Krista on Being
by Kate Moos, managing producer
As we began to spread the word to close friends about our name change from Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett to Krista Tippett on Being, we were invited to speak to an audience of colleagues here at American Public Media earlier this month. Our pal, Future Tense host John Moe, agreed to interview Krista and get at the basic questions: Why the change? Why Being? What does it all mean? In this video, our inimitable host takes on these questions with passion, intelligence, and grace.
We’ve heard from hundreds of you that the name change is a brilliant idea, a terrible idea, or something in between. Some who regret the change see the necessity for it. Some who love the old name acknowledge the new name is a better fit for the program content. Others says they need some time to think about it and adjust. For many, there is some sadness in losing the word “faith” in its robust and broadest meanings, and we acknowledge that loss. We’ve also heard you say you don’t quite get Krista’s name in front of Being. It’s there (especially during this transition) so you know that Krista Tippett remains central to this program and its vision. In general conversation on the radio and in other applications, the name of the program will most often be Being.
But we also want to reassure you that we are not losing faith in a programmatic sense. The name change is not a signal of a change in the editorial vision or content. As you will hear Krista relate in this video, the new name reflects an evolutionary change that has occurred over time. Being will remain the conversation about “religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas” you have come to know.
Approaches to the Question “Is Religion Potentially Dangerous?”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
In “No More Taking Sides” Krista describes her conversation with Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, who both have lost a loved one in the conflict:
“…this is not another version of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian story to which we’ve all become accustomed from the news. Neither is it a touchy-feely story of isolated good will. This story is fiercely human, admitting grief while also yielding to joy, and it is all the more hopeful for its origins in the hard ground of reality.”
Updating the site for rebroadcast, we’ve also been editing our video footage from Krista’s live conversation with Robert Wright earlier this month. His answer to the audience question, “Is religion potentially dangerous?” is one that’s often asked in the context of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
As we produce this interview for air, the most recent script characterizes Wright as “relentlessly logical” — and you might say that Wright’s assessment of religion’s role in this conflict is relentlessly logical in the best sense. But, while logic can be extremely helpful in understanding the forces behind human conflict, it says very little about the experience of those conflicts.
That’s where Robi and Ali come in. When Wright tells us that “human life is potentially dangerous,” their stories show us this on a gut level. Their partnership is a living example of why we’re all in this together is an idea really worth considering.
Ali Abu Awwad, from the transcript:
“When I get to the library that [Robi’s son] David was preparing for the student, a good library, and I saw Robi start crying there, I don’t know, it’s strange, that feeling that I got at that moment. I have that feeling that David is telling me, ‘Take care of my mother.’ This is the first time I’m telling that. I never told Robi that.
And I think [my brother] Yousef was so happy that Robi was taking care of me and I really don’t feel this identity when I feel about David, when I feel about Yousef. I don’t feel that.
They just put us — by passing away, they put us in this deeply feeling with our humanity. And if people appreciate and if politicians appreciate the life as they appreciate the death, peace will be possible.”
Ride the Bus
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
There’s been a bit of controversy resulting from the atheist ad campaign that placed the message “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” on buses around the UK. Well now, in the spirit of religious pluralism, anyone can have their own bus ad — or at least a photo of one, generated by the bus slogan generator.
The tag line in the (fake) SOF ad above paraphrases the opening sentence in Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man, “Man has always been his own most vexing problem.” It’s also a top candidate for our yet-to-be-produced (but often joked about) slogan t-shirts. Tune in to this week’s show for more on Niebuhr from Krista, David Brooks, and E.J. Dionne.
Breathe, and Everything Changes
by Kate Moos, managing producer
I am, perhaps, a yoga cliché. A mid-50s, bookish, somewhat perfectionist, slightly workaholic sort of person who had begin to wonder if that modest but persistent pain in her left hip was innocuous and temporary or whether my body was just deciding to ache, possibly forever.
Then, almost precisely a year and a half ago, I quit smoking after a life-long habit, and 4 months later I took my first Bikram yoga class. It’s been something of a conversion experience, honestly. Bikram involves a fixed 90-minute regimen of 26 asanas or postures, two sets of each posture, performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. The heat increases flexibility, and it also puts the cardiovascular system into overdrive, and creates a kind of peak experience for even a novice practitioner.
The goal of my first class, as a person who had never practiced yoga, let alone yoga in such heat, was simply to keep up as best I could and not leave the room. I succeeded at that, though I felt I might expire or possibly throw up; the sense of centered physical and spiritual well-being that came over me after that first class was so astonishing, I have gone back 3 or 4 times a week ever since, acclimating to the heat, and thriving on the yoga. My experience of Bikram yoga is almost liturgical — the 90-minute regimen offers the same Sanskrit postures in the same order, and even the same directions from the instructors — echoing the Latin liturgy of my Catholic girlhood in a powerful, almost sub-molecular way.
It goes without saying that yoga creates physical strength and wellness — I no longer experience chronic neck pain from sitting slouched for long hours over a computer keyboard, and I don’t see a chiropractor every 3-4 weeks to adjust my lower back any more. The pain in my hip went away. Yet yoga most importantly brings me actual revelations — revelations that start as a new physical experience and then seep into consciousness.
