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532 Topics: Famous Americans – Mary Baker Eddy; The Kennedy Space Center; what for? versus for what?; possibility versus opportunity; iron and iron law

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 532.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 532. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Visit us at ESLPod.com. Become a member ESL Podcast, and when you do, you can download our Learning Guide. That’s a little bit of my British accent, which is really, really terrible. But what isn’t terrible is our website, on which you can also find our ESL Podcast Store, with additional courses in Business and Daily English – all in a proper American accent.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about another famous American, Mary Baker Eddy. We’re also going to talk about something called the Kennedy Space Center. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of a new religious group in the United States called “Christian Science.” When I say she was a “founder” (founder), I mean that she founded this group. “To found,” as a verb, means to create or start some organization or “institution,” we might call it. A “religion” is, of course, a belief in some system that helps explain why we are where we are and perhaps why we are here on this planet.

Eddy believed that religion and a belief in God could not only be used to perhaps understand our place in the universe, but also be used as medicine to actually make people healthy. She founded this religious group “Christian Science” based largely on this belief.

Unhappily, Eddy had a very sad life as a young woman. She was born Mary Baker in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1821. New Hampshire is located in the northeast part of the United States, on the border of that little country to the north of us called Canada. Mary Baker was very sick as a young girl. It’s not known exactly what illnesses she suffered from. She also experienced tragedy at an early age – many sad things happened to her.

When she was 20 years old, her brother died. She married a few years later, but her husband died after only about six months. When she was 22, she also had her mother and her fiancé for a second marriage die within three weeks of each other. She married in 1853 to a man named Daniel Patterson, who would eventually divorce her, but not before arranging to have her only son taken away from her. She didn’t see that son again for nearly 25 years.

She had a great deal of tragedy, then – a great deal of sadness, of bad things, happen to her. She was also a very religious woman, one who read the Bible and for whom her Christian faith was very important. However, she rejected the religion, or the kind of religion and religious teaching, that she was brought up with. She didn’t understand why God would let people suffer. So, she continued to search for answers, perhaps for a different way of viewing God.

During this time, in the 1850s, there was also another interesting development, not in religion but in medicine. The practice of “homeopathy” became popular in the United States during this period. “Homeopathy” (homeopathy) is a, what we would call now, an “alternative” way of treating someone. It involved treating people with very small amounts of medicine. Homeopathy is based on the notion that you treat like with like – that is, you give a sick person medicine that if given to a healthy person would give that healthy person the same kinds of symptoms, of effects, as the sick person had.

I don’t want to go into all the different areas and controversies over homeopathy, but homeopathic medicine was a popular thing in the nineteenth century. In addition, other new ideas about medicine were being made popular during this period, including the notion that your mind, your thoughts were responsible for your sickness, your physical illness. We might today call this the “placebo effect.” A “placebo” (placebo) is something that is given to you that doesn’t really have any physical effect on your body, but because you think it is going to help you, it helps you.

Mary Baker got interested in the notion not of a placebo per se, but rather that your mind influences your body and therefore can influence your physical health. There were other people who were interested in these ideas. Mary Baker, however, took this idea and combined it with certain Christian ideas of healing. One particular event was important in her development of what would eventually be called “Christian Science,” and that was an accident that she suffered in 1866.

Mary apparently fell and had an injury. An “injury” (injury) is when you hurt something in your body – maybe you break your arm or you cut yourself; those would all be injuries. So, Mary Baker fell down and injured herself. When she was injured, she read the Bible – in particular, she read the New Testament of the Bible, the Gospels of the Bible.

There are four Gospels in the Bible that tell the story of Jesus’ life. Well, in one of the Gospels, she read a story about healing. There are stories of Jesus physically healing people in the Gospels. During this time of reading the Bible, Mary Baker said that she made a discovery. She began to see that there was something spiritual that was connected to the healing of her body, and in fact that in this moment of spiritual discovery, she was healed.

