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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

The Weird Glory and Terrible Power of Nature

Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer

It’s hard not to see life as utterly random and meaningless in the face of disasters like the recent cyclone in Myanmar or the earthquake in China. And this is an issue that comes up again and again in theological circles, referred to as as the theodicy question: How could a just god let innocent people suffer and die?

On our show A History of Doubt, the historian Jennifer Michael Hecht addresses the theodicy question through the Book of Job. To test Job’s faith, God takes away his livelihood, his children, his status, his health, and finally Job breaks down and demands to know how God could do this to him, an innocent man. God appears to Job in a whirlwind and responds with a tirade.

Have you walked in the depths of the ocean? Have the gates of death been opened to you? Where does light come from? And where darkness? Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Has thou seen the treasures of the hail? Hath the rain a father? Who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice?

Hecht gives her wonderful reading of this passage in her book Doubt: a History.

This is how God accounts for himself. He does not say, Here is proof of justice or of my existence; he simply cites the weird glory of the natural world…. [The Book of Job] is not a parable of divine justice. It is a parable of resignation to a world-making force that has no justice as we understand justice. God comes off sounding like a metaphor for the universe: violent and chaotic yet bountiful and marvelous.

Krista explored the same theodicy question with the geologist Jelle de Boer, not long after the December 2004 tsunami disaster, in our show The Morality of Nature. Jelle de Boer pointed out that the horrifically destructive power of earthquakes and volcanoes is actually the same power responsible for bringing water and nutrients to the surface of the earth, therefore making life possible.

So through these volcanoes, over billions of years, this beautiful blue planet has formed, and its watery expanse is what gives life. And so life is directly dependent there on these geological processes…the processes where these plates separate and crack and where they run over each other and crack, and as a consequence of that, magmas form at deep levels in the earth, they are brought to the surface, and they bring not only those nutrients I talked about earlier, but also water. And that is the essence of life.

That magma running under the surface of everything, ready to destroy and remake life, puts a dark spin on something the Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote.

By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.

(Image: NASA)

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The Gospel, as Done by Mick and Keith
Mitch Hanley, Senior Producer

Yesterday morning I was making breakfast, cleaning the kitchen, and listening to the Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet, one of my favorite of their albums (includes “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Street Fightin Man,” etc.). This record has a great rendition of the story of the prodigal son, a biblical parable with a message that I have never appreciated, until yesterday.

I have always felt that there should be consequences for the younger son having left, blown all his money, and then comes back to be received into the fold of his family. And what about the elder son who remained there, steadfast and dedicated, his inheritance intact? What message does he receive, other than, ‘You might as well go off and blow your wad, too, because it doesn’t really matter’? Well, OK, so this really isn’t the message.

And yesterday it seems as though I had a eureka moment, long after most of you, I suppose. So, life isn’t fair, right? We all know that; we’ve seen it every day in the news where there are injustices and sometimes no consequences. But for a reader of the Bible, does one wish that God’s love be merely fair with consequences for bad decisions? I would think not. My guess is that we want it both ways: we want justice here on earth and for God’s love to be unconditional. What is wrong with that? But the story is not trying to reflect how it is here on earth, and only how God’s love is — unreasonable, irrational, and that is the beauty of it.

So what are the benefits of remaining on the farm? Or, in another way, what are the benefits of leading a life within the fold of God’s love? I would guess there are many different answers to this question, depending on whom you ask.

I also have to think, ‘What if the younger son went off, blew all his money, and became Buddhist?’ Would he still be “dead” to his father?

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TimeGuards/SpiritGuards Trent Gilliss, Online EditorFigurative sculpture installations take on new meaning within the context of location. Art of the highest human form. Manfred Kielnhofer’s sculptures accomplish this task. The transitory nature of the work remind me of Antony Gormley’s public sculptures, especially his “Another Place” series of 200 craggy, metal figures on the ocean beach.  (photo: Matthew Beddow/Flickr)But, the Austrian artist’s work conjures up a more ethereal, mystical quality. They’re shrouded in mystery calling out their ancestors and their progeny. When the viewer looks from particular angles, they become diaphanous, almost soulless — like the ring-wraiths, the Nazgul, from The Lord of the Rings or even a rougher-hewn predecessor in Prague.  Even the introductory paragraph of the Austrian artist’s site reads like the opening to an ancient future, calling on the Druids of Stonehenge and the crusaders of Everquest or the worlds of Myst:  In the ages of the ancient advanced civilizations the presence of the Guardians of Time was recognized with respect, reverence and humility. Over the millennia a new mystery was formed and only a few chosen ones, like high priests, spiritual masters and shamans were granted to study it. They were the ones that got a deeper insight in the secret of THE TIME GUARDIANS. The beings were referred to as visitors from other systems, protectors or destroyers and even gods.(photos courtesy of the artist)

TimeGuards/SpiritGuards
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Figurative sculpture installations take on new meaning within the context of location. Art of the highest human form. Manfred Kielnhofer’s sculptures accomplish this task. The transitory nature of the work remind me of Antony Gormley’s public sculptures, especially his “Another Place” series of 200 craggy, metal figures on the ocean beach.

(photo: Matthew Beddow/Flickr)

But, the Austrian artist’s work conjures up a more ethereal, mystical quality. They’re shrouded in mystery calling out their ancestors and their progeny. When the viewer looks from particular angles, they become diaphanous, almost soulless — like the ring-wraiths, the Nazgul, from The Lord of the Rings or even a rougher-hewn predecessor in Prague.
Manfred Kielnhofer’s Time Guardians
Manfred Kielnhofer’s Time Guardians

Even the introductory paragraph of the Austrian artist’s site reads like the opening to an ancient future, calling on the Druids of Stonehenge and the crusaders of Everquest or the worlds of Myst:

In the ages of the ancient advanced civilizations the presence of the Guardians of Time was recognized with respect, reverence and humility. Over the millennia a new mystery was formed and only a few chosen ones, like high priests, spiritual masters and shamans were granted to study it. They were the ones that got a deeper insight in the secret of THE TIME GUARDIANS. The beings were referred to as visitors from other systems, protectors or destroyers and even gods.
Manfred Kielnhofer’s Time Guardians

(photos courtesy of the artist)

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Poems of a Late Wandering Irishman

Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

One thing we know about our fan base — they (you?) love words, especially poesy. The response to Tess Gallagher’s poem about her time with Thich Nhat Hanh made that clear.

So, in one of Krista’s limited face-to-face interviews (see Shiraz’s post about what a more typical interview looks like), she was regaled by the lilting tongue and picturesque poetry of the late Irish poet John O’Donohue in September. Mr. O’Donohue passed away earlier this year, but his verse lives on.

John O'Donohue
Colleen crafted a lovely audio slideshow (keep your eye out for her post) of O’Donohue’s recitation of “Beannacht” threaded with phototgraphs of scenic Celtic landscapes taken by several of his dear friends. And, since many of O’Donohue’s recitations won’t make it into the final, produced program, I wanted to offer them up here for download — or, if you prefer a more expedient and organized approach, through our podcast.

All of them are mp3s you can download. Just right-click your mouse and select save as:

A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
A Blessing for One Who Holds Power
Beannacht
For the Pilgrim a Kiss: The Caha River
For the Pilgrim a Kiss: Between Things
For the Pilgrim a Kiss: Body Language
Since You Came
The Nativity

And, my apologies for all the parenthetical comments. Yowza!

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