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).
Jun 17, 2011
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).
Your tax dollars
Jun 16, 2011
Since 1995 the U.S. Army has canceled 22 weapons systems. About $32 billion has been spent in that time on equipment that was never built. For example, in 2000 the Comanche helicopter was deemed the most important army weapon in development. Four years later it was canceled after nearly 20 years of development work at a cost of close to $6 billion. One Pentagon insider calls the Defense Department "the Department of Wishful Thinking." In spite of talk about defense cuts, encouraged by outgoing defense secretary Robert Gates, the wishful thinking continues. The cost of the next generation of Humvees in development is up to $320,000 per unit (Washington Post, May 27).
Jun 15, 2011
Kent Tritle, an organist who conducts professional and amateur choirs in New York, says that choral music is the art form that attracts the greatest amount of participation in the country. About one in every five or six households has someone who participates in a choir of some sort—which adds up to about 22 million Americans. Tritle attributes the popularity of choral singing to the sense of community that members experience and to the pleasure of making music together. "There's nothing more joyous than seeing the thrill on the faces of new amateur singers . . . when they first take part in that sonority," Tritle says (Wall Street Journal, May 25).
Jun 10, 2011
Thanks to irrigation, Saudi Arabia has been able to grow its own supply of wheat for more than 20 years. But wheat production is collapsing because the aquifer used for irrigation is almost depleted. Water supplies and grain production are also declining in Syria and Iraq. Wells are starting to go dry in parts of India. China is overpumping water, especially in the North China Plain. About half the world's population lives in countries where the water tables are falling. Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea have been leasing or buying land in other countries, especially Ethiopia and Sudan, to grow grain for their citizens. The potential for conflict between countries over water is very high, says environmentalist Lester Brown (Foreign Policy, May/June).