Dear Aaron + Brandon:
Rather than give you a clever answer or a response of my own choosing, I used your question as an opportunity. How often does one get the chance to reach out to his or colleagues and ask them questions that aren’t driven by a deadline or a deliverable? So, that’s what I did, although I do confess that I gave them an informal deadline so I could publish an answer this weekend.
Chris Heagle, our technical director, was the first one to reply, which he did almost immediately. At the top of his list, travel, which he finds is a way to turn routine on its head by “seeing the vastness of our planet and the mind-boggling diversity of its inhabitants.” He’s also a devoted father who marvels at his girls’ “curiosity and ability to learn and the joy they take in both.” And, apparently, he has a deep passion for thrill-seekers like Jeb Corliss and his ability to seize the day.
Krista Tippett, our host and founder and the driving creative force of this project, provided an eloquent response (in essay format, no less):
Maybe it’s because we’ve just been working on the John O’Donohue show again, but what comes to mind is beauty in its many forms. Words just become more and more important to me as time passes. It’s not the beauty that we reduce to “glamour,” as O’Donohue helpfully distinguishes. It’s the beauty of presence — both in the natural world and in human relationship. It’s the vigor of beautiful lives — lives that make of themselves a work of art and an offering to the world.
It’s not about perfection, though. Lives like these build on all the hard edges they encounter. What we do with loss and pain becomes beauty with time and care. I hang on to the notion of beauty as a “core moral value” that our Muslim conversation partners have given us. And that a litmus test of whether something is of God doesn’t need to be defined in terms of righteousness and rules. Is it ugly, or is it beautiful? In its presence, do we feel more alive?
Our associate producer Susan Leem, who is the newest addition to our staff, then offered a tumbling list of eclectic wonder: shared memories, finding beauty in the old and the odd, DIYers, overcomers, creators, problem-solvers, rediscovering the utility of forgotten ideas, rethinking the possibility of discarded things, and the word “smalls”.
I think I see a theme here that values the pragmatic and the transcendent.
Anne Breckbill, who has been helping develop our website for the past couple of years sent this list of six ideas. I like the way each idea visually funnels into a tighter, more concise idea. A practice in the visual distillation of simplicity:
Engaging authentically with things that are real and that matter.
Witnessing the tenacity of the human spirit.
Kindness and compassion.
Animals and nature.
An East Coast transplant who grew up in Jersey, our producer Nancy Rosenbaum surprised me a bit. During the course of any given day, she may speak passionately about her African dance classes and “the uplift that comes from dance and song and collective movement and drum,” but she began her response with another love. A love of bodies of water: the ocean, the sea, rivers, and lakes — and ponds too! She’s in the right place, though. We’re located in the land of 10,000 lakes, and paddling inspiration abounds, and so do “the first green hints of spring after a long Minnesota winter.”
So, now I ask the two of you — two men who obviously have a passion for bikes and road racing. What’s your inspiration?
All the best,
Trent Gilliss, senior editor