The alarm has been sounded over the future of reading. We are rapidly becoming a culture of the image, not the word, we are told. Those who have been saturated in the hyperkinetic visual stimulus of electronic media are losing patience with the page and the more linear habits of thought needed to follow communication structured by printed words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters.
The U.S. Post Office says it will need $2.5 billion for additional security in response to the biological war being waged against Americans through the mail system. The airlines have already received a $15 billion bailout in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
If the conflict in which the U.S. is now engaged is not one of the storied “clashes of civilizations” predicted by Samuel Huntington, it does involve a potentially deadly clash of perceptions. Those in the West who have joined the war on terrorism view Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network as self-professed agents of the mayhem that has struck the U.S.
There are no atheists in bio-hazard suits. Perhaps that sentiment has never been strictly true, even when we were still talking about foxholes. But fear does have a way of turning the mind to matters of ultimacy.
We’ve heard the question, as have pastors around the country: Where is God in the death and devastation that struck September 11? One clergyman reported that a New Yorker who noticed his clerical collar stopped him on the street to ask exactly that shortly after the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
At the 50th reunion of his medical school class, Dr. James Sabin said his classmates were able to talk freely about death. One noted that only half of them would be present at their 60th reunion. The dominant tones in their death talk were a matter-of-factness, gallows humor, and curiosity about the future of the human species and the planet. Doctors typically don’t talk much about death, despite dealing with it routinely. When they do, they call attention to the limits of modern medicine and eschew any heroic measures at the end of their own life (Hastings Center Over 65 blog, September 1).