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Truth and lies
James Dickey tended to think of poets as artist-gods, a borrowed phrase from James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. To Dickey, poets were creators or re-creators of the world, inventors or fabricators. And he provocatively claimed these inventors were greatly-gifted liars. He liked to tell one version of the story about his life and then another version and then another version. In a way, what Dickey was saying about the way we make up the world according to our own perceptions explained the various responses to this book. As you may know, some of Dickey's family and advocates claimed I was lying about him, playing fast and loose with the facts. I don't agree that our images of the world or of the people living in it are nothing but lies. But I certainly agree with Dickey's suggestion that my image of a person might be very different from your image of a person. I think when you do a lot of research about one person and write a lot about him, you realize that you can't know that person entirely. You can't tell the whole truth. Maybe telling the whole truth is the biographer's dream, but it's impossible. I think you'd have to be a kind of real god, omniscient. In the end, I believe, all you can do is offer glimpses and fragments, and then you have to put those glimpses, those fragments, those facets together into what Dickey called the world, or in my case, the person, James Dickey.

--Henry Hart, Hickman Professor of Humanities, College of William and Mary, and author of the biography James Dickey: The World as a Lie, speaking on campus on September 18

The cost of disbelief
When we compared length of hospital stay to religious affiliation, we found that those who checked into the hospital with no religious affiliation stayed an average of twenty-five days longer. You might think that the people who claimed no religious affiliation were just sicker than the other patients but these results came after we had controlled the study for factors such as severity of illness. Why is this? We suspect it is because those patients were using the doctors and nurses as their social support system, whereas the patients with religious affiliations were getting their social support from their spiritual communities. You can imagine the economic implications of increased length of hospital stay-tremendous costs.

--Harold Koenig, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University and Director of Duke's Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, describing a study on how religious belief affects rate of healing during his lecture "Religion, Spirituality and Health: The Connection and Why," on September 25