From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Angola Prison Rodeo: Bulls-eye or just plain bull?

Good Advice  (MigGronigen)
Some say that Louisiana’s Angola Prison has struck a bulls-eye for social justice, others say that its biannual Prison Rodeo program is just plain bull.                               
Imagine this:  Four inmate “cowboys” are sitting around a poker table, engaging in a little R & R.  However, this ain’t no ordinary card game.  The table sits in the middle of a huge arena, and suddenly “a wild bull is released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players.”

“Unseating…”  Hmmm…  Could this be code for breaking every bone in their sitting-duck bodies while the spectators cheer?  Or has that been (ahem) banned since the “good ole” days of the Roman Empire?

“Oh no,” say supporters.  This is straight-up prison rehab.  Why sit around getting a GED or studying the Bible when you could instead be engaging in state-sanctioned gladiator games?

If mangled poker players and/or gutted bulls aren’t exactly your cup of brew, not to worry.  There is plenty of other action to salivate over.  Why, between the bull-riding event in which “inexperienced inmates sit on top [but not for long] of a 2,000 pound Brahma bull” and the “wild cow milking” (use your imagination), there’s not a dull moment (nor an unfrayed nerve) in the house.

But let's hear what the “experts” have to say.  Gloria Hultz, Executive Director of the North American Association of Wardens & Superintendents, stated the following to ABC NewsIt’s a wonderful morale booster.  The inmates are very excited and very proud to be in this rodeo.  It’s an honor.

However, dead men tell no tales (and give no interviews).  Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot did admit to some “previous fatalities.”  This could give a whole new meaning to “life sentence” (which she mentions some of the inmate “cowboys” just happen to be serving)… 

Copyright April 30, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

'Pretty' only goes so far

'Pillow' Lips   (Photo by Saintswithin)
The dainty "feminine" look that many women think they need in order to attract men only goes so far in a pinch.

Stephanie Pappas of Live Science reports that women with this type of look are “perceived to be less socially dominant.”
In harsh environments, men allegedly seek female mates “who can hold on to resources” - a trait which is often (fairly or not) equated with less dainty-looking females.

How does this all play out within today’s nations?  Pappas explains that the Nepalese, Nigerians and Columbians are least likely to be attracted to “girly” looks, whereas the Japanese, Australians and Americans are most likely to pursue “femininity.”

These conclusions were drawn from a study of heterosexual men within 28 nations.  “Feminine” features – described as “large eyes, pillow lips and a soft jaw” – were equated with “fecundity.”   


Copyright April 30, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Can R-E-S-P-E-C-T be legislated?

(Photo by Jeremy Noble)
According to Wikipedia, “respect is a positive feeling of esteem or deference
for a person or other entity… and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem.”

Yahoo! Odd News recently reported that Spain is considering the passing of a law which would require children to “do chores and ‘be respectful.’”

The question is:  Can respect really be legislated?  (And if so, should it be?)

This Yahoo! report prompted a number of diverse comments from readers.  These include the following:

Sounds like a great start. New laws, making children have respect, and such, would be a start at turning this country around. How about it people, would you support such laws? I would, because every day there
are media stories about the lack of respect, at home, at school, and in public…

But on the other hand:

Funny, I've never needed a law to get my children to do anything. Of course, my kids were raised (not hatched and ignored) by my wife (not baby mama) and myself. You know, together. In a home. With rules and guidelines, supervision, respect, responsibility and discipline…

Obviously a polarizing topic with no ready-made answer key…


Copyright April 29, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 28, 2014

Are males becoming extinct?

(Public Domain)
Although some folks have been complaining that it’s hard to find a good man these days, that is not
because males are becoming biologically extinct.

In fact, Danielle Wiener-Bronner of The Wire writes that Men Are Here to Stay, Thanks to the Y Chromosome’s Indestructible Genes.

It is the Y chromosome that signals the human fetus to grow male sex organs rather than default to the female ones.  

Because the Y chromosome has lost a great deal of its genes over (lots of) time, and was “significantly shorter” than the X chromosome to
begin with, some (alarmists, no doubt) worried that this was the beginning of a world without men.

Not to worry…  A recent study indicates that the “Schwarzeneggers” of this planet will be around for quite a while longer.  It now seems that in the past 25 million years, the Y chromosome has virtually quit shedding its genes.


Copyright April 27, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Exomoon life: Does it exist?