She then believed that there was something very important about her Christian belief and her physical health. She believed, in fact, that religious belief of a certain sort could cure someone of their illnesses. “To cure” (cure) someone means to make someone better so that they no longer suffer from a certain illness or sickness or, in the case of Mary Baker, injury.

In 1875, about nine years later, she took these ideas and wrote a book called Science and Health. She later changed the name to Science and Health with Key to Scriptures. The word “scriptures” (scriptures) refers to a religion’s holy writings that the religion considers as being inspired, often. In Christianity, that would be the Christian Bible. Mary Baker’s goal at this time, then, was to take the religion of Christianity and to, in her words, “recover its healing elements” – the ability of religious faith in her mind to heal the body as well as to help the mind and the soul.

Soon after the publication of Science and Health, Mary Baker got married for a third time, to a man by the name of Eddy, and that’s why we know her now as Mary Baker Eddy. In 1882, Mary Baker Eddy started a new church which she called “Church of Christ, Scientist.” “Christ” is, of course, Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian religion. The word “Christian” obviously comes from the word “Christ.” Mary Baker Eddy’s new church, that had the purpose of getting other people to accept and understand her new ideas, was called “Church of Christ, Scientist.”

She moved to Boston in 1882, but once again she had a tragic thing happen to her; a sad thing happened to her. Her husband died, and Mary Baker Eddy had to deal with that sad event. Nevertheless, she continued the work on her church, living in Boston from 1882 to 1889. In fact Boston, at this time in American history, was one of the intellectual centers of the United States. Lots of interesting ideas new ideas were being talked about and discussed in Boston, and those ideas began to spread or move to other parts of the country.

Mary Baker Eddy began to develop her ideas in Boston. In fact, she started a college called the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in 1881 and continued to work at getting other people to understand her ideas and accept them. She started a magazine, a monthly magazine, in 1883 and began to get people to come to her church to study and understand her ideas. She was very successful at getting other Christians to accept her ideas, and soon the Christian Science movement became larger and larger; more and more people got interested in her ideas.

Eddy wasn’t the only person in the late nineteenth century interested in the effects of the mind on the body. There were in fact other non-Christian, non-religious groups such as the Spiritualists who got interested in this idea of the effects of the mind on human health. Eddy, however, insisted that her ideas were very closely connected with Christianity, and she wanted to separate herself from these other non-Christian ideas or groups that had similar ideas, we might say, in terms of the effects of the mind on human health.

So, in 1889 she moved to New Hampshire, the state in which she was born, if you’ll remember. In fact, she moved back to the city where she was born, Concord, New Hampshire, which is the capital city of New Hampshire, where the state government of New Hampshire is located. During this time, Eddy continued to write and to try to develop her ideas. She continued to work on her most important book, revising it, changing it.

In 1892, she reorganized the church that she had started back in 1879 and decided to change the name to the “First Church of Christ, Scientist.” She referred to it as the “mother church.” And this mother church had other churches that were founded in other cities and other places in fact across the world. In 1895, she published a little book, what she called the Manual of the Mother Church, that gave the rules for how this church should operate.

Not everyone was happy with this new religion that Mary Baker Eddy founded. In fact, some very famous Americans criticized her, and they said that her ideas were wrong, that she was not applying the Christian religion in the proper way. One of those Americans was a man by the name of Mark Twain, one of the most famous authors of the nineteenth century in the U.S. He wrote a book called Christian Science that was published in 1907, attacking or criticizing Mary Baker Eddy and her ideas.

Nevertheless, Eddy continued to write. She continued to get people to believe in her ideas. In 1908, she actually started a new newspaper called the Christian Science Monitor, and that newspaper became a very respected newspaper during the twentieth century.

Mary Baker died in 1910, but Christian Science – or the Church of Christ, Scientist – continues to this day. If you ask most Americans about Christian Science and what they associate with that religion, they’ll probably say the Christian Science reading rooms. Back in 1888, in order to get more people to read her books and her writings, Mary Baker Eddy started a reading room in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a place where you could go and read her book and other things related to the Christian Science religion.

