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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.

If you only listen to one thing today, let it be this.

—Marie Howe from "The Poetry of Ordinary Time."

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Such is beauty. Its variety is infinite, its possibility is endless. In normal life all may have it and have it yet again. The world is full of it; and yet today the mass of human beings are choked away from it, and their lives distorted and made ugly. This is not only wrong, it is silly. Who shall right this well-nigh universal failing. Who shall let this world be beautiful? Who shall restore men the glory of sunsets and the peace of quiet sleep?
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W. E. B. Du Bois, from Vol. 32 No. 6 of the Crisis, October 1926, pp. 290-297.

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Landed on the image for this week’s (breathtakingly beautiful) show "Kabbalah and the Inner Life of God" in part because of this line from a W. H. Auden poem:

Defenseless under the night Our world in stupor lies; Yet, dotted everywhere, Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages: May I, composed like them Of Eros and of dust, Beleaguered by the same Negation and despair, Show an affirming flame.

(Photo by Patrick Kelley, courtesy of Northern Lights.mn)
Landed on the image for this week’s (breathtakingly beautiful) show "Kabbalah and the Inner Life of God" in part because of this line from a W. H. Auden poem:

Defenseless under the night Our world in stupor lies; Yet, dotted everywhere, Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages: May I, composed like them Of Eros and of dust, Beleaguered by the same Negation and despair, Show an affirming flame.

(Photo by Patrick Kelley, courtesy of Northern Lights.mn)

Landed on the image for this week’s (breathtakingly beautiful) show "Kabbalah and the Inner Life of God" in part because of this line from a W. H. Auden poem:

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

(Photo by Patrick Kelley, courtesy of Northern Lights.mn)

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We’re all drawn to beauty, though our views of beauty may differ widely. Beauty speaks to our hearts, to our souls. We’re attracted to it as moths are to flame. Whether we find beauty in music or a painting, in a poem or a person, a mountain top vista, a windswept lake, or the smile of our dog, we know it when we see it. But what exactly are we seeing? My sense is that when we recognize something as beautiful, we feel ourselves connected to it and somehow to its origin. The ripples of appreciation that beauty generates pay tribute to the source from which it stems.

From this marvelous piece of writing, Humbled by Beauty in the Universe and in Nature.

We’re all drawn to beauty, though our views of beauty may differ widely. Beauty speaks to our hearts, to our souls. We’re attracted to it as moths are to flame. Whether we find beauty in music or a painting, in a poem or a person, a mountain top vista, a windswept lake, or the smile of our dog, we know it when we see it. But what exactly are we seeing? My sense is that when we recognize something as beautiful, we feel ourselves connected to it and somehow to its origin. The ripples of appreciation that beauty generates pay tribute to the source from which it stems.

From this marvelous piece of writing, Humbled by Beauty in the Universe and in Nature.

We’re all drawn to beauty, though our views of beauty may differ widely. Beauty speaks to our hearts, to our souls. We’re attracted to it as moths are to flame. Whether we find beauty in music or a painting, in a poem or a person, a mountain top vista, a windswept lake, or the smile of our dog, we know it when we see it. But what exactly are we seeing? My sense is that when we recognize something as beautiful, we feel ourselves connected to it and somehow to its origin. The ripples of appreciation that beauty generates pay tribute to the source from which it stems.

From this marvelous piece of writing, Humbled by Beauty in the Universe and in Nature.

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It’s a fascinating question, why is beauty an actually good way of devising our ideas about the universe? Why are they confirmed by nature? Why does nature choose beautiful ways of unraveling?

From this week’s show with astrophysicist Janna Levin.

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"In a world where secular buildings whisper to us relentlessly of earthly power, the cathedrals that punctuate the skylines of great towns and cities may continue to furnish an imaginative holding space for the priorities of the spirit."
~Alain de Botton, from Status Anxiety. A good reminder to listen to "A School of Life for Atheists."
"In a world where secular buildings whisper to us relentlessly of earthly power, the cathedrals that punctuate the skylines of great towns and cities may continue to furnish an imaginative holding space for the priorities of the spirit."
~Alain de Botton, from Status Anxiety. A good reminder to listen to "A School of Life for Atheists."