Exomoon Sunsets  (NASA artistry)
Instead of people singing “Moon Over Miami,” aliens may one day
be singing (or whatever) “Exomoon Over Exoplanet.”  

According to Andrew Norton of The Open University, there are some good scientific reasons to believe that the number of exomoons (moons that orbit exoplanets) exceed even the number of exoplanets (planets that orbit stars other than our sun).

Therefore, the possibility of finding life on exomoons may be even greater than the possibility of finding life on exoplanets.

Theoretical exomoons have been thus far categorized in these four ways:  habitable (with more than 10% of the surface “at a temperature between the freezing and boiling points of water”), hot (with “average temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius at all times”), snowball (“permanently frozen”), and transient (generally habitable, but “the amount of habitable surface area varies widely with time”).

Copyright April 26, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 25, 2014

Great Filter: Are we next?

(Enrico Fermi)
Physicist Enrico Fermi had often wondered why we never found evidence of intelligent life out there in the vast universe. 

Andrew Snyder-Beattie of Oxford University explains that this lack of evidence (despite all the attempts and theoretical possibilities) has come to be known as the Fermi Paradox.

It takes a great question to have a great answer, and one response to the Fermi Paradox has been appropriately called the Great Filter.  

Snyder-Beattie points out that the Great Filter is the apparent “bottleneck for the emergence of alien civilisations from any one of the many billions of planets…”  

Because no alien civilizations have thus far “emerged” (at least as far as most scientists are concerned), this could mean that intelligent life fails to survive long enough to be able to make contact with faraway worlds. 

If this be the inevitable fate of alien civilizations, then what does that say about our own?


Copyright April 25, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Lethal depression: Is it killing you?

(Warning Signs of Women's Heart Attacks)
The ancient belief that the heart is the center of emotion is now being echoed by modern-day science.

Megan Gorman and Lindsay Van Gelder write about “the surprising connection between your mind-set and your heart.”
They explain that “negative emotions” such as grief and rage are “cardio-toxic.”

In other words, the toxic chemicals that are released within the body tend to “spike your risk of a heart attack” by elevating blood pressure and heart rate.

Chronic angry hostility, accompanied by a flood of stress hormones, can weaken the heart muscle over time.  This results in a condition called cardiomyopathy.

Long-term grief can have the same effect, which is why folk wisdom has said that people can die of a “broken heart.”  Arteries are also vulnerable to such an emotional drain.

The good news is that if depression and grief can kill, perhaps cheerfulness and optimism can heal.  The results of a 2013 John Hopkins study of 6,000 participants indicates that positive emotions can indeed lead to more healthful outcomes.  


Copyright April 25, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shakespeare: Religious or not religious?

William Shakespeare  (1610 Portrait)
People are wondering whether Shakespeare was religious or not as much as Hamlet was wondering whether to exist or not.

It seems that the famous bard of Stratford never quite came out with definitive statements about his own religious views.  Certainly this evasiveness wasn’t due to a lack of language-arts skills.  Therefore, why is it that we just don’t know much about Shakespeare’s spiritual leanings?

Wikipedia explains that during Elizabethan times, religion was an especially hot-button topic.  Recusancy Acts imposed punishments
upon those Catholic-leaning adherents who refused to participate in Anglican religious practices.

There is much debate over whether Shakespeare himself was one of those recusants.  Although his father, John Shakespeare, did not attend church, that could have been “for feare of processe for Debtte,” rather than because of any religious conflicts.  Although his daughter Susanna refused to take Anglican Communion one Easter, that could have been because of Puritan rather than Catholic sympathies.

On the other hand, Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, came from a “conspicuous and determinedly Catholic family…”  Shakespeare’s wedding to Anne Hathaway is said to have been officiated by a Catholic priest, John Frith, “who maintained the appearance of Protestantism.”

Then there are the analysts who believe that Shakespeare was neither Protestant nor Catholic, but instead a non-Christian (and perhaps even an atheist).  For example, Russian scholar Vadim Nikoleyav claims that the bard “put forward anti-church ideas and did not consider suicide a sin.”

Copyright April 23, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hollywood's got religion

Noah's Ark  (Painting by Edward Hicks)
If you’re thinking that Hollywood is just a land of unbelievers, a look at this season’s box-office winners might prove otherwise.

During the past few months alone, four major faith-based films have been released:  Heaven is For Real (about a young boy’s near-death experience), Noah (about the biblical ark-building prophet), Son of God (an adaptation of “The Bible” miniseries), and God’s Not Dead (the story of a college freshman who debates with his professor about whether God exists).

