Century Marks

Century Marks

Reading Rx

The entrance to the library at Thebes bore the inscription, “Healing place for the soul.” Freud suggested books to his patients, and the contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton was encouraged to start a bibliotherapy clinic that would suggest readings to people to make them better persons or help them cope with crises. While there is ongoing debate on whether fiction makes readers more empathetic, there is evidence that “regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers” (New Yorker, June 9).

Curious child

As a child Richard Feynman once asked his father why a ball went to the back of a wagon when he pulled the wagon forward. His father said it was inertia. When Feynman asked what inertia was, his father said it is the name scientists give to the movement of a ball to the back of a wagon, but in truth no one really knows what it is. Feynman went on to get degrees at MIT and Princeton, and he won a Nobel Prize in physics. He attributed his success in science to the curiosity engendered by that conversation with his father. The simplest questions can carry us to the edge of knowledge, and that’s where he wanted to play (TED Radio Hour, June 12).

Child preachers

No one knows how many child preachers there are in Brazil, but estimates run to the thousands. Most of them are Pentecostal. Alani is an 11-year-old who, according to her father, performed her first healing miracle when she was only 51 days old. Convinced that Alani had healing powers, her father placed her infant hand on a woman’s distended stomach—and it immediately deflated. Even within Pentecostal circles, some observers believe that child preachers like Alani are exploited by their parents and other adults (New York Times, June 11).

Homicide control

Research done at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research shows that a Con­necticut law enacted in 1995 has reduced gun homicides by as much as 40 percent. The law mandates that all potential gun buyers apply for a permit in person with the police, even if the seller is a licensed dealer. The legal age for purchasing a gun was raised from 18 to 21. Prospective gun buyers must also complete at least eight hours of training in handgun safety (Connecticut Mirror, June 11).

Lost opportunity

Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, remembers Vincent Harding coming up to him at a church in Denver and suggesting that they work together. Patel declined, saying he thought the mission of his own organization didn’t mesh with Harding’s. After Harding died, Patel read his obituary and learned Harding was an unsung hero of the civil rights movement and a speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr. Later, at an event attended by Patel and Harding’s widow Aljosie, Patel confessed that he had passed up a great opportunity. Aljosie said to Patel: “You should know that Vincent followed your work, and he loved you, and he forgives you” (OnBeing.org, June 9).