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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.

With Pope JPII’s canonization into sainthood on Sunday, a look back. In 2005, we produced a retrospective on the late pope’s religious legacy after his death. Krista speaks with NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli, priest + author Donald Cozzens, and Yale theologian Margaret Farley. Together they explore some of the critical religious issues of his 26 years as pontiff and discusses the great and contradictory impact he made on the Church in America and abroad.

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We’re going to try an experiment tonight… live video streaming with an iPad + a WiFi connection (yes, for realz!). So far the tests look good. At 7pm ET/6 pm CT, we’ll start filming. Join us from afar and listen in on the conversation from NPR's beautiful new building in Washington DC! 

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/nonviolence-vs-no-justice-no-peace-the-civil-conversations-project-live-video/6085

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If you’re looking for a whole new perspective on the value of mathematics, Stanford University’s Keith Devlin shall provide. With his wonderfully lilting English (Yorkshire?) accent and as sharp of a mind as you can imagine, he compares mathematical equations to sonnets and says that what most of us learn in school doesn’t begin to convey what mathematics is. That technology may free more of us to discover the wonder of mathematical thinking — as a reflection of the inner world of our minds.

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texaspublicradio:

Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy your driveway moments, courtesy of TPR and NPR member stations.

Fun!

texaspublicradio:

Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy your driveway moments, courtesy of TPR and NPR member stations.

Fun!

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Video Spoof: “We Didn’t Start the Pledge Drive”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

NPR Video Spoof with Krista TippettPublic radio has some pretty geeky fans, and they’re enamored with the names of its on-air talent. Nonetheless, you gotta dig the enthusiasm, especially when they’re trying to raise money to support our work. And, this year, even our host Krista Tippett makes the cut with a churchy backdrop infused with heavenly light. Viral madness?

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A Star to Watch During March Madness Who Models the Love of Family and Basketball

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

With March Madness upon us, stories of high-flying success and triumph through teamwork will abound for men’s basketball. But the women’s game, and its players too, often get overlooked. Leave it to Frank Deford to fill that gap with this NPR commentary about Elena Delle Donne, one of the NCAA’s premiere players.

After two days, Delle Donne left the country’s top women’s program at the University of Connecticut to return home to Delaware. The reason? She missed what was most important to her: her family, namely her sister Lizzie who was born without sight and without hearing and has cerebral palsy. But, as Deford points out, ”…for Elena, it was not a matter of leaving anywhere. No, it was only a matter of wanting to be somewhere, with someone where she thought she was more valuable, where she mattered more in life and love.”

These are the stories that swell people’s hearts. Not because of the pain, but because many of us have faced a scenario in some ways similar to Elena Delle Donne’s. We’ve all had to make choices that take us away from our home or the ones we love, whether for work or military service or schooling. The 6’5” All-American did what we aspire to do — to prioritize what’s most important to us and succeed while doing what’s right.

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If you’re a production junkie like me and often wonder how programs wrangle their material and then get it to air, this short film about PRI’s The World will tickle your fancy. The part about how the BBC correspondents shape the agenda is intriguing:

A behind-the-scenes look at how PRI’s global news program, The World, is produced for broadcast. Video journalist and freelance producer Marcus Wraight created this piece.

We are in awe of the talent at The World!

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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In Gabby Giffords’ Voice

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Listen to the first 80 seconds of Melissa Block’s piece on last night’s All Things Considered. And then fast forward to the final 67 seconds of the audio. What a powerful message, a powerful couple minutes of radio. To hear the contrast of the fluid voice of the Congresswoman before her brain was penetrated by a bullet in January of this year, and then witness the powerful will of her language several months later rages with hope.

Now, listen to the full ten-minute piece with Block’s interview with Representative Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, which is bookended with Gabby’s voice. The context makes her readings all the more powerful. Non?

Yes, even those of us who work in public radio are not immune to those “driveway moments” in the darkness of the early evening. What a gift.

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Commenting on Our Consciousness through Studying the Deepest Meaning of Human Language

by Krista Tippett, host

Infographic displaying languages by number of speakersThere’s a quality I’ve experienced during the years in some people who work lovingly with children across a long life. They nurture and retain an exuberance, a playfulness, in themselves. And they merge that with a delving intellect and spirit. Robert Coles, the psychiatrist who wrote famously about the moral, political, and spiritual lives of children, gave me the phrase “delving spirit” and embodied it:

"It’s our effort on this planet as creatures who have a mind and use language to ask questions and answer them through speculation, through story-telling, to explore the universe and answer those fundamental questions: Where do we come from? What are we? And where, if any place, are we going?"

It interests me, looking back now, to see how Robert Coles stressed language as inextricably bound with spirit. Jean Berko Gleason is, like him, a wisely child-like delver. A professor emerita of psychology, she continues to imprint and expand the field of psycholinguistics that she helped to create — the exploration of how human beings acquire language and what this says about who we are.

She began to make her mark on linguistics decades ago with a test that looks, on the surface, like it’s about basic grammar. She created the wug, a simply drawn mythical creature. This, it turned out, was a savvy tool for demonstrating that young children could apply complex grammatical rules and form new words that no one had ever tried to teach them. Even after 50 years in her field, Jean Berko Gleason remains amazed and delighted at the extremely ordinary human capacity to learn language and work with it. She infects me with that amazement.

She also brings us up to speed on the evolution of this scientific field’s “nature versus nurture” debate. Every discipline, it seems, has one. When I was in college, the MIT linguist Noam Chomsky had taken the intellectual world by storm with his suggestion that we are born with universal, innate language templates that only need to be triggered for humans to speak.