Today, there are still more than a thousand reading rooms throughout the world, their purpose being to promote, or to get people to know about and understand, the ideas of Mary Baker Eddy. Almost every big city, including Los Angeles, has a Christian Science reading room, sometimes more than one. That’s probably what most Americans associate today with the Christian Science movement – or at least, that’s what I would probably first think of if you said “Christian Science.”

Let’s move on now to our second topic, which is the Kennedy Space Center. The Kennedy Space Center is located in the state of Florida, on the east coast of the state of Florida. Florida is located in the far southeastern corner of the U.S. It’s next to another famous area or place associated with our space program, Cape Canaveral.

The Kennedy Space Center is run by the U.S. government’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which you probably know, and most Americans know, simply as NASA (NASA). The word “aeronautics” (aeronautics) refers to the science of, basically, flying through the air. “Space” is the part of the universe that is outside of the planet Earth. Usually, space is outside of what we call our “atmosphere” around Earth. We also refer to it as “outer space.”

NASA was founded or started in 1958 to help the United States explore space. During this time, some of you may know, the U.S. and the then Soviet Union were in a race to see who could get to space first, and of course possibly use space for perhaps good and bad purposes. The United States decided to use some land that it owned in Florida to build a center where it could start building space rockets and eventually spaceships that would take people out into space and eventually to the moon.

The first building that was built at what we now call the Kennedy Space Center was called the Launch Operations Center. The verb “to launch” (launch) here means to send either a missile or a spaceship into the air. A “missile” (missile) is something that usually carries some sort of weapon. But the space center was not there primarily to build or to experiment with missiles, but rather with “spaceships” – things that would take people and things out into outer space.

The president during this period was John F. Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy famously announced that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Tragically, John F. Kennedy himself was killed on November 22nd, 1963, and just a few days after he died, the space center was renamed, after him, the Kennedy Space Center.

Kennedy’s prediction proved correct. On July 16th, 1969, the spaceship Apollo 11 was launched or sent into space. Four days later, it landed on the moon and the Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, making Kennedy’s promise a reality – that is, it came true. Throughout the 1960s and early part of the 1970s, the Kennedy Space Center was an important place in that it was building these spaceships.

As the Apollo space program came to an end, the U.S. got interested in building space shuttles. A “shuttle” (shuttle) is a form of transportation that brings you from one place to another, usually one that only goes between, say, two or three places, back and forth. Here in the U.S., a lot of airports have what are called “airport shuttles,” and when you get off the plane and go outside the airport, you will see signs saying “airport shuttles” or “hotel shuttles.” These are little buses, basically, that take you from the airport to your hotel.

The Kennedy Space Center wasn’t building shuttles to take you to your hotel, of course. It was building something that could go out into outer space and then come back. If you know something about the space program during the 1960s and early ’70s, you’ll know that the main part of the spaceship wasn’t reused. You didn’t take the same spaceship you sent out into outer space at one point and then use it again a year later. Well, the space shuttle program was meant to do exactly that – to build something sort of like a plane that could go out into outer space and then come back to the U.S.

For 30 years, beginning in the 1970s, the Kennedy Space Center was where the space shuttles were built and kept. Today, as I record this in 2015, the space program has changed significantly in the U.S. Beginning in 2011, the space shuttles no longer go out into space. The Kennedy Space Center instead is getting ready for different kinds of space missions or different kinds of space jobs.

Today, if you go to the Kennedy Space Center, you can visit and see what the space center was like and the kinds of work it has done over the last 50 years or so. You can explore different ways that people built the spacecraft and the space shuttles. There are more than 1.5 million people who visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and if you’re interested in space travel, that would be a good place for you to start here in the U.S.

Now let’s answer some of the questions you have sent to us.

Our first question comes from Kenneth (Kenneth) in Taiwan. Kenneth wants to know about two phrases we use to form a question, “what for” and “for what.” There’s no difference in meaning really between these two. They’re both ways of asking “For what reason?” or “For what purpose?” Often they’re put at the end of a sentence or immediately after another sentence or question.