About three months in, I started being able to perform a full camel posture, which means I was greatly increasing the strength and flexibility of my back, and was also opening my chest and my hips. But on a more interior level, the effect of the camel is spiritually profound. A regular practice that includes the camel posture changes my perspective; it helps me open my mind to new ideas — the very ideas where my mind has been closed; it makes it possible to give up resentments; it occasionally causes me to express grief I thought was done and past: the death of a parent, the loss of a love. I don’t mean that I cry in my yoga class (though I have had a few quiet sobs surface after a camel pose once or twice), or that this is therapy. I don’t, and it’s not. I mean that if you engage vigorously with this “ancient technology,” as Krista calls it in the show, the yoga will in fact diagnose your imbalances — physical, emotional, and intellectual — and gently, incrementally, begin to correct them.
There have been times in my life when as a spiritual seeker and a somewhat but not entirely lapsed Catholic I have felt deeply separate from God, whatever my inchoate concept of God was at the time. The most painful and dangerous (to myself and to others) distance from God I have ever known has come through the experience of addiction. Then, at some point in my recovery I had the simple insight that I was unable to experience the love of God because I was not putting myself in the way of it. After all, if you want to feel the sun on your back, you have to stand in the sunlight, yes? At the most basic level, I feel yoga puts me in the way of God. Then, what happens, happens.
In the picture above, snapped with an iPhone after a class this past Tuesday evening, I am practicing the corpse pose. What the instructor calls “the most important posture in the series.” Being fully, deeply relaxed, focused, and cognizant of one’s body allows the teaching of yoga to settle in and take hold. This is what Seane Corne calls “mystical work.”
Being Here Now, Again
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
The picture above, taken with my iPhone, is the view from my desk on a rainy day. The flowers in the vase are fake, the vase itself a left-over from Mitch Hanley’s wedding, the artifacts hard to make out on the shelf include an amethyst and a piece of old tile from a town on the Croatian coast called Opatija; one of the pictures too backlit to make out is a photo of Albert Einstein with Rabindranath Tagore.
I took this photo of the view I see before me even as I type (though it is brilliantly sunny today) to remind me of something. The something is, to wake up to what is before me; to not become inured by habit into thinking any moment of my day need necessarily resemble the previous moment; to remind me to throw off the routinization to which I am so prone, and in which I take equal amounts of dread and comfort.
Being alive to the present moment, which Ram Dass gave us decades ago as the injunction to Be Here Now isn’t a new idea, but it’s back in a big way and it has a massive new audience because of the work of Eckhart Tolle, whom Krista interviewed recently, in a warm and wide-ranging 90-minute conversation we are about to produce into an episode of Speaking of Faith that will be distributed on August 14th.
It’s a change up for us to interview someone so much in the limelight of popular culture as Tolle, thanks to the exposure of his new book A New Earth in Oprah’s Book Club and in several web seminars with Oprah. Normally, to be honest, we seek out people who are somewhat under the radar, whom we feel a duty to bring to public attention, given the significance of their story, their thought, their work. People like V.V. Raman and Ingrid Jordt, who may never become household names but have incredible intellectual and spiritual wealth to share. We also do interview big names: Jimmy Carter, Elie Wiesel, Rick Warren, Barbara Kingsolver all come to mind.
In this case, as Krista and other staff members sank into his work, we felt it was an opportunity to explore the mind of a genuine spiritual teacher and philosopher who is having an unprecedented experience of celebrity, to hear the story of his own spiritual development, and the effect of his unexpected fame. We found this understated man to be fun and warm, and we’re excited to offer up our very particular conversation with him. I’m reminded in the conversation with Tolle of our recent conversation with Kevin Griffin, who says in that program on spirituality and addiction that after all there is nothing difficult about being mindful except remembering to be mindful. That’s the hard part. And, to complete the circle, I love this nugget from Ram Dass which is cited by Tolle: “If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.”
Stay tuned for our delightful program with this thinker, philosopher, and teacher.
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)
Help Us Find Our Next Show Revisiting This Topic
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
It’s been quite a while since we’ve done a program examining the gay marriage issue. Our last treatment included the voices of two self-described evangelicals — Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Seminary, and Virginia Mollenkott, a professor emeritus at William Patterson University. We wanted to frame the conversation in the terms most often used in our culture to discuss it, so we chose two evangelicals. But we also wanted to go beyond the yelling and meanness of the debate, which may have reached a peak about the time we did the show. I think we succeeded.
But along with a good amount of positive feedback, and despite our deliberately conciliatory approach, we heard from people form all “sides” that we had hurt them, or offended them, or otherwise inflamed them. I mention this not to say I think we did it wrong, but because to me it’s a measure of how much pain people are in on this topic.
With the California ruling recently, the door is open to that state beginning to marry gays and lesbians as early as next week, and we have asked ourselves what our next forway into the subject might be. It seems clear there has been a great deal of movement in the last couple of years. Witness, for example, a press release that crossed my desk this morning about GLBT families, led by Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye) attending services on Father’s Day at Saddleback Church (Rick Warren’s church) and then meeting with its leaders. That perhaps would not have happened a few years ago.
What are your thoughts about how to cover this issue? Share your thoughts here if you have some.