Looking at the “wug test,” you might suspect that it tells some of the same story — of an innate skill that is biologically, not socially, rooted. But as Jean Berko Gleason has grown in her field and watched it grow with her, she has become increasingly fascinated by what we are learning about the intense interaction that draws forth, inspires, and hones that biologically-rooted capacity in all of us as children.

Moreover, Jean Berko Gleason suspects, there is something instructive in the adult human’s compulsion to speak with children, to engage them in language. In ways we’ve barely begun to scrutinize and study, she says, we are unfolding with children as we help them unfold language. The technologies we now have to study the brain are showing us remarkable things — like the physical markers of babies born in bilingual households with bilingual brains. But these technologies, Jean Berko Gleason insists, will never replace our need to observe the miraculous results of mothers talking to their babies.

While we were producing this week’s show “Unfolding Language, Unfolding Life,” a number of us tested this theory on our kids, with varying results. Putting a microphone in front of a five year old, or a thirteen year old, is not the straightest route to natural interaction. But I was amazed, for example, when my teenager, after he’d stopped being reluctant and sarcastic, began to reflect in quite a sophisticated way on the word “human” as “plural” — as pegging us not just as individuals but as part of something, as part of humanity. Which means, he says, that we also “have to do our part.”

This is a fascinating echo of a big idea Jean Berko Gleason leaves me with. In recent years, she’s delved into the fact that children in every language and culture studied by linguists have huge animal vocabularies. She’s puzzling, these days, over what that says about us as human beings. Certainly, we are drawn to life, to living beings. And more and more, we are aware that these beings think and may be conscious. We can’t fathom that, because they can’t tell us about it. But we are given a vast gift in our ordinary, inborn skill of language. Alone among the creatures, as Jean Berko Gleason puts it, we are able to reflect, to be conscious of ourselves, and to comment on that.

I’m grateful that she is out there studying the deepest meaning of human language, and I now appreciate it in a new way in my ordinary, day-to-day life.

Infographic courtesy of John Pasden/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0.

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A Sukkah of One’s Own at Occupy Boston

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The People of Occupy BostonAri Daniel Shapiro crafted a beautiful radio piece including a rabbi and other Occupy Wall Street protesters in Boston with the erection of a sukkah as part of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Some truly great religion reporting on NPR’sWeekend Edition Sunday.

Photo by Sam Marshall/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Who Germany Wants to Be

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Zoe Chace’s report for Planet Money on the budgetary meltdown in Greece has got to be one of the better pieces of information journalism I’ve heard on NPR’s morning air. Lost in the debate of bailout-no bailout over Greece’s debt — and the necessity of Germany floating it — runs an undercurrent: the narrative of belonging to a unified Europe, and the varying perspectives of Germans on their responsibilities and the kind of community they want to be part of.

Chace’s focused narrative and inclusion of the voices of Germans from several walks of life deepen our understanding of some of the motivating factors driving this debate. She gives the listener a sense of history: how that past is living forward in the German psyche and how their identity — as a broken people, a vibrant culture, and a affluent nation — is predicated on the past and on whom Germans want to be in the future.

My only regret is the reporter’s use of “Kumbaya” in the piece. As I’ve shared before, I’ve taken Vincent Harding’s story to heart and will never use that reference again in such a way. Nonetheless, it’s a slight quibble and this type of reporting on thick subjects is something I long to hear more of.

Did anybody else listen to this? What’s your take? I’m also thinking through this as we push forward with a more ambitious agenda for On Being online in the coming year. Let’s talk.

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Those Sales People Work Awfully Hard
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Hey, that’s John, one of our stations relations reps, making it happen. How fun! Thanks for the snapshot NPR Digital Services:

John Ryan of American Public Media and Virginia Prescott of New Hampshire Public Radio doing what the event’s name implies at last night’s Association of Independents in Radio Mingle at Tavolo Restaurant in Dorchester.

Those Sales People Work Awfully Hard

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Hey, that’s John, one of our stations relations reps, making it happen. How fun! Thanks for the snapshot NPR Digital Services:

John Ryan of American Public Media and Virginia Prescott of New Hampshire Public Radio doing what the event’s name implies at last night’s Association of Independents in Radio Mingle at Tavolo Restaurant in Dorchester.

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A Little Bit of Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce a Lot of Pain

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

MRI Scans of Brain of Novice Meditator with Pain MRI images of the brain of a novice meditator show signs of pain nearly disappear. (source: Robert Coghill/Wake Forest University School of Medicine)

"You might not need extensive training [in meditation] to realize pain-relief benefits. Most people don’t have time to spend months in a monastery."
Fadel Zeidan, neuroscientist

On the NPR Shots blog, Adam Cole highlights a study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center showing that even novice meditators are able to curb their pain after a few training sessions. Cole writes:

In the study, a small group of healthy medical students attended four 20-minute training sessions on “mindfulness meditation” — a technique adapted from a Tibetan Buddhist form of meditation called samatha.It’s all about acknowledging and letting go of distraction. …

So how did the researchers gauge the effect? They administered a very distracting bit of pain: A small, thermal stimulator heated to 120 degrees was applied to the back of each volunteer’s right calf. The subjects reported both the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain. If pain were music, intensity would be volume. Unpleasantness would have more of an emotional component, kind of like how much you love or hate a song.

After meditation training, the subjects reported a 40 percent decrease in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. And it wasn’t just their perception of pain that changed. Brain activity changed too.

Be sure to read Cole’s article for the details.

(h/t stotheb, via almaswithinalmas)

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