Ever since Mel Gibson’s 2004 The Passion of the Christ made hundreds of millions, Hollywood has realized the power of the faith-based market.  Reuters reports that quality religious scripts have been in demand ever since.

David White, head of Pure Flix (the company that produced God’s Not Dead), talked about the grassroots marketing of this particular film.  It was screened “for 8,000 pastors prior to its opening.” White had counted upon many of these pastoral “gatekeepers” to “rally their people [some of the “160 million plus” who “call
themselves Christian”] to go to the movie theater.”


Copyright April 22, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 21, 2014

Orchids: New and Old

(Photo by WPPilot)
For those who dread what the daily news might bring, here’s a headline that is actually uplifting:  Stunning New Orchid Species Discovered.

Even though approximately 30,000 species of orchids already exist, the world can always use one more.  This new-to-us species grows wild in the mountains of central Panama, and was discovered by a postdoctoral scholar and her dad.

Orchids in general have existed for hundreds of years (and then some).  Jerry Anthony reports that they have “come to symbolize many different things in different cultures.”

For example, the ancient Greeks used orchids in love potions and associated them with “virility and fertility.”  In Victorian Europe, they were more a sign of “luxury and elegance.”  The ancient Aztecs viewed the vanilla orchid as “a symbol of strength.”

Christianity has embraced orchids in many ways.  They are often to be found in Easter and Christmas
arrangements, as well as on the altars of many churches.  The spots on some orchids are said to represent the blood of Christ.     


Copyright April 21, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ukrainian Jews: In serious danger?

WW II Holocaust in Ukraine   (Chart by Dna-Dennis)
U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry, whose family history is tied to Judaism, recently had this to say about an anti-Semitic pamphlet that is circulating in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk:  [this pamphlet] is not just intolerable; it’s grotesque, is beyond unacceptable…  

According to Adam Taylor of The Washington
Post, this pamphlet demanded that “all Jews over
16 years old register as Jews…  supply a detailed
list of all the property they own, or else have their
citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated.”

These types of prejudicial stipulations can easily raise the specter of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.  Getting to the bottom of who is responsible for this vicious act seems therefore of the utmost importance.

Some theorize that it is “the work of pro-Russian separatists.”  Others wonder whether it is instead a ploy to undermine the separatist movement.

Taylor reports that Ukrainian Jews do not at this point seem particularly alarmed by these leaflets.  However, a vigilant stance seems certainly in order…


Copyright April 20, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kepler 186f: Earth's doppelganger?

Johannes Kepler (1610 portrait)
The term “doppelganger” is an amalgamation of two German words:  Doppel (“double”) and ganger (“goer”).  It implies that for every one of us, there are two of us.

Could this include planets, too?  Could Earth have a “twin” (or at the very least “cousin”) somewhere out there in the Universe?

Astronomers are thinking that Earth very well might.  In fact, an exciting candidate was recently discovered a “mere” 500 light-years away in the Goldilocks zone of a red dwarf star within the
constellation Cygnus.  

(Don’t go packing just yet…  Bear in mind that one light-year equals approximately six trillion miles.)

This possible doppelganger, dubbed Kepler 186f after the telescope with which it was detected (in turn named after the great German mathematician Johannes Kepler), could have water on its surface.  The Associated Press reports that this planet is located in “the sweet spot where lakes, rivers or
oceans can exist without freezing solid or boiling away.”

Of course, plentiful liquid water is a key ingredient for life as we know it…    


Copyright April 19, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 18, 2014

Heaven: News and Views

Paradise  (by Jan Brueghel the Elder)
The movie “Heaven is For Real” recently made its debut.  It tells the story of a four-year-old’s heavenly journey during a near
death experience.  

Throughout the centuries, many traditions have had their own descriptions of Heaven.  Wikipedia ties these descriptions together with this definition:  Heaven… is a common religious, cosmological, or transcendent place from which heavenly beings (such as God, angels, the jinn, and sky deities…) originate, are enthroned, or inhabit.

Although many religions agree that Heaven does exist, they differ (sometimes sharply) as to how one gains entry into this ultimate “Promised Land.”  Some Universalist traditions believe that everyone will eventually get there, no matter how troubled life here on Earth may have been.

