If you didn’t know it, each member on our staff, including Krista, pretty much reads every piece of e-mail that’s sent to our inbox. And we receive a healthy amount of correspondence! But we’re also aware that there are many more conversations and responses to our show taking place in the greater online world, especially in blogs and social networking forums.
I thoroughly enjoy reading the increasing number of blog posts and articles about SOF, and commenting on others’ sites. Sometimes they’re simple observations or recommendations about a particular show, or entries that gave us new insights and ideas for future shows, as well as feedback on our productions. With a little link love, I thought I’d point out a few:
In her blog, Experiments in Physical Chemistry, Dawn Dennison wrote a gritty post about the power of play in her own life. She has a wonderful sense of the importance of play, and some good humor to boot:
I am often scraped and bruised and dirty, but I never think I’m too old to be falling down as much as I do. I fall down hard at least once every week. I’m always happy that I usually jump right up continue the ride. Mostly, though, I’m happy that I’m still doing things that occasionally make me hurt myself. I think an interesting survey would be to ask people in their 30’s and 40’s “When was the last time you fell down while playing?”
Most religious people I’ve heard have to suspend rational thought when they talk about their faith but John Polkinghorne didn’t do that. Speaking of Faith is a great show and I’m enjoying exploring the faiths of others and broadening my limited Catholic-influenced perspective.
After a recebt week of “light saber sword fights” and “gang tackle football” with four energetic kids aged 8, 6, 4, and 2, it’s taking a while for this old body to recuperate but every ache brings a smile.
Can’t wait to show this to my wife :-). Wonder if my bosses will buy it?
As I read more, I’ll highlight other entries and hopefully you’ll find some of them relevant to your own lives. Man, there are some keen observers out there.
This sentence in The New York Times yesterday nearly made me choke on my organic lettuce (purchased at the coop):
"The highest form of luxury is now growing it yourself or paying other people to grow it for you," said Corby Kummer, the food columnist and book author. "This has become fashion."
One of the gifts of perspective that Barbara Kingsolver offered me in our conversation is in seeing that the way most of us eat now — the cheap and easy habits we’ve come to take for granted in a handful of generations — are elite in the extreme. Once upon a time not so long ago, lettuce for salad in October was a party trick for the very, very rich. What Kingsolver’s family did for a year — living off what they could grow and raise on the land around them — is still the way most human beings have lived forever and many in the world still do. We’re collectively, it seems, in the midst of a culinary and dietary version of “remembering forward.”
And I’m happy to learn — also via the New York Times, such is the world we inhabit — that our dear public radio friends and colleagues down the hall at The Splendid Table are coming to the rescue. Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift have commissioned 15 people in various regions across the country to prepare food 80% locally for a year — and to chronicle just what that takes, just how humanly possible or impossible that may be in a spectrum of contemporary lives. At their Locavaore Nation site, you can follow their adventure for yourself.
Mapping the human genome has raised many ethical questions about choices — controversial issues ranging from designer babies to personal privacy rights. But, the issue of using this greater level of genetic detail as a basis for racial stereotypes and discriminatory policies, well, that’s a quieter issue that perhaps has more pervasive reprecussions.
Stereotypes, such as the native physicality of African-American athletes, may be born out by such data, but we may not be taking into account the cultural and social factors that contribute to these conclusions. Because the data may feed our preconceptions and appear to be logical, the scientific methodologies may not be scrutinized as critically as they could be.
A working group at Stanford University debated these assumptions and proclivities. The university organized a working group of geneticists, psychologists, historians, sociologists, philosophers, and scientists from many disciplines to contemplate some of these dilemmas. For instance, biomedical scientists took a more clinical and neutral approach to race when describing groups of individuals; scholars in the social sciences and humanities questioned whether such labels cultural meaning.
"We urge those who use genetic information to reconstruct an individual’s geographic ancestry to present results within the broader context of an individual’s overall ancestry."
