Uncertainty, when accepted, sheds a bright light on the power of intention. That is what you can count on: not the outcome, but the motivation you bring, the vision you hold, the compass setting you choose to follow.
Our intention and our resolve can save us from getting lost in grief. … When we open our eyes to what is happening, even when it breaks our hearts, we discover our true dimensions, for our heart, when it breaks open, can hold the whole universe. We discover how speaking the truth of our anguish for the world brings down the walls between us, drawing us into deep solidarity. And that solidarity with our neighbors and all that lives is all the more real for the uncertainty we face. When we stop distracting ourselves, trying to figure the chances of ultimate success or failure, our minds and hearts are liberated into the present moment. And this moment together is alive and charged with possibilities.
—Joanna Macy, from her Tricycle essay “The Greatest Danger”
One of the shows I’m proudest of pitching, producing, and getting played on national public radio is this interview Krista Tippett did with Ms. Macy. Her name had come up anecdotally years before for a show on “the soul in depression” when Krista interviewed poet Anita Barrows.
When one hears a phrase like “The Great Turning” in a pitch session, veteran journalists may shy away (or run) from it. It’s somewhat difficult to make concrete and can sound rather soft and puffy. To some degree, this is true. But, my task was to acknowledge this response from our executive producer and staff — and then describe it, explain it more plainly, and make sure all knew why her voice is different. And then emphasize its importance and her wisdom as an elder this world needs to hear from ever so much.
Q:love your work krista tippett.
my mom's 75th birthday is this weekend, and i'm thinking about what i want to say to the family assemblage. I often find your guests and your insights moving and thought-provoking - makes me wish my connection to the local synagogue was as enlightening.
in any case, you had a guest on this past weekend a woman with lots of wisdom, and i wanted to read more about her and perhaps re-hear the segment, but can't find anything on your site - what's her name?
Thanks for writing to us. You may have heard Joanna Macy if your station was doing a pledge drive. The name of that show is “A Wild Love for the World” and you can find the all the details on our website.
Alternately, you may have heard Sylvia Boorstein in “What We Nurture.” We aired that show for Mother’s Day.
Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
Hands through the Ages with Poetry and Photography
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
“I’m looking at my hand right now as we talk. It’s got a lot of wrinkles because I’m 81 years old, but it’s linked to hands like this back through the ages. This hand is directly linked to hands that learned to reach and grasp and climb and push up on dry land and weave reeds into baskets, and it has a fantastic history. Every particle and every atom in this hand goes back to the beginning of space-time. We’re part of that story.”
Her magic manifested itself in the way that she so fully imbibed the words and sentiment of Rainer Maria Rilke. She drank and released them with new imagination and her own being. There must be something about being a translator that requires one to give oneself over so fully to the poet she’s sharing with the world; when Macy does it, you grow with her and that intimacy transports us to another dimension.
So, seeing Ennadre’s photos only became more profound and cosmically coincidental when I clicked through from the front page of Ennadre’s site and discovered this quote from Rilke:
Works of art are born of those who confront danger,
who go to the limit of an experience,
to a point beyond which no human can go.
The farther one adventures, the more distinctive,
the more personal, the more unique a life becomes.
[h/t Destin a Terre]
…I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
—from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (translation by M.D. Herter Norton), which was cited by Jacqueline Novogratz in her interview with Krista for next week’s program, “A Different Kind of Capitalism.”
Trent Gilliss, online editor
Gaga for Rilke
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
The writing of Rainer Maria Rilke has appeared pretty frequently in the history of Speaking of Faith. We featured his poems in “The Soul in Depression,” and Krista even included his work in the opening pages of her book.
Recently, though, I encountered Rilke in an unexpected place — on the bicep of pop singer Lady Gaga. In a conversation with Interview magazine, she cited Rilke as “my favorite writer” and, while in Osaka, was tattooed with a passage from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet — a series of responses to a young student who had sent Rilke some of his work, asking for advice about becoming a writer. The two never met, but during this five-year period Rilke wrote him 10 letters.
During the interview, Lady Gaga translated the tattoo’s German script into English:
“Confess to yourself in the deepest hour of the night whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. Dig deep into your heart, where the answer spreads its roots in your being, and ask yourself solemnly, Must I write?”
(photo: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)
Repossessing Virtue: Anita Barrows on Finding the Sacred in the Ordinary
» download (mp3, 15:17)
Larissa Anderson, Poetry Producer
There are many Speaking of Faith programs where I can remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the show, when I heard something resonate like a ringing tuning fork right up on my bones. “The Soul in Depression” is one of those shows, and we recently rebroadcast it. I particularly love the poetry in the program — like the Rilke poem that starts, “I love the dark hours of my being. / My mind deepens into them.”
Anita Barrows translated that poem. She’s a poet herself, and she’s got a new book of poetry out titled, Kindred Flame. I talked with her recently for our Repossessing Virtue series. During our conversation, she said we’re called now to examine how we take care of each other. And, she mentioned a Rilke poem she’s translating with her friend and colleague Joanna Macy that gives her perspective and strength.
I was also interested to hear her say Pablo Neruda is a good poet to turn to in these economic times. She brought up poems like “Ode to My Socks” and “Ode to Tomatoes.” “Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market” is another one. Barrows said Neruda helps her remember it’s in the ordinary things that we find the sacred.