The papers at Christmas 2019 and beyond
Looking for messages from the leaders of the churches:
Pope Francis prayed for peace in nations and between nations, in faiths and between faiths. His word is ‘fraternity’. He makes special prayers for children ‘and every frail, vulnerable and discarded person’. Accommodation there for older people in difficulty
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s message is shorter and was expanded on in his Christmas sermon. He too prays for peace, reflects on the international scene and the wonder of God made flesh https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-writing/articles/archbishop-canterburys-2019-ecumenical-christmas-letter
From the Methodist Connexion The Reverend Dr Barbara Glasson and Professor Clive March discuss the importance of personal stories and the story of Jesus’ birth. Is it just a story? https://nlwc.org.uk/presidents-christmas-message/
The Salvation Army reviews the whole Christian message without mention of contemporary themes www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/news/christmas2019
Something timeless in all these messages but with some appreciation of the hazards of the present, and the bravery and creativity of believers.
Impressive and helpful correspondence followed the Guardian’s analysis of ‘The rise of Christian-Nativist populists’ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/25/the-guardian-view-on-the-rise-of-christian-nativist-populists-a-troubling-sign-of-things-to-come#maincontent
Right Wing extremists have come to power on messages which do not speak of love and tolerance, which are the essence of Christian belief, and are identified in all our Christmas messages. We would hope that the true messages can prevail
Amongst a number of articles focusing on the biology of ageing, Amelia Hill’s ‘Scientists harnessing AI (Artificial Intelligence) to reverse ageing in billion-dollar industry’ deserves particular attention. She reports on the work and beliefs of Nir Barzilai in New York. He is looking for more definite proof that metformin, an inexpensive medication prescribed for Type 2 Diabetes, can extend life-expectation and slow the development of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5943638/. As a believer, he takes metformin for a pre-diabetic condition.
Lynne Cox of Oxford is convinced that removal of senescent cells is a feasible prospect and can be associated with a return to youth. This is a prospect rather than achieved therapy. In the meanwhile she can advise with certainty that exercise, better food, modest eating and good sleep are associated with longer and happier lives. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10522-019-09814-5. This gives us a programme for our personal lives, and encouragement for its application on a wider scale through communities and populations.
Sabina Brennan of Trinity College Dublin is also optimistic of the discovery of the elixir of life through modern research findings and techniques. She confirms that we already know that Alzheimer’s disease is developed in association with risk factors which are modifiable: education or mental stimulation, physical activity, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, depression and smoking https://www.image.ie/life/brain-health-important-rest-body-look-after-160883. This knowledge encourages individuals to modify their lives accordingly and health educationalists to apply the same logic to wider populations. There is less evidence that such modification actually achieve the desired outcomes, but it seems likely that they will.
There is more on the relationship between involvement at professional level in contact sports and the later development of neurodegenerative disorders
The evidence is there but it is difficult to know how to respond to it. The time delay between playing and submitting is such that some of those affected do not believe there to be a causative link. The glamour and financial rewards of these sports for some is so attractive that people will not turn away from them. Introduction of rules to exclude and punish violent play would seem the proper way forward for these sports at all levels.
So there is much to be learned about advances in understanding the mechanisms of aging and disease but: Judith Grisel shares her learning experience that something other than biochemistry was successful in releasing her from the grip of addictions: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/30/studied-neuroscience-understand-addictions-not-cure
We saw a similar miracle in Elton John’s rescue in a DVD Christmas present: Rocket-man. The powerful art of people caring for people
And Cameron Newham ‘in his mid-fifties’ may not be old but has devoted 23 years – still counting – to photographing every parish church still standing in England: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/dec/27/australian-on-mission-to-photograph-every-parish-church-in-england. Not an architect, nor a professional photographer, and having no faith he sees this collection as ‘my connection to the future’. This is something beyond quirky, something quite beautiful and awe inspiring The Parish Church Photographic Survey
People of faith will want to dress the stones with stories of spirit in action – These are not confined to the structures parish churches. They need to be at least as durable.