Other traditions believe that entry into Heaven depends upon the type of life one has led.  A spiritually “good” life (according to the beliefs of a particular religion) can result in immediate entry upon death.  A questionable life may instead first result in time spent elsewhere.  And a highly questionable life?  According to some doctrines, the result can be eternal damnation.

Ancient Egyptian faith included a rather arduous view of the afterlife.  In order to reach Heaven, the 
deceased person would undergo a weighing of the heart with the feather of truth.  If the heart was heavy with
sin, it would then be devoured.

Ancient Judaism spoke of the shamayim, located above a dome-shaped firmament which covered the Earth.  It was there that Yahweh dwelled in a heavenly palace.  (Yahweh’s earthly dwelling was Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.)

Islamic texts refer to several levels of Firdaus (Paradise) for those who do good deeds while on Earth. Even the lowest level of Islamic Heaven is said to be “one-hundred times better than the greatest life on earth.” The highest level is known as “Seventh Heaven.”


Copyright April 18, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rabbi Sasso: Raising spiritual kids

'God's' Paintbrush    (Photo by Jennifer Rensel) 
According to Spirituality & PracticeRabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was the “second woman to be ordained as a rabbi (1974) and the first rabbi to
become a mother.”  She therefore knows a thing or two about raising spiritually-oriented children.

Her well-known children’s book God’s Paintbrush has recently been honored with a Special 10th Anniversary Edition.  During the past ten years, Sasso has also written nine other "multifaith" classics” that focus upon the spirituality of
children and their parents.

In an interview provided to Spirituality & Practice by Sasso’s publisher Jewish Lights, Sasso explains that children have an “innate spirituality” that is often overlooked by adults because it isn’t easily expressed with words.  She therefore advises:  When talking to our children about God, we do not need to simplify the concept, only the language.

Children are often taught specific ways to describe God.  Like coloring only within the lines, this might somewhat limit their ability to creatively understand the vastness of God’s inexplicable nature.

Sasso also recommends that adults try to recall their own spiritual childhood experiences. She feels that this will make parents better able to resonate with the soulful experiences of their children.

Copyright April 17, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Heaven: Coming to a theater near you

The Ascension of Christ  (PD)
People often go to the movies in order to escape everyday life here on Earth.  They are looking for something – anything – to ease their troubles, if only for a little while.

The recent book-turned-movie release, Heaven is For Real, may provide a whole lot of value for the price of one theater ticket.  If its message is also for real, then throngs of theater patrons will be gifted with a preview of coming heavenly attractions.

Based on the story of four-year-old Colton Burpo’s near death experience (as told to his parents, Pastor Todd Burpo and wife Sonja), the movie affords viewers a glimpse of life in Heaven.  While there, Colton met with the sister he never knew he had (a miscarried sibling that he had never been told about), plus a great-grandfather who had died 30 years before.  Bill Newcott of AARP also reports that Colton “heard angels singing and sat on the lap of Jesus.”

Was this just a PK’s (“preacher kid’s”) Sunday School-inspired fantasy?  The Burpos at first thought that it might be.  However, when Colton began stating details about his deceased sister and great-grandfather that he couldn’t have possibly known otherwise, his parents began to sit up and take notice.

Todd Burpo explains that he resisted telling the world this story at first.  However, people began knocking at his door (and it shall be opened), saying: “God told me to tell you that you should write a book...”


Copyright April 16, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cross to bear: Hate begats hate

Anti-Semitic Graffiti  (Public Domain)
Frazier Glenn Cross, the man who allegedly gunned down three victims at Jewish establishments, is no stranger to hatred.

CNN reports that Cross is “the founder and former leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.”  After being apprehended for these shootings, Cross sat in a patrol car shouting “Heil Hitler!”

This alleged killer has “posted extensively” within online hate-promoting forums that advocate the extermination of Jews.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sued him decades ago for illegally operating a “paramilitary organization” and for “intimidating African-Americans.”   He then went on to plot “the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees.”

For those who think “it cannot happen here,” anti-Semitism is unfortunately still very much alive in America – so much so that the Anti-Defamation League warns Jewish establishments to maintain additional security during this precarious  time of year (Passover – as well as Hitler’s April 20th birthday).   


Copyright April 15, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ghrelin gremlins: Calming the hunger beasts

Feeding America  (Sterling Communications)
There are certain “hunger hormones” known as ghrelins in the human body.  When these ghrelin gremlins get going, it means that you’ll soon be searching for a quick fix – be it junky or healthy.

