Category Archives: THE CONVERSATION TABLE

CAN AFFLUENZA BE CURED?

One of the most neglected stories of our era concerns the often dire medical consequences of great wealth. There is a widely held presupposition that possessors of wealth enjoy an excess of luxury. One recent study showed, for example, that the 20 wealthiest individuals in the US each hold on average about as much wealth as nearly three million households drawn from the poorest half of the population.[^1].[^2] Unfortunately all too often hasty judgements are made in the face of such statistics, judgments that fail to take into account the very substantial medical risks connected with these facts. Continue reading CAN AFFLUENZA BE CURED?

What’s so terrible about being finite?

By Wayne Cowart

There’s evidence that thinking about mortality is good for you, perhaps even life-extending (1). So, for those who are inclined, here’s one way to take your medicine.

There’s a lovely book by poet Mark Doty about life, death, and dogs (2). It’s a reflection on the life and death of two dogs and one human over a span of a decade or so. Doty uses each of these endings (of dogs Beau and Arden; and of Wally, Doty’s partner) as a kind of prism to peer into the other side, the non-life always just on the other side of life — but also, more to the point, to look at life in relation to that non-life. The book is far from morose. Above all it is a celebration of life and the odd details that often seem so close to its core, the stuff that makes it matter so much. It attends to the irreplaceable specificity of individual lives, individual ways of being alive, canine and human. It locates much of the loss that the still living bear in that irreplaceable specificity. There is no god on offer to shelter the departed—human or otherwise—over eternity. But then there’s no eternity either, at least not one Doty can embrace confidently. What Doty speaks for is the difficulty of letting go, of coming to terms with finitude and ultimate irretrievable loss. Continue reading What’s so terrible about being finite?

NOBEL BUBBLES

By Wayne Cowart

The inner workings of living cells are astonishingly complex. But in an April talk at USM James Rothman, one of three who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, considered whether something as simple as a bubble in your latte might have something to say about those processes. Next time you order your favorite coffee drink, watch carefully. You’ll notice that the bubbles in the foam tend to get larger over time. If you watch very closely, you may be able to see that this happens by way of smaller bubbles merging to form bigger bubbles. Continue reading NOBEL BUBBLES