"In a world where secular buildings whisper to us relentlessly of earthly power, the cathedrals that punctuate the skylines of great towns and cities may continue to furnish an imaginative holding space for the priorities of the spirit."

~Alain de Botton, from Status Anxiety. A good reminder to listen to "A School of Life for Atheists."

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“One of the things that’s happening to a lot of us is that there’s this vision of the beauty of God that transports us and that takes us to a new depth and a new height. It’s one of those things about beauty. You can’t capture it in a word or a formula. When you get to that humble place where the beauty of God has overwhelmed you, I think it changes everything. You can say the same creed that you said before, but now it’s not a creed that grasps God in the fist of the words, but it’s a creed that points up to a beauty that’s beyond anybody’s grasp.”

~Brian McLaren (from The Equation of Change)

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Oh man, Helen Marriage does the coolest work. Just love this video.

"It’s always an incredible moment when a city is returned to the people who live and work there. And they can wander freely as if in a playground. For no better reason than something is happening that they love."

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trentgilliss:

I grew up with Evil Knievel and the Flying Wallendas. Thrilling as their stunts were, it was always a noisy spectacle. It seemed to be more about man conquering the Grand Canyon or the Tallulah Gorge than interacting with nature. The backdrop was a prop.

In this video, though, Michael Schaefer and Dean Potter create a scene as thrilling in its composition as in the act itself of walking the highline at Cathedral Peak. As the sun sets and descends, the moon rises and looms large — the orb cradling the dyad of rock towers turned burnt-red. As the National Geographic filmmakers say, it is “the ultimate full moon shot” — captured from over a mile away with a serious telephoto lens.

As Mr. Potterbegins his unaided walk, you hear the camera operator take deep, calm but anxious, meditative breaths. And you breathe with him. Oh, if we all could witness such panoramic beauty like this each day…

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The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.
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Ashley Judd, from her commentary for The Daily Beast's Women in the World blog

No wonder this piece has been taking the media world by storm. It’s a powerful commentary, one that lets no one off the hook and reminds us that we’re all culpable of this type of thinking. I’m a father of two boys, and I’ve got some real work to do.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Their goddess of love is a very fascinating and complex idea. She is in fact goddess of all the luxuries which are not essential to survival. She is the goddess of love which, unlike sex, is not essential to propagation. She is the muse of the arts. Now man can live without it but he doesn’t live very much as man without it. It is strange that one would have to go to an apparently primitive culture such as Haiti to find an understanding in such exalted terms of what the essential feminine – not female – feminine role might conceivably be – that of being everything which is human. Everything which is more than that which is necessary. Taken from this point of view, there is no reason in the world why women shouldn’t be artists. And very fine ones.
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Maya DerenMaya Deren (1917-1961) describing the Vodou spirit Erzulie.

The experimental filmmaker was the first person to win a Guggenheim Fellowship for film. She used her grant to travel to in Haiti during the 1940s, immersing herself in Vodou rituals. Her 1953 book Divine Horsemen: The Voodoo Gods of Haiti introduced many Western readers to the complexity and depth of Vodou for the first time.

Photo of Maya Deren by bswise (Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

-Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

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The Pursuit and Practice of Happiness Is an Awareness of the Suffering and Pleasure of Others

by Krista Tippett, host

A basketball court transformed by flowers and incandescent light. Four thousand people in attendance. Four global religious leaders. I have never concentrated as hard as I did in the two hours I spent on that stage. But it was, in the end, a delight. And it was fascinating as an encounter as much as a conversation. The Dalai Lama embodied joy, his radiant and playful presence, was as defining as the words he spoke.

The biggest challenge with discussing “happiness” in this culture might be finding our way back to the substance of the word itself — a substance that has been hollowed out by its uses in culture. I found myself planted in the definition of happiness that the French-born, Tibetan Buddhist scientist and monk Matthieu Ricard offered on this program. He defines happiness as “genuine flourishing” — not a pleasurable sensation or mood but a way of being in the world that can encompass the fullness of human experience, joy and pleasure as well as suffering and loss.

Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, and Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Kingdom all added to that definition as they laid out the virtues and habits, the spiritual technologies, that their traditions have carried forward in time. They all described corollaries, in a sense, to the Dalai Lama’s joyful yet disciplined teachings on cultivating compassion and calmness in the mind as way of flourishing in and amidst all of life’s experiences. But the most exciting part of interreligious encounter, for me, is not rushing to hear similarities but savoring particularities — the distinctive vocabularies of thought and practice, the beautiful and intriguing differences that come to light even as we may seem to be circling towards the same goal.

And so among my favorite moments are Professor Nasr’s explication of beauty as inextricably linked to virtue and happiness in Muslim tradition. Beauty, he says, makes the soul happy. Bishop Jefferts Schori talked about the long tradition in Christianity of practicing gratitude and “the presence of God” in the midst of ordinary activities of life. Rabbi Sacks evoked sabbath as a space to focus on the things in life that are “important but not urgent.” He described the extraordinary power of pausing to let life’s “blessings” — an awareness of the deepest sources of our happiness — “catch up with us.” Such reflections unsettle notions of happiness as a “right” and as something to be “pursued.”

A discussion of happiness is intrinsically serious, too. As we were also reminded in the course of this discussion, spiritual happiness is never merely personal in nature. It is linked to an awareness of the suffering and pleasure of others. And at the same time, it is something we cultivate in our bodies as well as our minds. It communicates itself in our very presence.

There was, fittingly, a great deal of laughter on this stage of religious dignitaries seated center court at Emory. There was a festive atmosphere in the room altogether. Listen, and watch, for yourself. Ponder, and enjoy.

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One Year in 40 Seconds (video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Something a bit more playful and quiet for this Friday: a time-lapse video of a grove of trees in Oslo, Norway showing the seasons change.

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Communing with Beauty

by Rita G. Patel, guest contributor

"Beauty and Its Possibilities" by Rita G. Patel"Beauty and Its Possibilities" by Rita Patel

The architect Christopher Alexander tells this story in The Timeless Way of Building:

I once saw a simple fish pond in a Japanese village which was perhaps eternal.

A farmer made it for his farm. The pond was a simple rectangle, about 6 feet wide, and 8 feet long; opening off a little irrigation stream. At one end, a bush of flowers hung over the water. At the other end, under the water, was a circle of wood, its top perhaps 12 inches below the surface of the water. In the pond there were eight great ancient carp, each maybe 18 inches long, orange, gold, purple, and black: the oldest one had been there eighty years. The eight fish swam, slowly, slowly, in circles—often within the wooden circle. The whole world was in that pond. Every day the farmer sat by it for a few minutes. I was there only one day and I sat by it all afternoon. Even now, I cannot think about it without tears. Those ancient fish had been swimming, slowly, in that pond for eighty years. It was so true to the nature of the fish, and flowers, and the water, and the farmers, that it had sustained itself for all that time, endlessly repeating, always different. There is no degree of wholeness or reality which can be reached beyond that simple pond.

Not only is the description both vivid and beautiful — conjuring up a lovely image — but the emotion from actually seeing and being with this beauty in nature is profoundly powerful.

If I am open, moments where I can deeply see, feel, and be are available in all sorts of so-called common places and interactions. And what happens is that I don’t just observe with my senses and my mind, but I commune with the beauty of it in my heart — that is where it happens, where I actually feel it. The feeling doesn’t stay but the feeling about other things afterwards is always affected. And the more I experience this beauty the more I realize that it does not disappear but is always present. Available to connect to when I am available. A wonderful thing to wake up and remember and make a habit.

"Radiance belongs to being considered precisely as beautiful; it is, in being, that which catches the eye, or the ear, or the mind, and makes us want to perceive it again."
~Etienne Gilson


Rita G. PatelRita G. Patel is an artist, chef, and business consultant living in Rochester, Michigan. You can read more of her writing at Beauty’s Invitation and see her artwork at 365 Days of Print.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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