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On Being Tumblr

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.

I have no grave site to visit, no place to bring my mother her favorite yellow flowers, no spot where I can hold my weary heart close to her. All I have is Ground Zero. … I do not like harboring resentment or anger, but I do not want the death of my mother — my best friend, my hero, my strength, my love — to become even more politicized than it already is. To the supporters of this new Islamic cultural center, I must ask: Build your ideological monument somewhere else, far from my mother’s grave, and let her rest.
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—Neda Bolourchi, from her powerful commentary in The Washington Post's opinion pages.

Earlier this week, we posted video of Mayor Bloomberg’s moving speech in which he advocates building a mosque near Ground Zero, and we asked, “How do we go forward and be sensitive to all parties involved?” One way is to make it an imperative that we pay attention and listen to the many points of view out there. And, ones we haven’t heard that much from are Muslims who were victims of the 9/11 attacks. Ms. Bolourchi’s voice is one to hear.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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To Build a Mosque near Ground Zero

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

"In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to? What beliefs do you hold?’ … We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting."
—Mayor Michael Bloomberg

This emotional plea from the New York City mayor was delivered to an audience of religious leaders on Tuesday. In stating his reasons to allow the building of a mosque near Ground Zero to go forward, Bloomberg cited historical examples tracing the right of religious groups and even the right of the government to intervene with private property.

The mosque to be built is a contentious one, often debated with heated accusations of discrimination or racism. Searching deeper, there appear to be more complex arguments: memories of loss, politics, a lack of trust in the organizations involved, embracing Islam, and strengthening the community. How do we go forward and be sensitive to all parties involved?

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The Ways of the Shaman

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

ShamanI thought that this New York Times article about an adman who took up shaman healing on the side might be a wonderful opportunity for a blog post exploring some unanswered questions: Who exactly is a shaman? What does shaman healing entail?

However, a bit of research confirmed the obvious. Shamanism is broad, with a wide range of beliefs and practices. A shaman is someone who practices many things, including communication with the spirit world. But they exist in different forms all over the world from Siberia to Ecuador to Japan. So it seemed the best approach to get into this diverse tradition would be to interview a shaman about his or her particular beliefs and practices.

I hesitated to contact Itzhak Beery, the man profiled in the aforementioned report, because the media so often reaches out to these “mainstream” voices: the urban Westerner who has found spirituality outside of their upbringing. Although these experiences are important, I wonder if I should be looking instead for a different voice — someone brought up in the indigenous shaman tradition. I pose this question to you: What are some innovative ways in which we can enter into the world of shaman healing?

A shaman from West Sumatra, Indonesia. (photo: deepchi1/Flickr)

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Restoring Life’s Balance Through Soil and Friends

Christopher Calderhead, guest contributor

Christopher CalderheadI live in a rented New York City apartment. The only outdoor space I have access to, besides the sidewalk, is the paved alley alongside my building. And, like many of my neighbors, I use this shared outdoor space for all sorts of activities that don’t fit in a small apartment. As I write, a teen-aged neighbor is practicing his Junior ROTC drill in the alley, and I can hear the thud and clank of his rifle stock as he learns to twirl it in tempo.

It is not an unpleasant place to live. But there is nothing green — no soil, no grass, no plants of any kind — except the street trees I can see from my front window.

This year when my friend Tamara invited me to share her backyard garden, I was delighted. She and her husband Karl have always been incredibly generous with their space. They love nothing more than hosting dinner for 25 on improvised tables and street-find chairs.

The garden is large by city standards. The vegetable patch is 8 feet wide and almost 25 feet deep, and there’s a patch of grass, to boot.

This year, we laid out the vegetable patch together. Neat, orderly rows were prepared for tomatoes, string beans, carrots, beets, and radishes, and every kind of leafy green we could think of. There’s also an herb patch with oregano, chives, rosemary, sage, and lavender. I lobbied for nasturtiums to fill the planters on the paved part of the yard.

And last Saturday, Tamara, Karl, and I were joined by another neighbor, Heather, and we did our first planting. The herbs and seeds for root vegetables went into the ground, as well as a selection of greens. We’re probably over-ambitious, and all of us are amateur gardeners, but it was good to be outdoors on a sunny afternoon bickering over mulch and debating the merits of the soil. The elderly Greek couple next door chatted with us over the chain-link fence while they tended their own patch, with its fig trees and grape arbor.

"Spiritual" is not a word I use very much these days. It’s too nebulous, and encourages sentimentality. But I am interested in the actions that bring us back into balance, that make us whole human beings. And planting the garden with friends does that in two ways.

The most important way for me is how it brings us into a deeper sense of community and friendship. The garden is something we will share — the work of setting out the plants and tending them, as well as the pleasures that will come in a few weeks as we begin to eat the fruits of our labors. And it’s been made possible by two people who are intent on living a shared life with their friends, an antidote to the competitive and atomized culture of this difficult city we live in.

And the second: it restores balance to my life. To be able to touch the soil. To walk barefoot outdoors. To look at the weather not just as the planet’s plot to make me lose my umbrella but as a living system that will nourish — and threaten — the small plants we’ve put in the ground.

Living a city life is compartmentalized and far from natural cycles. Having a garden redresses that balance.

Christopher Calderhead is an artist and writer living in Astoria, Queens. He is the editor of Letter Arts Review and teaches at Bronx Community College and the Pratt Institute.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on SOF Observed. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page or simply share a photo of your garden.

