“One of my persistent worries about our own time is that we may be squandering a good bit of rich heritage through processes of organized ‘forgetting,’ a climate of opinion that encourages presentism rather than a historical perspective that reminds us that we are always boats moving against the current, ‘borne back ceaselessly into the past,’ in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s memorable words from The Great Gatsby. This historic recognition should not occasion resentment or dour heaviness; rather, it should instill gratitude. As this book drew to a close, I realized that it was no culminating magnum opus — few books are — but, rather, a contribution to the shared memory of our time and place. And that is enough.”—
~Jean Bethke Elshtain, from the preface of Sovereignty: God, State, and Self
We’re fascinated with outer space, but there’s a place on earth that’s just as alien — and just as mysterious. It’s the bottom of the ocean, and Sylvia Earle has walked there:
"[I walked] on the bottom, two and a half hours, and I later spoke with an astronaut friend, Buzz Aldrin, and he said, ‘Well, that’s about as long as we had to walk on the moon, two and a half hours.’ But what they did not have on the moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong and those who came later, they didn’t have just this avalanche of life, this great diversity all around. Everywhere you looked, there were little fish with lights down the side. Of course, the corals themselves are alive. There were little burrows of creatures that were dwelling in the sediments on the sea floor. The water itself is like minestrone, except all the little bits are alive."
And that life of the ocean sustains all life on earth. Sylvia Earle takes us there with singular urgency and passion.
I kind of think of this interview as a show for those of us on summer holiday. As you’re driving or hiking or sailing, geomorphologist David Montgomery helps you see the world around you differently — through the lens of geology. As I was driving through the Black Hills (Paha Sapa in Lakota) of South Dakota this past week, I looked at the canted rock formations differently. And I found a deeper appreciation for the push and pull between religion and science has shaped advances in geology from the beginning.
And, if you’re looking for some good dinner table conversation, you really ought to listen to David Montgomery talk about how Noah’s Flood might actually be rooted in an historical event — of the Mediterranean rising so high that it spilt over into the valley of the Black Sea. Or, my favorite line: plate tectonics is to geology what DNA is to biology.
Montgomery tells us how the evolution of landscapes and geological processes shape ecology and humanity, and , how we should read rocks for the stories they tell about who we are and where we came from:
"Geology really is, essentially, the scientific creation story. How did it really work? What can we tell from the nature of the universe around us that would inform us in our thinking about how we got to the place we are now? I think that really is central to our sort of view of ourselves as a species, our place in the universe, as well as sort of your personal relationship to the universe. What am I doing here?"
“A concern I have about my own side is, what the main activists in the pro-life or anti-abortion community want is an overturn of Roe vs. Wade. I am not at all convinced that if that were to actually happen that they would like the world that they would see on the other side.”—David Gushee, a Christian ethicist and professor at Mercer College, during his public dialogue with Frances Kissling, a long-time reproductive rights activist and former head of Catholics for Choice
“Abortion very late in pregnancy, abortion of disabled fetuses, these to me are very, very complicated questions. Even though I don’t think fetuses have an absolute right to life, I think fetuses have value. And I don’t think you can make the fetus invisible.”—Frances Kissling, long-time reproductive rights activist and former head of Catholics for Choice, during her public dialogue with Christian ethicist David Gushee
No issue in America is more intractable than abortion. Or is it? A conversation with long-time reproductive rights activist Frances Kissling and Christian ethicist David Gushee that doesn’t begin or end in the predictable places.
“In the genre of horror we are working out our deepest anxieties. Vampires, zombies, and the like are stand-ins for our other fears, the ones we can’t talk about. That means fear of death, of course — but even worse, of being a living corpse who drains those we love.”—~Jana Riess for the Religion News Service
"I think trauma really does confront you with the best and the worst. You see the horrendous things that people do to each other, but you also see resiliency, the power of love, the power of caring, the power of commitment, the power of commitment to oneself, the knowledge that there are things that are larger than our individual survival. And in some ways, I don’t think you can appreciate the glory of life unless you also know the dark side of life."
Bessel van der Kolk has come to see human memory as a sensory experience. The trauma researcher and psychiatrist shares what he and others are learning on this edge of humanity about the complexity of memory, our need for others, and how our brains take care of our bodies.
"When you live in a city like Detroit, it’s not just buildings that have become ruins. It’s that a way of life, a way of thinking has died and something else has been born — a new culture, a new spirit. And I think that’s what you get in Detroit if you are able to look past the ruins. What an opportunity. What a time to be alive."
Here’s a different story about Detroit. With the recent news coverage of its declaration of bankruptcy, we travel to a city of vigor where joyful, passionate people are reimagining work, food, and the very meaning of humanity. Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese-American philosopher and civil rights legend, is the heart and soul of this largely hidden story, which holds lessons for us all.
If you’ve never heard this soundscape meditation with Gordon Hempton, I implore you to listen to this aural hike through the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park to One Square Inch of Silence — with the chirping twitter of the Western wren and the haunting call of the Roosevelt elk:
"Good things come from a quiet place: study, prayer, music, transformation, worship, communion. The words peace and quiet are all but synonymous, and are often spoken in the same breath. A quiet place is the think tank of the soul, the spawning ground of truth and beauty.
A quiet place outdoors has no physical borders or limits to perception. One can commonly hear for miles and listen even farther. A quiet place affords a sanctuary for the soul, where the difference between right and wrong becomes more readily apparent. It is a place to feel the love that connects all things, large and small, human and not; a place where the presence of a tree can be heard. A quiet place is a place to open up all your senses and come alive.
Sadly, though, as big as it is, our planet offers fewer and fewer quiet havens. …
In 1984, early in my recording career recording nature sounds, I identified 21 places in Washington state (an area of 71,302 square miles) with noise-free intervals of 15 minutes or longer. In 2007, only three of these places remain on my list. Two are protected only by their anonymity; the third lies deep within Olympic National Park: the Hoh Rain Forest in the far northwest corner of the continental United States. I moved near the Hoh in the mid-1990s just to be closer to its silences. In the Hoh River Valley, nature discovery occurs without words or even thoughts — it simply happens. Wondrously. But you have to listen.
And to do that, you first have to silence the mind.”
If you can, be sure to listen with a pair of headphones or earbuds. You’ll discover quieting sounds you might miss without them. I promise! Download the MP3 and share it with your friends.
Thanks pezzz! I’ve been a bit derelict in my Tumblr duties as I’ve been spearheading our transition as an independent, nonprofit organization. We’ll be up-to-speed in the coming months. In the interim, be prepared for a deluge of photos of the process of designing a new office space!
An enduring sense of lo ss for me revolves around the fact that On Being is no longer on the air in Chicago! What a shame! I can only imagine it must have had to do with commercial considerations, of which NPR I'd supposed took be free, yet toward which it inexorably seems to edge year after year. Any chance you'll be back in the Windy City soon?
Dear Windy City Listener—
Unfortunately, the good folks at WBEZ have given no inclination that On Being with Krista Tippett will return to their public radio frequency anytime soon. We’re working on it though. Hope springs eternal!
Perhaps you’d be interested to hear that our humble radio project is spreading its wings. We’ve always been an entrepreneurial endeavor, and now we’ve taken the next step in our evolution. We’ve received our charter as an independent, nonprofit organization. We like to think of our project as a social enterprise with a radio program at its heart. And now it’s time to figure this out. What do we do next?
More to come, but in the meantime please check out our website and podcast and keep listening. We need you!
“What does it mean that our society places such a premium on fantasy and imagination?”—A fascinating question from Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann in her NYT op-ed. She very much affirms the need in this “information-soaked age.” How about you?