Wisdom on the street says that only a calorie-laden choice will truly satisfy these gremlins. However, a recent study by research psychologist Alia Crum suggests otherwise.

Crum, who has a history of investigating the placebo effect, wondered whether food labels could influence the ghrelin hormonal response.  She therefore took the exact same milkshake, poured it into two different containers, then labeled each container in very different ways.

Alix Spiegel of NPR reports that one label read “Sensishake… zero percent fat, zero added sugar and only 140 calories.” The other read “Indulgence” and indicated “enough sugar and fat to account for 640 calories.” Spiegel adds:  In truth, the shakes had 300 calories each.

What ended up happening was that ghrelin levels dropped about three times more when people thought they were consuming the indulgent shake as when others thought they were consuming the sensible shake.

So perhaps the “proof” is no longer just in the pudding…  Perhaps it’s on the pudding label as well.  


Copyright April 14, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Four blood moons heading this way

1504 Blood Moon  (Public Domain)
Wikipedia explains that during a lunar eclipse, “sunlight reaching the Moon must pass through a long and dense layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.”

The shorter wavelengths of this sunlight are especially scattered by the atmospheric molecules they encounter; therefore, the longer wavelengths begin to predominate.  The resulting light appears to be red, thus accounting for the term “blood moon.”

Pastor John Hagee, a televangelist and best-selling author, emphasizes this passage from Acts 2:19-20: And I will show wonders in Heaven above and in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into
darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.

The fact that four blood moons are set to occur, each on a significant biblical holiday, has made Pastor Hagee sit up and take notice.  These lunar eclipses will coincide with the following dates:  April 15, 2014 (during Passover); October 8, 2014 (during the Feast of Tabernacles); April 4, 2015 (again during Passover); and September 28, 2015 (again during the Feast of Tabernacles).

Other tetrads (series of four lunar eclipses) have occurred “while the Jews were being expelled from Spain… soon after the state of Israel was founded… [and] during the Six-Day War between Arabs and Israelis.”

Could this upcoming tetrad be a sign of the end times?  Hagee certainly thinks so… 


Copyright April 13, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sakura: Life's beautiful mysteries

(Public Domain)
The mysterious ephemerality of life has long been symbolized by the sakura (Japanese cherry blossom).

In the Iyo district of Japan, there is an age-old story called Jiu-roku-zakura (“the Cherry Tree of the Sixteenth Day”).  This story tells the tale of an elderly Samurai warrior who had cherished a particular cherry tree for most of his long life.

As the tree began to die, the warrior thought of a way to save it.  He decided to give up his own life so that the tree may flourish. The Samurai did this by committing ritual suicide beneath the sakura.

Within one hour of the warrior’s sacrificial death, this tree began to
blossom anew.  A Japanese Buddhist belief states that it continues to live today.

Recent news headlines are somewhat reminiscent of this story.  The Tokyo AFP reports that there currently exists “a cosmic mystery” that is uniting Japanese scientists and monks. 

A sakura seed that orbited our planet for eight months in the International Space Station was afterwards planted in the soil of Mother Earth.  It then “bloomed years [‘possibly a full six’] earlier than expected – and with very surprising flowers…”

These flowers now continue to remind us of life’s beautiful mysteries.


Copyright April 12, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved



Friday, April 11, 2014

Heart-to-heart promises

Riding a Camel   (Public Domain)
The saying “two hearts become one” is often solemnly stated at
weddings.  To make that actually happen can require a lifetime of
work on the part of both spouses.

Sometimes, however, the “karma” is so right that hearts just seem
to magically merge with one another.  Such was the case with a 64-year-old recipient of a 21-year-old donor’s heart.  

The Daily News reports that 21-year-old nursing student Kristina Chesterman “died in September after being hit by an alleged drunken driver.”  Retired nurse Susan Vieira had been awaiting a heart transplant since last July.

It turns out that young Kristina had already made out a bucket list before her life was tragically cut short.  This list had been published in a local newspaper. When Susan read it, she realized that Kristina
had listed many things that Susan had already done.  These things included learning to fly an airplane and riding a camel.

Susan then vowed to carry out the rest of Kristina’s bucket list as best she could.  In this way, Susan would
honor Kristina’s great gift of life.

Kristina's mother, Sandra Chesterman, poignantly concluded:  I think Kristina’s heart was meant to go to Susan.    


