Alzheimer’s, Memory, Being
Krista Tippett, Host
This week’s program is another one that draws on my past and tugs fiercely at my heart. I write about my formative, wonderful, heartbreaking experience as a chaplain to Alzheimer’s patients in my online journal this week. When I wrote my book a couple of years ago, I had to recognize the men and women I came to love who had Alzheimer’s as being among my greatest teachers. And I found in Alan Dienstag the wise teacher and conversation partner about this experience that I’d been waiting for, without knowing it, all these years. He wrote to me afterwards that the conversation was very nourishing for him, almost therapeutic, and it felt that way for me too.
Like the best of conversations that delve deeply into particular human experiences and passions, as Trent noted after he heard the interview, it speaks beyond those particulars to the wider human condition. This is a mystery, and part of the reason I keep doing this work.
I’d also like to do a kind of shout out and thanks here to the Masonic Home and Hospital in Wallingford, Connecticut, where I spent several hours each week over 18 months that are now woven into the fabric of a radio program. Recently out of the blue I received an e-mail — through our show inbox — from Ray Cooley, who was the chaplain there and my mentor and supervisor through that experience. It meant so much to me to hear from him and to know that he’s listening!
Live Video Stream of Krista’s Video Conference with Students at American University
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Three hundred students in the general education program at American University participated in a course in which they read Krista’s book Speaking of Faith. In a live video conference with Krista in St. Paul and the students in Washington DC, they ask questions that arose out of their reading. And Krista answers them.
This is part of our continuing effort to reach out to different groups and also share with our audience all the activities Krista participates in. For those of you who would rather read a running producer commentary of the event, check out our live blog version. Let us know what you think.
“Got Faith? Your Life Has Meaning: Live It. Love It. Pass It On.”
Mitch Hanley, Senior Producer (from the road)
Great event yesterday afternoon at Maria Shriver’s 2008 Women’s Conference. Krista moderated a wide-ranging and lively conversation with Benedictine sister and author, Joan Chittister; Tim Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics; and spiritual teacher and author, Sylvia Boorstein. Ingrid Mattson, professor and president of the Islamic Society of North America was scheduled to participate but had to cancel due to a family emergency. Regrettably, the hour-long discussion among the four was so moving that there was no time to include questions from the audience.
A rough transcript of just one of the highlights:
Krista had just mentioned that often, some religious leaders appear to have all the answers to the large questions of meaning, not only for themselves, but for everyone. And that there is value in the questions, and we need to honor that mystery.
Sylvia Boorstein: Instead of saying, this is how it is, start with, “In my experience…”
Krista Tippett: I can disagree with your opinion, but I cannot disagree with your experience.
Tim Shriver: There are a lot of questions that have nothing to do with God […] I think God is a starting point, not a possession. “God is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, but he is mine.” What a ridiculous idea.
Joan Chittister: A period of questions is a period that takes us into the soul, where less and less is more and more, where we can let God be God. Without questions, you never move off of the place where you are.
Tim Shriver: We are always asking the questions. The questions are the journey. Get comfortable in that search.
The Women’s Conference concluded with a keynote speech by Bono, who described himself as a salesman who, at times, has new U2 albums to vend and now comes calling with his plea for ending global poverty and disease through the (RED) and ONE campaigns.
Being fully aware of our rational inclination to focus our attention inward at such a challenging time, Bono’s closing remarks included a plea to Americans, “We are not asking you to put another man or woman on the moon. We are asking you to put humanity back on earth.”
Bonnie Raitt followed up with a great concert, but I was so tired I could only stay for two songs. Man, did she sound good!
Hear Krista on KPCC’s Patt Morrison Show
Colleen Scheck, Producer
As part of her trip to Los Angeles to participate in the 2008 Women’s Conference and lead a conversation of L.A. faith leaders at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Krista was a guest on Tuesday’s Patt Morrison program on KPCC (a regional public affairs program for Southern California Public Radio). Here Krista is the interviewee, responding to questions from Patt Morrison and her audience about such topics as the role of religion in government and society, the politics/religion dynamic in this year’s presidential election, atheists and humanists in the interfaith spectrum, how we think about fundamentalism today, and listening and hearing as important virtues in our religious dialogue. Listen to their 25-minute conversation.
Eckhart Tolle and Moving to a New House
Krista Tippett, Host
This week we’ve been wrapping up production on next week’s show with Eckhart Tolle. One mark of a promising interview, for me, is when it continues to resonate in my head and my life in the following days. And the conversation I had with Tolle worked its way powerfully into my experience of moving these past few weeks — specifically one thing he said almost as an aside.