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Repossessing Virtue: Khalid Kamau on Gaining Time and Community in the Black Church
» download (mp3, 18:11)
Nancy Rosenbaum, Production Assistant

Khalid KamauWhen I started working with Speaking of Faith in January, Trent, our online editor, asked me to read through a thick stack of listener e-mails that had flowed into our inbox after we broadcast "Repossessing Virtue: Parker Palmer on Economic Crisis, Morality, and Meaning".

SOF producers had already started reaching out to past guests of the show to engage them in conversation about the moral, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of the economic downturn.  We wanted to get listeners into the mix of the conversation.

I spent a few quiet winter days in my cubicle with a highlighter pen, reading the 100+ responses we had received. People wrote in with all kinds of insights and reflections — from the deeply personal and specific to more theoretical interpretations of the economic collapse, its causes, and its implications.

When I read this essay by Khalid Kamau in New York City, I knew immediately that I wanted to talk to him. I wrote on the page “I like this one a lot” and gave it a little star.

You see the theme of community keeps coming up in the conversations we’ve been having with past guests of the show and others through our continuing Repossessing Virtue series. And while living more deeply and deliberately in community sounds good at first pass, it can be complicated and fraught. My own recent-ish experiences living with roommates is a reminder of this.

Khalid nails this complexity in a very personal story he wrote about baking a cake for his parents as a kid. I’m not going to give away the guts of the story; you should hear him tell it. But suffice to say that Khalid’s received some confusing messages growing up about what it means to ask a neighbor for help. To this day, he says he won’t knock on a neighbor’s door to borrow eggs or milk.

I’m excited to share Khalid’s story with you as well as the conversation we had about how he’s experiencing the economic downturn. Unlike others we’ve spoken to, Khalid was laid off from his job a few months ago. When he was working, Khalid says he was always busy, a frenetic New Yorker (I used to be one of those too). Now he’s using this new-found expanse of time to volunteer, pray, reflect, and simply do nothing.

This is the one of the first in a series of listener conversations we’ll be featuring online and in an upcoming radio program slated for broadcast in May. We’re approaching this as a creative experiment so please let us know what you think.

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A Poet of Love & Hate & Forgiveness & Revenge
by Kate Moos, managing producer
Marie Howe’s new book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, is an amazing addition to our vocabulary of love and hate, forgiveness and revenge. As the poet Tom Sleigh says, “Her language is always deeply rooted in the social world, and it never turns away from the most difficult moral problems.” In this book, her poems about the war within us between light and shadow, vision and violence, are sometimes terrifying, often funny, and always illuminating.

After the Movie
My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie. He says that he believes a person can love someone and still be able to murder that person.
I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment. Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day
when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me” think “me” and kill him.
I say, Then it’s not love anymore. Michael says, It was love up to then though.
I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word. Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the murderous heart.
I say that what he might mean by love is desire. Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?
We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear  my voice repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say to  him.
Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at someone  you want to eat and not eat them.
Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.
Meister Eckhart says that as long as we love any image we are doomed to live  in purgatory.
Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight. I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought—
again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from the hole the flip top made.
What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says. But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are a nun.”
Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things of  me even if he’s not thinking them?
Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder. Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,
we both know the winter has only begun.

Our program "Getting Revenge and Forgiveness" is available here at speakingoffaith.org beginning Thursday, November 6th. Share your stories.
(Poem reprinted with permission of the author.)

A Poet of Love & Hate & Forgiveness & Revenge

by Kate Moos, managing producer

Marie Howe’s new book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, is an amazing addition to our vocabulary of love and hate, forgiveness and revenge. As the poet Tom Sleigh says, “Her language is always deeply rooted in the social world, and it never turns away from the most difficult moral problems.” In this book, her poems about the war within us between light and shadow, vision and violence, are sometimes terrifying, often funny, and always illuminating.

After the Movie

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment.
Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me”
think “me” and kill him.

I say, Then it’s not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the murderous
heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear
my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say to
him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at someone
you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhart says that as long as we love any image we are doomed to live
in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are a nun.”

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things of
me even if he’s not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

Our program "Getting Revenge and Forgiveness" is available here at speakingoffaith.org beginning Thursday, November 6thShare your stories.

(Poem reprinted with permission of the author.)

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Images of NYC’s Religious Diversity

Colleen Scheck, Producer 

The Brooklyn Public Library is currently featuring "Diversity of Devotion" — a photo documentary project depicting 27 religions practiced within the five boroughs of New York City. Stephanie Keith, whose photos we featured in a narrated slideshow for our program "Living Vodou", is one of the 36 contributing photographers.

The project “…was conceived as a response to global religious tensions which intensified in the wake of 9/11. Professional and amateur photographers from around the world volunteered to explore New York City’s richly variegated spiritual life and discover how diversity in belief and practice enriches our own individual experience… Our project aims to remind us all how fortunate we are to live in a city where myriad beliefs coexist in peace and tolerance; we can connect to others and share comfort, sadness, hope and joy as we walk our unique spiritual paths.”

Here’s a few examples of photos from the Brooklyn exhibit:

Chinese Yeshiva Student (photo: Jenny Jozwiak)


Woman Singing Praise (photo: Melanie Einzig)


Imam Bayran at Masjid Taqwa (photo: Omar Mullick)


Spiritual Healing (photo:Tammy Meadows)

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