On Being Tumblr

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.
Anonymous asked:
How may I access Martin Rees interview?

Good morning. There are several paths to hear “Cosmic Origami and What We Don’t Know” with Lord Rees:

  • Podcast. All of our shows and the unedited interviews with each guest are free to download and will be delivered automagically to your computer. For many, subscribing on iTunes is the easiest way to get it.
  • Website. You can stream or download a free mp3 of the episode from the show page.
  • Radio. Yes, you can actually go old school and turn on the radio, dial up your local public radio station, and listen. I’m a digital devices guy but still love the serendipity of this method. The hyperlink will connect you with a listing of the 250 public radio stations that carry our program.
  • Blog. Each week, Krista writes an essay reflecting on her conversation with her guests. To accompany it, we create an audio post of the show. It’s sort of a combo platter of text and audio goodness.
  • Mobile. Not yet, but we are aiming for a late 2011 release of an iPhone/Android app. That’s right after we migrate our website from static HTML (yes, it’s true) to a content management system (Drupal for those who are curious).

~answered by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Comments
Anonymous asked:
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.

Kind regards,
Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Comments
Anonymous asked:
In the recent interview with Yossi Klein Halevi there was mention of "thin places". Has Krista considered group trips to thin places around the world?

It’s funny you mention it because we are in the process of mapping out a business plan for On Being's future. The idea of educational travel has surfaced at one time or another, but your notion of grounding it in “thin places” as a theme has marketing and editorial grit. And, the phrase is a natural extension of the content and ethos of our program.

We’ll definitely add this to the list of possibilities. Obviously, Jerusalem and John O’Donohue’s Ireland instantly come to mind. Perhaps Omid Safi’s Turkey too. Our question to you: Where are some of those thin places you might recommend for us to consider?

—Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Comments
Photos We Couldn’t Use This Christmas
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Photography is a medium that can add immeasurable depth to the character and content of an online essay or show page or blog commentary. But, so often, choosing complementary images is treated as an afterthought, a sort of window display that fails to give you a hint of what’s inside or add to the story that’s being told in text or audio. I take this aspect seriously, especially when it comes to guest contributions to this blog.
In a simple call-out on Facebook and Twitter, we asked our readers to write about Advent or Hanukkah. We received dozens of clever, moving essays (even some on winter solstice!) and poetry — so many so that I worked through my first week of vacation editing and posting them. There were too many not to publish, and putting them off until I returned would mean that the built-in deadlines of the holidays would void them completely. Oh, what a joy though!
And what a challenge to find photos worthy of their partners. I hope I did our guest contributors right. Along the way, I found many others that weren’t quite right for pairing with our submissions. I’m sharing three photos with you that I don’t want to let go unnoticed.
I couldn’t find a spot for the photo above, but Christy Quirk’s street shot from her travels in Azerbaijan is absolutely wonderful. The scene is a bit depressing, and the Santa is a skinnier version of Dan Akroyd in Trading Places. (I’m just waiting for him to pull out a piece of salmon…) The photographer’s caption says it all:

"Christmas in a Muslim, post-Soviet country is a bit schizophrenic. Christmas isn’t celebrated as it is the West, but many of the icons are  visible. Azeris like a secular New Year’s, but they also sometimes celebrate the Russian Christmas on  January 6th. Nevertheless, this Santa looks a little worse for the wear."