Let me give you an example. “You said you are going to the store. What for?” “You said you were going to the store. For what?” Now, in both of these cases, the phrase often is used when a person is confused and perhaps even a little critical of what you are doing. Someone may say to you, “I need a pen. Can you give me one?” You might say, “What for?” meaning “Why?” – why do you want me to give you a pen? Or you could say, “For what?”

Again, I think we usually use these phrases when we might be puzzled and even a little annoyed, even a little bothered by what the person is doing or why the person is doing what he is doing. In most cases, the phrases “What for?” and “For what?” mean the same as “Why?” and you could use “Why?” in most of the places where we use these two phrases.

The use of “For what?” is sometimes used after a statement when you are perhaps confused, surprised, or again, annoyed at something. “I went to college for four years, and for what?” meaning “Why did I do it, because it didn’t really give me anything.” That’s the idea. You are expressing perhaps frustration at what you have done, because it didn’t really produce the results you wanted it to produce. In those cases, we usually use the word “and” – “and for what?” “I studied really hard for the test, and for what? I still got an F.I still failed it.”

Maksim (Maksim) from Russia wants to know the difference between “possibility” (possibility) and “opportunity” (opportunity). A “possibility” is something that may happen, something that has a chance of happening. It may not happen, too. A possibility is simply something that could happen in the future. An “opportunity” is a chance to do something good or a chance to receive some benefit if you do a certain action. A possibility could be good or bad. An “opportunity” is something that you can do that will usually give you some benefit, that will usually do some good for you.

We can also use “opportunity” to mean simply a period of time in which you can do something. “I’m going to give you an opportunity to ask me some questions.” That means I’m going to give you a period of time in which you can ask me some questions. In a sense, it’s a chance for you to benefit from asking me questions, so often the two meanings of “opportunity” are related. “I’m giving you the opportunity to do something” could mean I’m giving you the time to do something but also have the additional meaning of it will benefit you if you take advantage of this opportunity.

That, in fact, is a common phrase used with the word “opportunity.” “I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity to ask you some questions, because you know more than I do and I will benefit from your knowledge.” Normally we say, “I have an opportunity to do something,” not “I have the possibility to do something,” although you could say that. It would be more likely to say, “There’s a possibility that I may have to leave early today.” That could be a good thing. That could be a bad thing, depending on who else is there with you.

Notice that you can’t use one word for the other. If you say, “There’s a possibility,” that’s different than saying, “There’s an opportunity.” “There’s a possibility” means something might happen in the future. “There is an opportunity” means there’s a chance to do something that will create or cause some sort of benefit. So, the two words are not “interchangeable” – that is, you can’t use one for the other.

You could, however, create a sentence that would perhaps convey the same, or give the same, idea. “We have a possibility of winning a lot of money.” “We have an opportunity to win a lot of money.” But normally the two words are used in different senses. “Possibility,” meaning there’s a chance something will happen, good or bad. “Opportunity,” there is something that we can do that would give us some benefit.

Finally, Imam (Imam) in Indonesia wants to know how we use the word “iron” (iron). Iron is a heavy metal, a type of heavy metal that is often used to make other products such as steel. Iron is also found in the human body, in our blood.

We use the word “iron” in other ways, however. We can talk about someone having an “iron will” (will) or an “iron determination.” In those cases, the word “iron” means strong or something of great strength. “He has an iron will” means he’s going to do something whether anyone else likes it or not. He has determination to do something, or he has a strong determination to do something.

There’s an expression an “iron law.” An “iron law” is a principle or an idea that cannot be denied – that you, in a sense, can’t break. It’s something that will happen even if you don’t want it to happen. Going back to the first meaning of “iron,” things that are made of iron often have the word “iron” in front of them. You could talk about, I don’t know, an “iron table,” though most tables are not made of iron.