Copyright April 11, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Born in laughter

Presidential Laughter   (Public Domain)
After being cramped inside the womb for nine long months, the newborn baby may feel more like crying than laughing.  After going through the pains of labor, the new mother may feel the same.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions to every rule, and Parenting describes a 40-something woman who was filled with joy over the prospect of welcoming her fourth child into the world.
Throughout her labor, the accompanying staff asked one another:  Is she for real?  Have you ever seen anyone so happy about having a baby?

As the woman was just about to give birth, the doctor cracked a joke and she began to giggle.  This giggle turned into a full-fledged laugh as she gave one final push.  Parenting reports that the very first sound this lucky baby heard was her mother’s hearty laugh.         


Copyright April 11, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Righteousness: An OCD symptom?

Moses & Ten Commandments (Rembrandt)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a diagnosis that approximately one percent of American adults have. 

Nevertheless, many more experience OCD-type symptoms, which include extremely-intense intrusive thoughts.  Often these thoughts are deemed to be “unwanted.”

Lecia Bushak of Yahoo! Health reports on the results of a recent study on OCD from Concordia University. Study author
Adam Radomsky stated that “it’s not the…thoughts that are the problem – it’s what you make of these thoughts.”

During the course of this study, 777 university students from 13 different countries were asked about their “intrusive” thoughts.  Bushak reports that such type thoughts include “religious obsessions – also known as ‘scrupulosity’ – where the patient
is overly preoccupied with offending God or with doing the morally right thing.”

Hmmm...  Seems like what folks are now calling “scrupulosity,” religionists have long called “righteousness.”  Are thoughts of this type an unwanted disease, or perhaps a spiritual blessing?

As Radomsky said:  It’s what you make of these thoughts… This will ultimately determine whether they’re a problem or a gift.

Copyright April 10, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Body parts, factory style

(Photo by LHOON)
If your nose runs and your feet smell, it might be because you've ordered the wrong body parts from the "factory."

Although this sounds like a joke, it might actually portend future choices.  The London AP reports that UK scientists are already hard at work "growing noses, ears and blood
vessels in the laboratory in a bold attempt to make body parts using stem cells."

For those who are feeling somewhat uncomfortable with this notion, rest assured.  According to lead scientist Alexander Seifalian:  It's like making a cake.  We just use a different kind of oven.    

Okay (?), so how does one go about "baking" a human spare part?  First off, the part must be matched to the rest of the (live) body it's intended for.  If we're talking noses, then it must also somewhat resemble a God-grown proboscis.

This is accomplished by adding a dash of sugar and salt to a polymer nose-shaped mold.  The "seasoning"
helps to provide a "sponge-like texture" to the mix.  Stem cells that were grown from the recipient's own fat are then used to pad the outer layer.  This up-and-coming nose is then implanted into the patient's arm so that skin can "grow to cover it."

There now – that was easy.  And who "nose" what's next?


Copyright April 9, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 7, 2014

Saintly priest slain in Syria

Syrian Soldier    (Public Domain)
During this holy season of Lent, Father Frans van der Lugt sacrificed all that he had to give:  his very life.

NBC News reports that he was "gunned down by a masked assassin in a monastery" today.  This 75-year-old Dutch priest had resided in Syria for almost five decades, living alongside Christians and Muslims alike, advocating for "regular Syrians."

When repeatedly offered the opportunity to leave war-torn Syria for safer ground, Father Van der Lugt had refused.  Remaining faithful to the Syrian people whom he had served for years had been his top priority.

Although the area in which he lived "was engulfed by some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict," Father Van der Lugt never gave up hope for a negotiated solution.

The Vatican described this saintly priest as "a man of peace."  


Copyright April 7, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chariclo the Centaur

(Mythological Centaur)
If the title of this article conjures up images of nymphs and satyrs, then
you're somewhat on track.

One mythological Chariclo (there were two) was indeed a nymph. She
was also a devotee of the goddess Athena. 

After becoming pregnant by the shepherd Everes, Chariclo bore a son named Tiresias.  Apparently, Athena was a bit modest.  As the story goes, she blinded Tiresias because he had happened to catch her naked.

Tiresias begged Athena to restore his sight, but she could not undo this curse.  She instead bestowed upon him the gift of prophecy (inner sight, if you will).

The other Chariclo wedded the centaur (half man, half horse) Chiron.  Now most centaurs (and satyrs) were not known for their marital fidelity.   Chiron, however, was not only a good husband, but also a great healer.