photo: Jon Ardern/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
And a Lancastrian photographer took this intriguing shot of a roadside vendor selling Santa masks and hats that read “Merry Christmas” — in Goa, India.
As interesting as these two Santa photos may be, it is the following family photo that I regret not using most:
  photo: Micah Taylor/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
Any family who has sat for a photo knows that the outtakes are often most memorable, and amusing. This one is scintillating and rich with texture, something the viewer can layer with meaning depending on the context. The photographer adds some flavor with his own caption: “For many obvious reasons, this did not make the cut for the family Christmas card, but it  made the cut into my heart.”
Mine too, Micah. Mine too.
Photos We Couldn’t Use This Christmas
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Photography is a medium that can add immeasurable depth to the character and content of an online essay or show page or blog commentary. But, so often, choosing complementary images is treated as an afterthought, a sort of window display that fails to give you a hint of what’s inside or add to the story that’s being told in text or audio. I take this aspect seriously, especially when it comes to guest contributions to this blog.
In a simple call-out on Facebook and Twitter, we asked our readers to write about Advent or Hanukkah. We received dozens of clever, moving essays (even some on winter solstice!) and poetry — so many so that I worked through my first week of vacation editing and posting them. There were too many not to publish, and putting them off until I returned would mean that the built-in deadlines of the holidays would void them completely. Oh, what a joy though!
And what a challenge to find photos worthy of their partners. I hope I did our guest contributors right. Along the way, I found many others that weren’t quite right for pairing with our submissions. I’m sharing three photos with you that I don’t want to let go unnoticed.
I couldn’t find a spot for the photo above, but Christy Quirk’s street shot from her travels in Azerbaijan is absolutely wonderful. The scene is a bit depressing, and the Santa is a skinnier version of Dan Akroyd in Trading Places. (I’m just waiting for him to pull out a piece of salmon…) The photographer’s caption says it all:

"Christmas in a Muslim, post-Soviet country is a bit schizophrenic. Christmas isn’t celebrated as it is the West, but many of the icons are  visible. Azeris like a secular New Year’s, but they also sometimes celebrate the Russian Christmas on  January 6th. Nevertheless, this Santa looks a little worse for the wear."

photo: Jon Ardern/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
And a Lancastrian photographer took this intriguing shot of a roadside vendor selling Santa masks and hats that read “Merry Christmas” — in Goa, India.
As interesting as these two Santa photos may be, it is the following family photo that I regret not using most:
  photo: Micah Taylor/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
Any family who has sat for a photo knows that the outtakes are often most memorable, and amusing. This one is scintillating and rich with texture, something the viewer can layer with meaning depending on the context. The photographer adds some flavor with his own caption: “For many obvious reasons, this did not make the cut for the family Christmas card, but it  made the cut into my heart.”
Mine too, Micah. Mine too.

Photos We Couldn’t Use This Christmas

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Photography is a medium that can add immeasurable depth to the character and content of an online essay or show page or blog commentary. But, so often, choosing complementary images is treated as an afterthought, a sort of window display that fails to give you a hint of what’s inside or add to the story that’s being told in text or audio. I take this aspect seriously, especially when it comes to guest contributions to this blog.

In a simple call-out on Facebook and Twitter, we asked our readers to write about Advent or Hanukkah. We received dozens of clever, moving essays (even some on winter solstice!) and poetry — so many so that I worked through my first week of vacation editing and posting them. There were too many not to publish, and putting them off until I returned would mean that the built-in deadlines of the holidays would void them completely. Oh, what a joy though!

And what a challenge to find photos worthy of their partners. I hope I did our guest contributors right. Along the way, I found many others that weren’t quite right for pairing with our submissions. I’m sharing three photos with you that I don’t want to let go unnoticed.

I couldn’t find a spot for the photo above, but Christy Quirk’s street shot from her travels in Azerbaijan is absolutely wonderful. The scene is a bit depressing, and the Santa is a skinnier version of Dan Akroyd in Trading Places. (I’m just waiting for him to pull out a piece of salmon…) The photographer’s caption says it all:

"Christmas in a Muslim, post-Soviet country is a bit schizophrenic. Christmas isn’t celebrated as it is the West, but many of the icons are visible. Azeris like a secular New Year’s, but they also sometimes celebrate the Russian Christmas on January 6th. Nevertheless, this Santa looks a little worse for the wear."

Roadside Santa in Goa, India
photo: Jon Ardern/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

And a Lancastrian photographer took this intriguing shot of a roadside vendor selling Santa masks and hats that read “Merry Christmas” — in Goa, India.

As interesting as these two Santa photos may be, it is the following family photo that I regret not using most:

Christmas Card Outtake
photo: Micah Taylor/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Any family who has sat for a photo knows that the outtakes are often most memorable, and amusing. This one is scintillating and rich with texture, something the viewer can layer with meaning depending on the context. The photographer adds some flavor with his own caption: “For many obvious reasons, this did not make the cut for the family Christmas card, but it made the cut into my heart.”

Mine too, Micah. Mine too.

Comments

"Hudson River Valley Autumn" Inspired by John O’Donohue

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

For Thanksgiving we’ll be releasing an encore of "The Inner Landscape of Beauty," which, if I dare say so, is quickly becoming a classic in our program’s portfolio. We’ve received lots of moving responses to our guest’s thoughts and words over the years. And, this week Tom Warren, a listener from Westchester, New York, posted this lovely video on the wall of our Facebook page with the following introduction:

"Krista’s interview with John O’Donohue inspired me to put together a two-minute, video slideshow set to music, celebrating the beauty of autumn, with photographs I took over the last month or so in the Hudson River Valley outside of New York City. I hope you don’t mind my sharing it with the On Being community.”

Of course we don’t mind! And, we’re proud to share it with the rest of our audience who may not check in our Facebook page regularly. We love seeing our productions inspire others to produce new creative works and think or hear or see differently. Thanks Tom!

Comments

Those Wild Fes Sufi Nights Are Calling

by Hussein Rashid, guest contributor

Rumi Ensemble - Iran - Bab MakinaRumi ensemble from Iran performs at the Bab Makina Palace courtyard. (photo: Hussein Rashid)

Some people had Elvis. Others had The Beatles. My dream concert is the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. With a rotating list of performers, it does not matter who was there, but the idea of the festival is what counts.

B'ismillahOver ten years ago, I bought a CD called B’ismillah (“In the Name of God”), a two-CD set from a Fes concert. In that moment, I knew the power of music. The organizers started the festival 16 years ago to bridge the rift amongst civilizations after the first Gulf War and they sought to use music as a common language. The concerts continue to bring in a variety of musical traditions from around the world to show what all people have in common.

My review at Religion Dispatches explains the mechanics of this year’s festival. However, one highlight that I was totally unprepared for was Sufi Nights. After the formal concerts during the afternoon and evening, there was an area set up for local Sufi groups to perform.

Sufism is a broad label for a wide variety of mystical traditions in the Muslim faith. Sufi groups tend to reflect their local cultures, bridging the Arabicized scholarly religious tradition with the local, living Islam of the different communities Muslims belong to. Some of these Sufi groups rely heavily on music.

In the United States, we have been exposed to Sufis and Sufi music for a long time. Jalaluddin Rumi is one of the best-selling poets in the U.S. and is founder of the Sufi group known as the “whirling dervishes.” Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones introduced the Master Musicians of Jajouka to new audiences. The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a musician from Pakistan known for qawwali singing, a type of devotional music in South Asia that was incorporated into films like Dead Man Walking.

Because Sufi groups are deeply embedded in the cultures in which they emerge, the free Sufi Nights concerts attracted large numbers of Fasians, in addition to the international crowd who had come for the festival. Each night the performers would be welcomed, personally, by the local community. They were part of the life of the city. They were neighbors and co-workers, cousins and clients.

There was an immediate intimacy between the audience and the performers because of their local character. It was incredibly easy to be swept into that feeling. The small theater area helped to highlight that feeling of intimacy. One night, my camera battery had run down, and I didn’t have any extras. I allowed myself to enter that world. Coming from a South Asian cultural context, I have to say that the ritual did not taste right on my tongue, but that didn’t mean that I did not relish every moment of it.

The invocations and formulas the Sufi groups used were known to all the locals. They participated with the people on stage, not just “singing lyrics” but entering the ritual themselves.

A Sufi group from Ouazzane, Ahl Touat Dar Dmana, performs with Driss Abou Sabr Zerhouni.

Young children entered the ecstatic states of coming nearer to God, moving their bodies and calling out the names of God. The adults took a little longer, but they too participated in the rituals, entering those moments of nearness to the Divine. Tears ran down people’s faces as they approached the ineffable, and smiles lit the ground as though reflecting the divine light they were seeing. It was being in a timeless, placeless space that continued for an eternity and ended in an instant.

Except, you realize that the performance ended, but the moment did not. The songs are popular ones. Young men continued singing after concerts were over.

You would go into the old city, where the stores were, and hear these songs played in shops alongside the latest Shakira tune. The difference between the sacred and the profane is much more porous in these contexts. Here, popular does not mean a-religious, and religious does not mean private. No one was forced to believe or practice anything; stores would remain open during prayer time, sisters would walk down the street, one in hijab and the other not. As a result, people lived and expressed their faith at every moment.

The great secret of the Fes Festival are the Sufi Nights. It is the bridge that the organizers so desperately want to build. You cannot be unaffected by the experience. If you have an open mind, it helps you to see the world a little differently. It’s the one part they do not put on CD; nor should they. I am too young for Elvis, too young for The Beatles. I did get my Fes Festival and I am looking forwarded to going again.


Hussein RashidHussein Rashid is a native New Yorker and proud Muslim. Currently an instructor at the Center for Spiritual Inquiry at Park Avenue Christian Church and based at Hofstra University, he is deeply committed to interfaith work and is passionate about teaching. He believes we need to start talking more intelligently about Islam specifically, and religion generally.

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

Comments
Download

Day 19 - Hussein Rashid: “The Night of Power, and Imperfection”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 5:23]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Hussein RashidThe 19th voice in this series is Hussein Rashid, a Nizari Ismaili Muslim who was born and raised in New York City. He recounts one of his favorite vigils of Ramadan, Laylat al-Qadr or The Night of Power — a night in which many Muslims stay up all night in constant prayerm, reading Qur’an, reflecting. On this night, Muslims believe that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. He also recites one of his favorite passages from the Quran prayed on this night, The Verse of Light.

Hussein currently teaches at Hofstra University in New York and writes for several blogs, including Religion Dispatches.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

Comments

The Happy Paradox of Photography and Meditation

by Monica Biswas, guest contributor

Arlington, Massachusetts

I raced to get to the pond in Arlington, hoping there would still be some light left when I got there. Luckily, there was about five minutes of great sunlight left, and it left lovely colors on the edge of the clouds, and glowing through to the still surface of the water.

Creating a photograph is like meditation, full of paradoxes that coexist happily. The perfect shot cannot be captured by chasing it into a corner, and yet you must have the persistent drive to do it. You must be open to seeing something unique and special in the current moment, but having a vision for what the perfect shot is will help you to record it.

It is dazzling to me how there is such a dance and flow between these various things. Perhaps the most important thing is to know when to run after a shot and when to back off and let your eyes and camera focus elsewhere, when to envision the end product and when to let the subject tell you what it wants to show, when to be in the moment but stay committed to letting your eye and your equipment be used to portray that thing of beauty.

Monica BiswasMonica Biswas is a photographer and mother living in Belmont, Massachusetts. You can view more of her images that help her connect her “own thoughts, reflections and intentions” on her website.

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

Comments

A Silent Burial for My Family Who “Disappeared”

by Maria del Sol Crocker, guest contributor

Fernando Ramiro Curia
The author’s brother, first on the left with leather jacket, at wedding with Peronist Youth shortly before he disappeared. (courtesy of Maria del Sol Crocker)

I was born in Argentina, and came here after my marriage. Crocker is my married name; my original surname is Curia. My sister, Gloria Constanza Curia, and my brother Fernando Ramiro Curia, as well as my cousin Horacio Ponce, were kidnapped and killed by the military junta government in Argentina. They disappeared in 1976 and, like Mercedes Doretti says in her interview, my whole life froze.

I was unable to finish college. My mother went into deep depression. My little sister left our home and moved in with her boyfriend’s family.

We could not stand the silence in the house, a house that had been filled with music and joy, since both my brother and my sister played the guitar. We all used to sing together — mostly Argentinian folk music, Brazilian bossa nova, some tangos, Mercedes Sosa — and our friends would drop by in the evenings just to make music with us.

Gloria Constanza CuriaWe were submitted to a subtle kind of torture: every once in a while there would be an anonymous phone call with “news” from our siblings. I will never forget that one year we were told that they “would be back for Christmas.” That Christmas Eve night (in Latin America, the big celebration happens on the night that Christ was born) my mother refused to eat, to drink, to talk, waiting and waiting. Finally, she went to bed, heartbroken. After that day, we dreaded Christmas, because my mom would fall into her depression again.

After about ten years, I told my mother that they would not be coming back, and I offered to go through their belongings and decided what to do with them. I felt like I was burying them — going through my sister’s make up, her ballet clothes, my little brother’s shoes (so big, he was 17 when he was taken and had been growing so fast), his overcoat. So much pain, so little justice.

No, I do not hope to find that my brother and sister are alive. I am sure that they are in some mass grave in an unmarked location. It would be a wonderful closure to have their remains identified. The worse part is the uncertainty and the waiting.

As I try to understand, heal, and integrate these painful experiences, I have found that only Vedanta has a clear and acceptable explanation for what has been called the problem of the existence of evil. In the first place, there is the law of Karma, which basically is the law of cause as applied to our actions (and thoughts too!). That accounts for why “bad things happen to good people” and also gives me a larger overview on the concept of justice — meaning that no deed goes unpunished (or unrewarded). So I have come to accept that my siblings, my cousin, and all my “dissappeared” and dead friends had some karmic influences that were working themselves out.

Sometimes a soul needs to experience certain things in order to evolve in a particular area. And what may appear to be very negative occurrences turn out to be wonderful learning opportunities. I pray for the next incarnation of my siblings, that it may be a good one and lead them ever closer to the Goal.

Thank you for remembering them. Thank you for the poetry and the splendid music from my beautiful and wounded country.


Maria del Sol Crocker lives in Cohasset, Massachusetts.

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

Comments

Defenders of the Faith

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, guest contributor

He-ManWhen I was a child, the phrase “Defender of the Faith” did not conjure images of the Latin title Fidei defensor or of the British crown. Rather, it somehow got tangled up with another prominent idiom of my youth, “Masters of the Universe,” which referred to the popular Mattel media franchise starring He-Man. A defender of the faith was a kind of superhero, a person of great strength with an important mission.

These days, the phrase invokes yet another, completely different meaning to me. I now think of a defender of the faith as anyone who attempts to wrestle the reputation of his faith out of the hands of those who, through their actions or speech, disparage it.

Take, for example, the phenomenon that accompanies many terrorist attacks, attempted or carried out, in our contemporary media landscape. After each incident — the latest in Times Square is no exception — scores of moderate Muslims take to the airwaves to defend their faith against the violent portrayal of the (would-be) terrorists. It is sad to say that mainstream media outlets seem to have developed a routine for reporting on such incidents. Hearing from outraged and apologetic followers of Islam is a prominent feature of that routine.

But this phenomenon isn’t unique to Muslims; many Christians also feel the need to salvage their faith’s reputation from extremists. Certainly, this includes the kind of extremism seen back in March in the form of the “Huratee,” the Christian militia whose outfit was raided in Michigan. Other non-violent forms of extremism, however, warrant Christian defenders of the faith as well, like in Austin Carty’s recent Huffington Post article entitled "Nice Christians: We’re Out There."

Lately I have been asking myself: what is the point of these predictable defenses? Is anyone’s opinion changed in this way? I don’t think so. It is not as if a person who believes that all Muslims are extremists is going to listen to a self-proclaimed moderate Muslim and feel certain that his assumptions were wrong. Neither will being reassured by a talking head that there are extremists in every faith comfort someone who already knows this to be true.