If they are willing to look at geographical and cultural ancestries for conclusions, how might our spiritual and religious ancestries inform our genetic makeup and defining markers as living individuals today? If we really did our homework and scraped together thorough legacies, what would we learn about our deeper selves and who we were as individuals today? Might we have more in common with groups we’ve felt so alien to? Might we might find greater mystery in our multi-threaded pasts that might explain the evolution of our genetic makeup, our current actions, our abundance, or lack of, spiritual moorings?
The Eight Is Magical Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer
Here’s a little 55-second taste of next week’s show. Krista interviewed anthropologist and filmmaker Mayfair Yang about religion in China. This came toward the end of the interview after the “serious” questions.
So we’ve been trying to finally find someone to interview about the human animal bond, a show topic that’s been in the works for quite a while now. I was shocked to learn in my research just how much the relationship between humans and animals had changed over time. About 100 years ago, dogs in this country were primarily used for work on the farm, and rarely allowed inside the home. Today, 60-80% of dogs sleep with their owners at night in the bedroom, either in or on the bed.
Why have we gotten so much closer to these creatures? Is it our growing sense of displacement from nature that makes us want to form a bond with something non-human? Is it the same longing many people for natural places that a recent guest talked about in our show Pagans Ancient and Modern?
Of course, our desire to get close to animals is not new, as this amazing article from the New Yorker points out: the earliest artworks human beings are known to have created were cave paintings of animals. Maybe we bring animals into our home today for the same reason those first artists chose not to depict themselves but rather the living creatures around them. We want to get ahold of that wildness somehow. But I have to wonder what those cave painters would think if they could see us today, feeding the fish, changing the kitty litter, or doling out doggy anti-depressants.
This article from The New York Times cites the recent discovery of archival clippings which suggest that Reinhold Niebuhr was not the composer of the famous Serenity Prayer (i.e. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change…”). Questions raised in the article include who first uttered the words, who actually wrote them down and was there some cross-pollination without attribution.
What is not widely known is that the Serenity Prayer that has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous was an adaptation of a sermon Niebuhr gave back in 1943. That specific year and sermon is attributed in the article to his daughter, Elisabeth Sifton. Following is widely believed to be Niebuhr’s composition:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
If only Reinie had a blog back then, but then again maybe that would not have helped, either.
After a group conversation about which Star Wars movie was the best one (discounting the new trilogy, obviously, my favorite The Empire Strikes Back has a strong following), I went out for lunch. In the food court nearest to our building, I saw at a distance a man sitting at a table, pencil in hand, his palm squeezing his forehead. He was looking down at some paper, and looked like he had to figure out a way to balance his finances or die. As I got closer, I saw what he was working on: a crossword puzzle. He was completely taken.
As I walked back to the office, I thought, “Gee, I should take up a new hobby.” I thought of just a few weeks ago when I was playing with my cousin’s son, following the instructions of a Lego jet, sifting through the pieces to find a red block with two studs, and feeling this kind of meditative calm come over me. I remembered being lost, as I would be in childhood, sifting through the blocks the same way. Maybe I should become a Legomaniac as an adult. (Unfortunately, sitting on the floor isn’t much fun anymore.) I guess I’m noticing all this because we just recorded some promotional language for our upcoming rebroadcast of Play, Spirit and Character.
Fatemeh Keshavarz, our guest in "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi," periodically distributes a personal newsletter sharing her thoughts and opinions on Iranian news, culture, and US-Iranian relations and politics. What I enjoy most about these newsletters are the visual elements she includes that highlight photography, art, and multimedia features that you wouldn’t find in U.S. media.
"…My angels are children who were born old. They all look rough. They have not experienced the tenderness of childhood, but deep down they are still children. One of my angels is trying to tell her fortune. I got this idea from the children there. Their lives are so much at the mercy of fate and random events that they are always trying to find out what will happen to them next."
It’s been fascinating to watch the reactions to our recent rebroadcast of the Barbara Kingsolver. Last year we had a wildly positive response. This year, more than a few listeners experienced Kingsolver’s account of her experiment in a year of eating what she could grow herself — and my interview of her — to be elitist at worst or impractical at best.
