known 35-year-old Welsh composer, was one of the surprises at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Mealor received a letter last December from the royal couple, requesting a musical contribution. The sixth-century text he chose for this choral anthem is traditionally used for foot washing on Maundy Thursday. It's a prayer about love and service. "Jesus came to serve," said Mealor, "and the young couple are about to enter a long period of service to the nation" (Guardian, April 29).

From the other side

The native mountaineering guides in the Hima­layas, known as sherpas, are intimately ac­quainted with the face of Mount Everest. However, they know it only from one side—the view from their home valley. They have been known to respond in disbelief to images of Everest taken from the other sides. Their disbelief changes to one of amazement when they realize that something with which they are so familiar can have other sides to it (from Jacob Bronowski's Science and Human Values).

Holy curiosity

Marilyn McEntyre tells about a rabbi who, when approached by a member of his congregation who was rejoicing about something, would ask darkly, "How do you know it's not a disaster?" When someone would approach him with a lament, he would respond, "How do you know it's not a blessing?" McEntyre says the rabbi "called his pupils to look again, without judgment, but with what I would call 'holy curiosity,'" which makes "us willing to live in the mystery of an unfolding story" (Weavings, 26:3).

Living vicariously

Laura Hillen­brand, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, has found some relief by writing about the physical endurance of a horse (Seabiscuit) and an accomplished runner who in World War II was a prisoner and tortured (Unbroken). "I'm looking for a way out of here," she told the Washington Post. "I can't have it physically, so I'm going to have it intellectually. It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination. And it's just fantastic to be there alongside Louie [Zamperini] as he's breaking the NCAA mile record. . . . It's my way of living vicariously" (Publishers Weekly, March 28).

Accepting death

Grief researchers have noted that it is easier to accept the death of a loved one if the one dying is able to accept his or her death. The terminally ill also make better decisions if they are able to acknowledge their own impending death. Some people seem primed to accept their death, others are given to despair. Most of us fall somewhere in between. Researchers are now focusing on how to help more people accept their own death (Meghan O'Rourke, The Long Goodbye: A Memoir, Riverhead Books).