If you're impatiently thinking that all this talk about Chariclos and centaurs is no longer relevant - think again.  Just the other day, Chariklo the Astronomical Centaur (half planet, half asteroid) was making
headlines.  It seems that her icy rings and "shepherd moonlets" have finally been scientifically verified.


Copyright April 6, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Autism: Blessings too

These'll do...   (Public Domain)
Autism is so often portrayed as a disability in today's neuro-typical
(NT) society that its special blessings are generally overlooked.

It was therefore quite refreshing to come across an article by Sunday Stilwell in Parenting Magazine titled "The perks of autism."  Some of these "perks" are quite in line with religious
precepts such as "Thou shalt not covet."

Stilwell talks about how her "two sons on the severe end of the autism spectrum" enjoy a profound lack of sibling rivalry.  They are usually so tuned into their own independent activities that they are not worried about who gets how much of what.

This "lack of greed and competition" even extends to birthdays and holidays. When money is tight, the boys are more than content with what they do receive.  Christmas morning is spent in other ways than "counting who has more presents than
the other."

Clothing, too, is exempt from comparisons.  Because autistic children seem immune to the "crowd mentality," you won't hear them complaining that their jeans aren't quite up to fashion snuff.  In fact, whining in general just isn't their style. 


Copyright April 5, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pass it forward: Bible stories too

Jonah Cast Forth by the Whale  (Gustave Dore)
Whether today's children will be better or worse off than their parents depends very much upon what we as a society pass forward.

A recent study that was commissioned by the Bible Society reveals that today's youth are only about half as familiar with Bible stories as their parents were back
when.  Classic stories such as Jonah and The Whale can therefore become lost to future generations unless decisive action is taken.

Graeme Paton of The Telegraph reports that 20 percent of the 800 children who were surveyed "could not identify Noah's Ark or Adam and Eve as a Bible story."  Almost a third of them were unaware that the story of the Nativity was also in the Bible.

Even from a non-religious standpoint, the Bible has played an enormous role in Western history, literature, and overall society.  To be unfamiliar with its contents is therefore to be missing out on an enormous trove of cultural treasure.

As Bible Society Chief Executive James Catford explained:  The Bible's contribution to our culture –
language, literature, the visual arts and music – is immense.  It doesn't matter who you are or where
you come from…  The Bible enriches life…


Copyright April 4, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

The whole Enceladus

Enceladus    (Cassini Photo)
American and Italian researchers recently announced that "a vast ocean" lurks beneath "the icy surface of Saturn's little moon

This was discovered using data from the "NASA-European spacecraft" Cassini.  Cassini has been going strong since its launch from Cape Canaveral 17 years ago.

Enceladus himself has been around much longer than that.  He and the other Gigantes were born of the blood of castrated Uranus and culprit Gaia.  (This ill-fated "power couple" had already spawned the Titans.)

Although the Gigantes weren't all that large, they were all that strong.  However, "strong" is a relative term.  Enceladus and his kin got their own special lesson in relativity when they took on the Olympians.

Unfortunately for the Gigantes, they were no match for these mighty gods and goddesses.  Once Athena got a hold of Enceladus, there was simply no contest.  She pierced him right through with a spear, and then buried him under Sicily's Mount Etna.

It is said that Enceladus is still writhing with pain, which accounts for Mount Etna's rumblings.  His fiery volcanic "breath" is in stark contrast to his namesake moon's icy exterior.


Copyright April 4, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Zebras: Black and white and striped all over

(Photo by Paul Mantz)
"How the zebra got its stripes" sounds more like the title of a fable than like the title of a scientific inquiry.

Nevertheless, Alan Boyle of NBC News reports that research scientists have been debating this very issue "ever since Charles
Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace started the argument in the 1870s."

Three of the most prevalent theories of why zebra have stripes have been these:  a. Costumes for courtship?  b. Camouflage to confuse lions and other predators?  c. A natural way to cool
off?   d.  Bug repellent?

Interestingly enough, "bug repellent" seems to be gaining the most scientific credibility these days.  According to Swedish researcher Susanne Akesson, "dark and light patterns" are less attractive to pesky flies than either light or dark surfaces.  Perhaps a dual-color pattern confuses their navigational flight sense.

If this means that zebras will thrive for years to come, all well and good.  According to Ina Woolcott of, they are "power animals" whose stripes "represent the blending and balancing of opposites, yin yang, harmony – enabling us to see a deeper truth."


Copyright April 3, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved