Ten Most Popular Blog Posts of 2011
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
This year’s list of the top 10 most visited blog posts is dominated by two ideas: meditation and major news events. Half of this list, including the clear winner of Arthur Zajonc’s bell meditation, have something to do with the practice of mindfulness, of improving one’s interior life.
This list is also a time capsule, reminding us of some of the major news events of 2011: the shooting of Rep. Gabriel Giffords, the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the revolutions of the Arab Spring and protests of Tahrir Square, and the passing of Steve Jobs. And then we have a couple of stragglers — in the form of a century-old prayer and a children’s language test.
As we continue to improve and refine the thrust of this blog, let us know what you’d like to see us do more of in 2012. Happy New Year!
- Bell Sound Meditation by Shubha Bala
- John Stewart’s Introduction: A True Moment of Civility by Krista Tippett
- "Do Not Rejoice When Your Enemies Fall" by David P. Gushee
- Lovingkindness (Metta) Meditation with Sylvia Boorstein by Trent Gilliss
- Meditation and Mindfulness for All of Us: Six Questions with Sharon Salzberg by Kate Moos
- Photo Triptych of Possibilities in Cairo by Trent Gilliss
- A Turn of the Century Thanksgiving Prayer by Walter Rauschenbusch by Susan Leem
- A Little Bit of Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce a Lot of Pain by Trent Gilliss
- Sunday Morning Exercise: Take “The Wug Test” by Nancy Rosenbaum
- Steve Jobs: “Love What You Do” (video) by Trent Gilliss
Being Blog’s Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2010
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Our blog is an outlet. We tell you about things that are happening and things we find interesting. It’s a refuge that allows the fuller complexion of the program to reveal itself. It also permits us to bring new voices to you; we just get out of the way. Here are the ten most popular posts from this year.
1. Reflections on a Name Change
Yes, we changed the title of our program after seven years, and with a significant switch came an avalanche of interest, opinions, and smart responses from our audiences. Check out the comments section in reaction to Krista’s post.
2. Bell Sound Meditation
This year we began experimenting with weekend morning exercises that aren’t just pop quizzes meant to drive traffic. We wanted to share meaningful expressions that might help readers develop an interest or a practice, or understand what we do better. Shubha’s research for our interview with Arthur Zajonc led to this insightful five-minute practice that our readers really responded to.
3. One Hundred Million Seeds of Porcelain Contemplation
Ai Weiwei’s major installation at the Tate Modern this year captured my imagination after reading about this work in The Guardian. When The Atlantic's Daily Dish picked it up, our traffic exploded. The saddest part is the art museum had to stop people from walking on it because it was creating a dust storm.
4. Rossini’s “Meow!” by “The Little Singers of Paris”
A choir of French school boys having a little fun with the great composer’s work struck a chord with our readers, and put a smile on everybody’s faces. We’re a serious outfit, but we recognize good fun when we see it!
5. "Nou Met Led Me Nou La!" (We May Be Ugly, But We Are Here!)
When the disastrous earthquake devastated Haiti and its people, we interviewed Vodou priest and professor Patrick Bellegarde-Smith to gain a better sense of what wasn’t being reported in the news. What we got was a deeper sense of history, the lasting impact of colonialism, and the resolve of a people to survive and prosper.
6. White Mountain Milky Way
Time-lapse video almost always inspires.
7. Roger Ebert’s Buddha Smile
Esquire's profile piece on the famed film critic grabbed the attention of many of our readers. Perhaps the post-surgery photos of him were the initial draw, but his compelling story and outlook on life reminded many of us about the hopeful uncertainty of life and all its charm.
8. The Path to Happiness
Two charts that I’ve seen hanging on the doors of advertising executives.
9. Thinking of Anne Lamott As We Create a New Show
We dug deep into our archives to resurface an unheard segment from this beloved writer, and boy did our listeners respond.
10. Krista on Being
Many times it’s just as important to communicate with one’s internal partners as it is with one’s external audiences. A video in which Krista sits down with John Moe to answer questions about the name change with co-workers at Minnesota Public Radio.
Top 10 Posts on SOF Observed
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
While editing the site for this week’s retrospective show, I compiled a short list of the top 10 posts read on this blog, SOF Observed. It’s always interesting to see what readers really click through and what they share:
- Rossini’s “Meow!” by “The Little Singers of Paris” (Trent Gilliss)
- Maps of Sin (Trent Gilliss)
- Reflections on a Name Change (Krista Tippett)
- John O’Donohue’s Landscape (Colleen Scheck)
- Confessions of a Yoga Convert (Krista Tippett)
- Les Freres de St Francis de la Sissies — Hallelujah! (Trent Gilliss)
- Producing Mindfully (Andy Dayton)
- Calvin and Hobbes: Math Is a Religion (Trent Gilliss)
- Bell Sound Mediation (Shubha Bala)
- Tools of the Mind (Nancy Rosenbaum)
Even though short and sweet seems to rule the day, composing blog entries requires us to write about topics that are relevant and meaningful — and bringing a smile to someone’s face isn’t a bad thing to do now and then either!
Women in Ministry: The Fashion Problem
Kate Moos, managing producer
No one has ever accused me of being fashion-forward. Neither will I ever willingly join a conversation on the relative merits of mascara brands. Nonetheless, I was completely entertained by Courtney Wilder's essay on Sightings about a blog that enjoins women clergy to navigate the occasionally fine line between professional dress and excessive *hot-ness* as church leaders.
A couple years back I got a letter from an apparently very attractive aspirant to the ministry who raved on and on about how she was just TOO PRETTY to be accepted as a clergyperson and that was why she had failed in her various attempts to achieve ordained status.
At the time I thought to myself, “Chickie here has a lot of serious issues, and being ‘too pretty’ may indeed be one of them, but let’s file this thought away for further reflection until I hear from a more grounded person about the reality of being too beautiful for ministry.”
And lo, that time has come, pigeons. While I know of several movie-star handsome men in the clergy whose Hotness does not seem to prevent them from being taken seriously, I have now collected several stories of female clergy being taken aside by male superiors and told that their beauty or sexiness is “distracting” and a serious problem.
What shall we call this?
Plain and simple.
If a man is distracted by his completely appropriately-dressed female minister’s beauty and sexiness, that’s his gadnapped problem. The Biblical name for that problem is lust, I do believe. The cultural name for it is objectification. I say “Work on it with your spiritual director, Senior Pastor Horndog.”
Style & Lived Tradition
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
This photo comes from Hijabs High, a blog inspired by the on-the-street fashion photographer The Sartorialist. However, Hijabs High has a more specific mission; collecting photos of women sporting the Islamic hijab (head scarf), and showcasing “international street style from fabulous hijabistas.”
It’s a refreshing image when so much of what we hear about the hijab, or the burqa and niqab, is steeped in politics and ideology — a more recent example being the emergence of the head scarf as a political symbol in the Indonesian presidential election. What seems to get lost in these stories is the day-to-day experience of women who wear a hijab not as a symbol or political statement, but as an expression of their personal faith.
This is what I love about the image above; it seems to give us a glimpse of that lived faith. What I see in this photo is a young woman balancing different cultural pressures and expectations — and doing it with style and personality.
This fall we plan to produce a program about “expressions of Muslim identity,” modeled on last year’s program "The Beauty and Challenge of Being Catholic." Like the Catholic program, we’ve put a call out to Muslims to lend their perspective — and I think the above photo offers one impression of the type of story we’re looking for:
If you are Muslim, we’d like to understand more about the complexity and diversity of “the Muslim world,” as it is often called. What does “being Muslim” mean to you? What do you find beautiful about Islam, and how does it find expression in your daily life? What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition?
Asking the Questions, Developing the Answers
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Pesach (Passover) is upon us. In a recent entry by Rachel Barenblat (a rabbinical student who writes the Velveteen Rabbi blog), she recounts a seder in which three questions were asked and were answered with prescribed responses. A Sephardic custom (according to Barenblat, Iraqi or Afghani in origin), the seder opens with a person circling the table of participants asking:
Who are you? The answer: “I am Yisrael.”
Where are you coming from? The answer: ”I am coming from Mitzrayim.”
Where are you going? The answer: “I am going to Yerushalayim.”
As Barenblat sees it, these questions call us to think more deeply, to examine the nature of our true selves, and open ourselves up to the possibility of emergence from narrow, confined places and look ahead to a more generous future.
My two sons attend an early childcare facility run by a Jewish community center. Although our family’s not Jewish, we, by default, loosely observe shabbat on Friday and various holidays simply through scheduling and songs and rituals celebrated at school (I’ll be taking a vacation day tomorrow to be with my boys because the daycare center is closed).
So, when I read these questions, I was shaken to the core, especially after a tumultuous, stress-filled week of work and family hiccups. They cause me to pause and ask myself about how I define myself and not the outside world. I look to the being who exists in that thin crevasse between closed eyelids and the breaking rays of dawn, and the vestige that reflects in the cab of his truck on the freeway home.
It’s in this interstitial space that I remember Avivah Zornberg’s retelling and interpretation of a story from a fifth-century Midrash:
You find that when Israel were in harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh decreed against them that they should not sleep at home nor have relations with their wives. Said Rabbi Shimeon bar Chalafta, ‘What did the daughters of Israel do?’ They would go down to draw water from the river, and God would prepare for them little fish in their buckets. And they would sell some of them, and cook some of them, and buy wine with the proceeds, and go to the field and feed their husbands. And when they had eaten and drunk, the women would take the mirrors and look into them with their husbands, and she would say, ‘I am more comely than you,’ and he would say, ‘I am more comely than you.’ And as a result, they would accustom themselves to desire, and they were fruitful and multiplied, and God took note of them immediately. Some of our sages said they bore two children at a time, others said they bore 12 at a time, and still others said 600,000. … And all these numbers from the mirrors. … In the merit of those mirrors which they showed their husbands to accustom them to desire, from the midst of the harsh labor, they raised up all the hosts.
Dr. Zornberg: She says to him, ‘I’m more beautiful than you,’ and he answers her, ‘No, I’m more beautiful than you.’ So there is some kind of dare going on here. There’s some kind of game. As I understand it, it’s a game in which she is challenging him to see his own beauty. If there’s anything left in him at all of any kind of assertiveness, then how could he not somewhere swing back at her when she has said that to him? And the result is — and the Midrash is very unequivocal — the result is that they accustom themselves to desire, an extraordinary expression, as if desire is something that simply has disappeared from their repertoire.
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Dr. Zornberg: And I think there’s a sense here that what she’s got going here makes it possible for each couple to feel that they are capable of giving birth to all the many various possibilities.
Ms. Tippett: And the possibility of freedom.
Dr. Zornberg: Of freedom, of infiniteness, of unpredictability, which such multiple births suggests, and that it’s all done with mirrors, the Midrash says, mischievously, it seems to me. And I have a whole theory about these mirrors. It seems to me that, when one looks in a mirror, one is basically always seeing a somewhat changed version of oneself, a distorted version of oneself. So it means that the mirror represents fantasy. But from the point of view of the Midrash and from the point of view of God, who supports the women’s activities, it takes an act of this kind, a performative act of whimsy and imagination, not looking at things quite straight, in order to open things up.
From this story, I’ve created my own meaning and retelling of the idea to apply to my circumstances. I won’t go into it here, but the mirror is held up to me every day — and in it I’m creating my own midrashic story.