The most famous expression with iron is “Iron Curtain” (curtain). The “Iron Curtain,” a phrase that was made popular by the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who referred to the borders around the then Soviet Union back in the 1940s and through the early 1990s. It’s a political term, in other words, more than anything else. It doesn’t refer to an actual curtain that is made of iron. A “curtain” is something you would normally put up in front of your windows to prevent people from seeing in your house or to prevent light from going into your house.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. You have the opportunity to email us and getting an answer someday here on the English Café. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. This podcast is copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development..

to found – to create an organization; to start an institution

* Lucas founded a support group for the family of lung cancer victims.

religion – the belief in a controlling power that is not human, such as a god or gods

* This university course on world religions includes discussion of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

injury – damage or hurt to a person’s body

* Hanna suffered an injury to her leg on a ski trip and had to wear a cast for six weeks.

to cure – to heal a person who is ill; to help a person get rid of their injury or sickness

* There is no cure for the common cold, but getting plenty of rest and water will help.

to criticize – to say negative things about a person or thing; to express one’s negative opinion about someone or something

* Sandrine knew she was a good parent but felt like everyone was criticizing her because her child was crying loudly in public.

to promote – to help something grow and become more popular; to raise awareness about an idea or cause

* Marco promoted his new business by putting advertisements in the newspaper.

aeronautics – the science and practice of flying through the air

* Sylvia loves flying and is studying aeronautics at the university so she can eventually become an engineer and design the airplanes of the future.

space – the part of the universe that is outside of the planet Earth

* Dmitri wants to become an astronaut so he can one day travel into space.

to launch – to send a missile or spaceship into the air

* When will the rocket be launched into space?

shuttle – a form of transportation that goes back and forth between two places

* David takes the shuttle every day from his home uptown to his office downtown.

mission – an important assignment or job; a special and/or difficult task that must be completed, often involving risk or danger

* The soldiers were sent on a mission to rescue the people taken hostage by the enemy.

to explore – to travel to a new or unfamiliar place in order to learn more about it

* Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492 to explore new lands.

what for? – why?; for what reason?

* Jean wants me to call her tonight. Do you know what for?

for what? – why?; for what purpose?

* A: I need to go to the store right now!

B: Okay, but for what?

possibility – something that may happen; something that is likely to occur

* There’s a possibility it will rain tonight, so remember to bring your umbrella.

opportunity – an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done; a good chance for getting promoted to a better position or job; progress

* Will there be an opportunity to ask questions before I place my order?

iron – a type of heavy metal that is found naturally in blood, and is used to make steel and many other products; great strength, hardness, or determination

* These statues are made of iron and are too heavy for one person to lift.

iron law – a law or important idea that cannot be denied or disputed, or stopped or prevented

* The iron law of parenting states that the welfare of our children always comes first.

What Insiders Know
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Located on the “National Mall” (the national park between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC) the National Air and Space Museum is part of the “Smithsonian Institution” (a group of museums operated by the U.S. government with free admission). It was created and called the National Air Museum in 1946, but renamed the National Air and Space Museum during the “space race” (the period of time when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were competing to develop space technology quickly). The museum opened at its current location in 1976.

The museum’s “mission” (purpose) is to “Commemorate, Educate, Inspire.” The museum “commemorates” (remembers and honors) important events and people in “aviation” (flying) history, “educates” visitors about air and space travel, and “inspires” (makes people excited about the future) people to dream about the future of air and space travel.

Approximately 6.7 million people visited the museum in 2014. The museum mostly focuses on human flight, and “houses” (is the location for) the world’s largest collection of “historic” (with importance from the past) “aircraft” (airplanes and helicopters) and “spacecraft” (rockets, satellites, and space shuttles). Visitors can also learn a lot about “planetary science” (astronomy; the science related to places and objects beyond the Earth).

The museum’s exhibits include “space suits” (the large, white outfits worn by “astronauts” (people who travel into outer space)) and “The Spirit of St. Louis,” the first airplane that flew between New York and Paris without stopping, flown by Charles Lindbergh in 1927.

In 2009, the museum opened an “observatory,” or a building with one or more very large “telescopes” (devices used for looking into far distances in space). Visitors can go there to view stars and other objects in outer space.