Full confession here: I was more surprised by last year’s response, because I also felt that the odyssey Kingsolver undertook necessitated all kinds of basics that elude me and most of the human beings I know — a stay at home job where you set your own hours, a wildly cooperative teenage daughter, a farm you just happened to inherit — and that’s not to mention the southern climate. Still, I was compelled by her insistence that we can’t leave these problems to the next generation, and by her descriptions of the delights of homegrown food.
I did plant a garden last summer of the first time in my life, and loved it. I’ve made more of an effort ever since to buy food that has not travelled thousands of miles to get to me. But this year I haven’t managed the garden. I’ve become more acutely aware of how hard — if not impossible — it would be to live on what I could grow year round in Minnesota or even buy at coops or farmers’ markets. And I’ve learned about some of the ironies of this issue of food globally. For example, that New Zealand is producing such ecologically friendly food that, on balance, the kiwi fruit they produce might be an ethical choice for me to purchase. And on and on.
So here’s my question to you, to all of us: Is sustainability sustainable? Part of the challenge, it seems to me, is to be focused and mindful and accept the limits of what each of us can humanly do in the circumstances in which we live right now, and accept that in ourselves and others. Are we suffering from too little practical guidance on how the routines of our imperfect, already complicated daily lives can truly affect the environment? Or are we facing a debilitatingly guilt-inducing overload of information?
I’d like to hear others’ ruminations on this. What happened to the listening public’s excitement about eating locally between last year and this? Many of you asked if Barbara Kingsolver herself is still living this way. If she’s not, does that negate the whole effort? How can we stop sustainability fatigue from setting in?
Although most of Krista’s interviews make it into production, some regretfully don’t. I say regretfully because almost all of her conversations have an interesting thread, but perhaps not enough to carry an hour-long radio program.
And that’s the beauty of producing material online — no format constraints and limitless ways of displaying information. If the material is strongest at 29 minutes and 34 seconds, then that’s what it should be and can be.
This ability to create more compelling productions out of existing material is the liberating force behind the Web. It allows us, as producers, to become more creative with our material. But, reevaluation for other outlets also requires flexibility and a shift in thinking — a somewhat new approach to listening and editing for a radio producer, especially when it involves visuals.
As of late, Rob listened to an interview from 2002, Krista’s conversation with David Shenk on the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. Drawing on previous queries for “The Spirituality of Parenting” and “The Beauty and Challenge of Being Catholic,” he asked if we might do the same to create an online program addressing the topic of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a great start and I trust that something meaningful will result, whether it makes it online or, hmmmmm…, maybe even on the air.
The average lifespan of men and women is on the rise. And, with it, an increasing number of people are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s.
Each person with this illness has a distinct experience and a distinct story, a story often carried in memory by a caregiver or loved one. If your life has been touched by Alzheimer’s, we’d like to hear your story. How has this disease changed the way you think about love, memory, personality and humanity? Help us reclaim this conversation. Share your stories and images with us.
What inspires a person to learn the language of his ancestors, even though he didn’t grow up speaking that language himself? And what inspires him to join a school where he can teach that language to children? What do those children think about the language? And what affect can the effort have on an entire community?
These were a few of the questions I had for Keller Paap, a teacher in an Ojibwe immersion school program called Waadookodaading (We Help Each Other) on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in north-central Wisconsin. I got in touch with Paap while I was working on our recent program "Sustaining Language, Sustaining Meaning." You can hear his story in the embedded audio above. He begins by introducing himself in Ojibwe.
What I gleaned from talking to Paap was that this language revitalization effort is doing more than merely preserving the language. It’s literally keeping the language alive so that it can continue to grow and change, with new words and new ways of saying things. I love the way he describes his students’ relationship to the language. They aren’t dwelling on the long-standing U.S. policy of forcibly educating Native Americans in English. They aren’t learing Ojibwe as a political act or even as a cultural act. They’re just living in it, and making it their own.
This audio piece was produced with help from Trent Gilliss and Mitch Hanley. Music by Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band. Keller Paap took the photo of the Ojibwe road sign, which translates as “The Dam.”