Century Marks

Century Marks

Driven to distraction

Andrew Sullivan realized his life was consumed by the Internet and his smartphone. His friendships were hurting and even his health was impacted by his Web compulsion. He decided to go offline and try to recover natural connections with people and the world by going to a meditation center. Sullivan thinks that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction. “Perhaps [churches] might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation.” He commends the “mysticism of Catholic meditation” (New York, September 18).

Reading habits

Print books remain significantly more popular than digital books, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The bad news is that the number of people who reported reading a book in any format last year was 73 percent, down from 79 percent in 2011 when Pew first started gathering data on the reading habits of America (Publishers Weekly, September 16).

National story

The negativity in this year’s election is the consequence of Americans not having a truthful story about their common history, says Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in New York. The story we tell about ourselves as Americans is relentlessly positive, avoiding the truth about our failures—including the near-genocide of America’s original residents and the brutality of chattel slavery. We live the lie that we are good and those who oppose us are bad. This bifurcation manifests itself in the contentiousness of an election in which neither side can admit any bad about themselves or good about their opponents (Time, September 7).

Location matters

In a survey conducted by Charity Navigator, five metro areas were judged to have the best climate for charities: Houston, St. Louis, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Dallas, and San Diego (a tie). Their research shows that performance on financial, accountability, and transparency matters is influenced by the metropolitan context. CEO compensation, which has a bearing on the operating expenses of a charitable orga­nization, is much lower in a city like Orlando than it is in Washington, D.C. (charitynavigator.org, September 6).

Trash and treasures

Before officials at Old North Church in Boston turn an adjacent courtyard into an outdoor classroom, the site must be probed for historical artifacts. Archaeologists have uncovered a 19th-century privy and cistern, along with broken dinner plates, bottles, marbles, dolls, and dice. Their findings will help them tell the story of the people who lived in the area when the industrial economy was emerging and Irish immigrants were moving in (Boston Globe, September 12).