I’m feeling rather subdued today, after a sad week here in the U.S. But we’ll try to lighten it up a little for this edition of Ramblings and focus on good news stories to encourage smiles and a bit of positive energy.
Psst…Hey, I’m not even gonna rag on Ken Ham this week!
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Fifty years ago, on the afternoon of June 22, 1966, near the newly completed Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO, a group of tourists and a National Park Service guide gawked as a small plane suddenly approached from the west, made a low pass over the Old Courthouse and flew through the legs of the Arch. The pilot zoomed away across the river, toward Illinois. The pilot, the first to fly through the Arch, was never identified.
According to an article b, Donna Dorris of Madison, now 75 years old, says her father told her later that day that he was the one who did it. His name was Earl Bolin. He worked in the Nickel Plate railroad yards and flew small airplanes as a hobby. On the day of the flight, Dorris, a young mother at the time, stood in her front yard. Her father, who lived across the street, walked up to her. “You might want to catch the news tonight,” she remembers him saying.
According to the article, Bolin only ever told a few people about the flight, and nobody ever snitched, and Bolin never lost his license. “Don’t say anything to anybody, don’t even talk about it,” he’d say to Dorris’s husband, Bill.
Donna Dorris’s father’s flight and his sense of mischief became a part of family lore. They kept it a secret for fifty years until they read about the stunt again recently in the Post-Dispatch’s column, “This Day in History.”
There have been several copycat flights in the intervening years — at least ten more, including a 1984 helicopter whose pilot who was identified and sanctioned by the FAA.
Who knows what other crazy things he did? A toast today to Earl Bolin, adventurer and daredevil!
Psst…Ken Ham opened a theme park with a life-sized Noah’s Ark in Kentucky this week.
Thought I might show you some of my pictures from our recent long weekend in Chicago. We stayed at a hotel right on the Riverwalk on the Chicago River, attended a concert at Wrigley Field with James Taylor and Jackson Browne, and another concert the next night with a picnic at Ravinia listening to Shawn Mullins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls. We also took a walking tour of historic skyscrapers and went to Navy Pier to watch fireworks over the lake. It was a fabulous time in our favorite city. You can see more pictures at Chaplain Mike’s Flickr page.
Psst…oh yeah, the Ark Encounter also includes the Ararat Ridge Zoo, camel and donkey rides, live entertainment, and a 1,500-seat themed restaurant. And zip lines.
They are in decline, at least in the U.S. and some other wealthy countries. Here are a few examples. Rates of colon cancer have fallen by almost 50% since their peak in the 1980’s. Hip fracture rates have been falling by 15-20% per decade for the last 30 years. Dementia rates have plummeted from 3.6 per 100 for those over sixty in the 1990’s to 2.0 per 100 today. And even though heart disease still kills more than 300,000 people a year, deaths have fallen 60 percent over the past half century.
Something strange is going on in medicine. Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are waning in wealthy countries, and improved diagnosis and treatment cannot fully explain it.
Scientists marvel at this good news, a medical mystery of the best sort and one that is often overlooked as advocacy groups emphasize the toll of diseases and the need for more funds. Still, many are puzzled.
“It is really easy to come up with interesting, compelling explanations,” said Dr. David S. Jones, a Harvard historian of medicine. “The challenge is to figure out which of those interesting and compelling hypotheses might be correct.”
Of course, these diseases are far from gone. They still cause enormous suffering and kill millions each year.
But it looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging. The leading killers are still the leading killers — cancer, heart disease, stroke — but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health.
The results are so striking that some researchers have posited that the cellular process of aging may be changing, in humans’ favor.
Psst…Ham is projecting 1.4 million visitors in the park’s first year, though a consultant for the state said 640,000 was a more likely number.
It tells about a project at KCPT-TV, the PBS station in town, called Beyond Belief. For more than eight months, the project probed the city’s churches, synagogues and mosques, as well as secular gathering places, and asked whether faith communities could help solve the city’s persistent problems of race, class and inequality. Click on the link to see specific stories of faith in action, in which people tackled some of the hard issues in our nation — race, immigration, justice — that beg for solutions.
Steve Mencher, a Jewish man from the Bronx, NY, headed up the project and wrote the article about its impact on the city and on his own life. Read the entire piece, but here are a couple of paragraphs that encouraged me:
In my experience here in Kansas City, the received wisdom that “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America” is only partly true. Yes, churches divide up along Troost Avenue, which slices through the city dividing black and white. But churches are also the main institutions reaching across that line.
The sometimes raw and often powerful testimonies about racism and white privilege that were shared back in February continue to reverberate; their work recognizing racism and fighting for justice continues.
The main thing I’ve learned in my time in Kansas City is that my assumptions about Americans and their God-given right to individuality are all wrong. Everyone does not aspire to thrive in his or her own bubble. In Kansas City, nobody needs to bowl alone. Most humans hunger for community, and in Kansas City, faith is at the heart of that quest.
Finally, an institution that has been part of my life for almost forty years had its final show last Saturday night. Oh, they’ll continue in the fall with a new host, but it won’t ever be the same again. On July 2, Garrison Keillor hosted his last Prairie Home Companion Show from The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
When we were first married and living in the mountains of Vermont, we had no TV and relied upon the radio and our stereo for entertainment. We looked forward to every Saturday night, when Garrison came into our living room to weave his Lake Wobegon tales and introduce us to folk singers and musicians. We attended a show in the early 1980’s at Middlebury College in Vermont and have been faithful listeners all these years. We have derived a lifetime of pleasure from this radio tradition.
I know this video is longer than the ones we usually post on Saturday Ramblings, but nothing could be more appropriate today than Garrison Keillor’s final “News from Lake Wobegon” monologue from PHG. Enjoy.
Psst…Ham’s next projects are said to be a replica of a walled city where Noah may have lived and a Tower of Babel.
A great reminder at the end of this week.