As Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. reports in The Wall Street Journal, “Most of the world has grown fatter since the 1970s, and economists naturally turn to economics to explain why. Food prices have fallen in relation to incomes. Jobs have become less strenuous. Instead of being paid to exercise, now people must pay to exercise.”
But he points out that our culture may also contribute to this problem. I remember songs such as “She’s Too Fat For Me” that were once popular and accepted as part of the social norm, even though these songs were used to bully and humiliate overweight children and adults . If you were overweight, it was assumed that you were weak — or even bad. End of story. Hormonal and other chemical and physical conditions that result in weight gain were unknown or ignored.
Now we have become more tolerant, or at least more careful about our public comments. But as the average person becomes fatter, it becomes more socially acceptable to be fat. Once again, no easy answers.
Thoughts in this post were triggered by Wendell Berry’s Life Is A Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition. Berry criticizes scientists who believe the mind is just a machine. He calls this the Tarzan Theory of the mind, which holds that a human, raised entirely by apes, “would have a mind nonetheless fully human.” He substitutes what he calls the Adam and Eve formula: mind = brain + body + world + local dwelling place + community. Continue: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/digital-pandemic/201207/is-science-just-modern-superstition
Who can outgrow autism? Recent studies report a small number of people diagnosed with autism seemed to outgrow the condition. 10 to 20% of children who were diagnosed with autism achieved optimal outcomes. In my opinion, there are a couple problems with this optimistic outlook. The first is that any behavioral studies done in the first two years of life can be unreliable in terms of predicting future behavior. The second problem is that the diagnostic category of autism has been broadened to include other developmental problems. It does not represent the narrow and severe core of autism described years ago as “Infantile Autism.” To have false positives in the range of 10 to 20% makes one wonder about the accuracy of the diagnosis in the first place. These studies are important and interesting. Hopefully, we will find that behavioral therapies have had an impact on this condition.
Research going back to the sixties shows that early cognitive stimulation has only a transitory effect. The gains pre-schoolers make from these programs don’t hold up in the early grades. Lack of brain maturation may be holding things back. Parents boast that their very young children can now read — thanks to electronic game formats, but the kids may be learning to word-call, not read. That’s because reading comprehension requires abstract thinking. In fact, the overstimulation of the visual approach may impede auditory (phonics) learning later on. Be careful, parents.
Cathedral in Europe
What has happened to Christian fiction? Paul Elie, in the December 23, 2012 New York Times Book Review, wrote that Christian belief figures into literary fiction “as something between a dead language and a hangover.” He comments on a bestseller about free will, written from a Catholic perspective, but points out that the novelist, Anthony Burgess, died almost 20 years.
God seems to have survived the “God is dead” movement of the 60’s, but can Christian literature survive? Ely believes its demise is simply a reflection of our post-Christian American society, but he does cite examples from current newspaper articles and essays that acknowledge man’s need for religion.
Gregory Wolfe writes in The Wall Street Journal that the “myth of secularism triumphant in the arts” is just that –– a myth. He cites Christopher R. Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder and Alice McDermott’s Charming Billy as examples of faith found in literature that is “more whispered than shouted.”
I think there are plenty of new novels that have a Christian theme or introduce a mystical presence, but they are not bestsellers written in the strict literary genre. Elie is writing about “serious” writers and I think this excludes books that do not fit his criteria for serious fiction. How open are agents and publishers to “serious” Christian fiction, anyway? My new novel is about free will and is written from a Catholic perspective, but it would be viewed as only semi-literary because it gives equal weight to plot and character development.
Ross Douthat, in his provocative book, Bad Religion, How We Became a Nation of Heretics, writes that even people who do not consider themselves Christians have values and beliefs that owe more to Christianity than they realize. And if they think they have left their ancestors faith behind them entirely, “chances are they are still partially within the circle of faith and are more heretics than true apostates, more Christian-ish then post-Christian.”
One county in Florida will have armed guards at all elementary public shools in response to parental concerns over the Newtown, Conn. tragedy. Will this do more than give the perception of safety? I think not. If the guard is truely an obstacle to the shooter’s plans, the voice in the young schizophrenic’s head will tell him to enter a school bus, go to a girl scout camp or attack a church service.
And who are the guards? I evaluated security personnel seeking positions that required weapons clearance and found a fair number of unstable individuals. Retired police might work, but are they still highly effective?
The financial cost is high. A projection of personnel costs in this one county over a ten year period comes to 1.6 billion dollars!
Tightening school security procedures will help, but the most promising approach may be to train counselors and other mental-health folks to identify this kind of mental illness. Many of these sick and dangerous shooters will come to the attention of a counselor somewhere along the line. I saw very nice young man when I was at a county clinic because he was described as “nervous appearing” following a motorcycle accident. I was trained to ask, “are you hearing voices or seeing something others may not see?” He was and this entity in his head was ordering him to hurt others —- including me.
Bottom line? No simple solutions.