My fifth-grade son used to walk around the house pretending to be texting. Rehearsing what has become a central practice of 21st-century life, he would move his thumbs across a cast-off cell phone that no longer worked. Finding no solace in the fact that he had the rest of his life to be beholden to gadgetry, he had decided that feigned distraction was better than no distraction at all.
Lauren Winner first drew widespread literary attention in 2004 with the spritely spiritual memoir Girl Meets God: A Memoir, which told the story of her conversion first to Orthodox Judaism and then to a Christianity of a Jesus-loving-Anglican-intellectual-evangelical kind. That book, with its fun and its chatty tone, snuck up on me like a charming guest at a cocktail party.
A study of HIV-positive men and women showed that those who engaged in spiritual practices had a two to four times greater chance of survival than those who didn’t. The researchers began interviewing people at the mid-stage of their disease. The researchers asked participants whether they prayed, meditated, went to religious services, were grateful to God for what they had, or believed that God could forgive them for wrongdoing. The findings showed that the way people focus on the meaning of life and relate to God can affect health, even in the case of HIV. Roughly one-fifth of the participants engaged in “positive spiritual reframing” of their disease, seeing it as a way God was using them, for example. These people had a survival rate four times greater than that of the others (Atlantic, May 6).