Century Marks

Century Marks

Good questions

"Is it fair that David Letterman makes 700 times more than a schoolteacher?" Michael Sandel, government professor at Harvard, asks his students that question in his popular course on justice. Sandel's lectures on justice, which can be accessed via the Internet, have given him nearly rock-star status in Asia. On a lecture tour in Japan, the free tickets to his talk that were distributed via a lottery were scalped online for as much as $500. Sandel began that lecture by asking, "Is ticket scalping fair or unfair?" Sandel believes a renewed interest in justice indicates that people are recognizing that economic values do not by themselves produce happiness or a good society (Thomas Friedman, New York Times, June 14).

Boxed in

St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, Louisiana, opened a woodshop in 2007 to sell handcrafted cypress caskets that are less expensive than caskets purchased at funeral homes. The abbey hoped the sales would finance medical and educational needs for more than 30 monks. The state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors issued a cease-and-desist letter to the monks, but the abbey defied the demands and began selling the caskets anyway. Last August, the abbey filed suit, challenging a Louisiana statute that prohibits the sale of caskets by non­licensed funeral directors. Abbey representatives testified that it does not aspire to function as a funeral home by offering funeral services or embalming remains (RNS).

Where’s the conflict?

A large-scale study of American college students shows that a vast majority don't see a conflict between science and religion. Nearly 70 percent of freshmen view science and religion as either independent of each other or as having a collaborative relationship. The rest, who do see a conflict, are divided almost evenly between those who favor the perspective of religion and those who favor science. Students were polled as freshmen and then as juniors to see if their views changed over time. Seventy percent of freshmen who favored religion over science had switched by the time they were juniors to seeing the fields as not being in conflict; 46 percent who favored science over religion as freshmen shifted to that nonconflictual view by their junior year (Huffpost Religion, May 25).

Death as preacher

Kava Schafer, a spiritual director and hospital chaplain, believes that cultivating an awareness of one's own death is a spiritual discipline. She quotes the prophet Muhammad, who said: "Consult your death. The only preacher you need is awareness of your death" (Presence, June).

No regrets?

A long-term palliative care worker has witnessed many people come to peace with themselves and others at the end of life. But many dying people also have regrets. One of their common regrets is not having had the courage to be true to themselves, living instead the life they thought others expected of them. Men tend to regret working too much and missing too much in their kids' lives. Among people's other regrets: that they lacked the courage to express their feelings and that they ­didn't stay in touch with friends (Lifehacks, May 31).