He was elaborating on his theory of the importance of the present moment — of being fully aware, alert, attentive to it, engaged in it. He noted that stress is a symptom of not wanting to be in the moment we’re in. On the heels of hearing him say that I realized that I was treating most of the events on my moving “checklist” as tasks to be endured. I was looking at an entire week of my life — the packing, the organizing, the moving out, the moving in — as a period I just had to soldier through to get to the other side. And I became aware that approaching it that way — in effect steeling myself not to be present — did raise a wall of stress in me, a palpable physical and emotional sensation.
But here was the surprise: I could immediately disarm that by leaning into the moment. I still had to pack that box, and it was not the most exciting task of my life, and it was tiring at times, but it was not stressful. As I kept pulling myself back to this discipline time and again across the week, I even experienced little unexpected epiphanies and joys I would utterly have missed in my practiced “just get it done” mode.
To be honest, I went into my interview with Eckhart Tolle somewhat skeptical. I’m always wary of hype, or what looks like hype, especially when it comes to religious/spiritual figures. Often that’s valid. But I’ve also learned that sometimes the people who are getting all the attention are getting it for a good reason. More from me and others on the show we’re calling “The Power of Eckhart Tolle’s Now” in the days to come…
Quoting Eckhart Tolle
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
This morning we’ll do the “final” listen to our program with Eckhart Tolle, which goes out to stations around the country and live on our web site next week on August 14th. It’s not final really, but it’s the last listen to the program in draft form, and it’s where a lot of fine tuning and fussy tweaking occurs.
At this stage in the process, we’ve been neck deep in the work for a little while, and we begin to use a sort of lingua franca based on the material — words and phrases from the guest or their writing populate our speech, to serious and comic effect.
With the Niebuhr show, one of our favorites was, “I am my own most vexing problem,” intoned with overdone gravitas. It’s a twist on Niebuhr’s famous dictum: “Man is his own most vexing problem.”
This week, we are making casual diagnoses of our pain bodies, and sharing earnest stories about how focusing on the now in normally stressful situations really works!
There are some great moments in this program with Eckhart Tolle, and this sample of the interview will give you a feel for it.
What are the catch phrases or terms you find yourself quoting most from Tolle’s work? Has his work or his books had an impact on your stress level?
Ancestors at Meal Time
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Yesterday, Krista had an early evening interview with the chair of the Asian Studies department at the University of Sydney, Mayfair Yang. Thankfully, within the first five minutes (before I had to leave and perform my parental duties), I was able to capture this endearing story.
Her tale about cuisine was a perfect continuation of Krista’s interview with Nicole Mones a few days earlier. I’m trying to find expedient, thoughtful ways of including our readers and listeners in the production process. The product is a bit rawer, but, from what I’ve gleaned from the response to our unedited interviews, people appreciate hearing the savory elements that might not be as polished.
Right now I’m able to film, edit, and upload this video using my Nokia N95 mobile phone. In the coming weeks though, I hope to stream our cuts-and-copy sessions live using this same phone and a great third-party service. I’m testing it now and am astounded at how well it works. In the meantime, please let me know what you think of our endeavors. Post a comment here.
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Sitting behind the glass during one of Krista’s ISDN interviews remains a thrilling experience for me. So, I have no problem convincing myself that others may find pleasure in gaining access to material before it makes its way — hopefully — into a radio broadcast. (By the way, I’m struggling to find a better way to say that since a growing number of our listeners are podcasters and streamers. Audio program sounds pretty droll. Got any ideas?)
And, as journalists in public broadcasting, we have the onus of disclosing more and sharing more with our audiences. So I’m doing just that. Armed with a Nokia N95 — the Swiss army knife of mobile phones for collecting, producing, and distributing content — I shot and edited this clip of Krista interviewing novelist Nicole Mones for a potential program about contemporary Chinese society and their reverence for cuisine as a necessary means of relationship and connectedness, guanxi.
Oh, and the tapping your hear in the background is Colleen transcribing a rough copy of the interview for us to reference when we start editing and producing the program.
Lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria with George Foster Peabody, Lesley Stahl, Krista Tippett, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
Monday a few of us had the great honor and pleasure of attending the Peabody Awards ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, where Speaking of Faith was honored for its program on the 13th century Sufi mystic and poet Rumi. We were packed cheek by jowl into the large ballroom full of peers in broadcasting from around the country.
My take away was the utter gravity with which this award is taken by people at every stratum of broadcasting, as a measure of quality and as a reminder of the promise that broadcasting holds not just to entertain (though surely to entertain) but also to inform, to nourish, and to challenge.
Here, our dear host enjoys the scene with our colleague and good friend Tom Voegeli, and his son Ollie. Tom, an accomplished veteran producer of public radio, won his fourth Peabody this year for the MTT Files, a wonderful series with Michael Tilson Thomas.
Thanks to all of you — our listeners and readers — for your intelligence, your warmth, and your engagement with our work. You make us very proud, and you are the reason we do this work gladly, with or without a Peabody.
(photo: Mitch Hanley)