Rather than increasing tolerance or expanding dialogue, this knee-jerk defense actually plays further into the broad dichotomy that the American public has come to expect from mainstream news sources. When a moderate Christian such as Mr. Carty makes a well-meaning case for others like himself in the Huffington Post, he’s not making it easier for acceptance and understanding to grow. He is distancing himself from those he’d rather not associate with. In this way, the defense that is made is not a defense of one’s faith but of one’s self at the expense of those other religious people whose practice he judges to be misguided.

Yet, certainly I have found myself on the wrong side of this coin on more than one occasion. I can distinctly remember several conversations with my best friend, a Roman Catholic, in which we tried to imagine a different way to define ourselves that would highlight the commonalities of our faiths rather than differences. But even that endeavor was a reaction to those around us, those intolerant people on both sides, Catholic and Protestant, who, for one reason or another, discounted the other. We lamented that the term “Christian” — let alone “born-again” or “evangelical” — was lost to negative stereotypes and a bad reputation, and thus we wanted to update it.

Nowadays, I laugh to myself when a Christian friend on Facebook identifies his or her religious views as “Christ follower,” for it is this same sense of self-defense that pushes me to disassociate from those intolerant believers of whom I am embarrassed.

Let us not alienate fundamentalists within our own faiths. Instead of separating ourselves and pointing the finger of blame at those with whom we disagree, perhaps a true defense of faith is called for a more complete wish to understand how someone could aggravate the tenets of a religion to a violent state.

We have an opportunity with each unfortunate and sometimes-deadly act by extremists of all religions to, rather than estrange ourselves from them, attempt to bring them back into the fold by means of understanding our common identities as adherents of a particular religion. Only then will we truly be defenders of the faith.

Jonathan D FitzgeraldJonathan D. Fitzgerald is a writer and educator living in Jersey City with his wife Stephanie. He is managing editor of Patrol Magazine and has written for The Wall Street Journal and Christianity Today. Follow him on Twitter.

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

Comments
Cycles of Life and Daffodils Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

"Last year at this time, I passed this field of daffodils every day going to visit my aunt who was dying. As the spring progressed and the first shoots of the daffodils appeared, I saw the changes each day riding by as the buds appeared. The flowers bloomed and then, of course, finished their amazing show and vanished back into the earth. She died soon after.
The field once again turned to a level green field of grass. This year I’ve been taking the same daily ride, but this time for my uncle. The  daffodils were back this year in all their glory. The cycle and our journey continues.”

We received this touching photo and reflection from Ruth Govatos in Wilmington, Delaware in response to our call-out for pictures on how you are spiritually nourished by gardening and growing things from the soil. Share your photos with us.
Cycles of Life and Daffodils Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

"Last year at this time, I passed this field of daffodils every day going to visit my aunt who was dying. As the spring progressed and the first shoots of the daffodils appeared, I saw the changes each day riding by as the buds appeared. The flowers bloomed and then, of course, finished their amazing show and vanished back into the earth. She died soon after.
The field once again turned to a level green field of grass. This year I’ve been taking the same daily ride, but this time for my uncle. The  daffodils were back this year in all their glory. The cycle and our journey continues.”

We received this touching photo and reflection from Ruth Govatos in Wilmington, Delaware in response to our call-out for pictures on how you are spiritually nourished by gardening and growing things from the soil. Share your photos with us.

Cycles of Life and Daffodils
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

"Last year at this time, I passed this field of daffodils every day going to visit my aunt who was dying. As the spring progressed and the first shoots of the daffodils appeared, I saw the changes each day riding by as the buds appeared. The flowers bloomed and then, of course, finished their amazing show and vanished back into the earth. She died soon after.

The field once again turned to a level green field of grass. This year I’ve been taking the same daily ride, but this time for my uncle. The daffodils were back this year in all their glory. The cycle and our journey continues.”

We received this touching photo and reflection from Ruth Govatos in Wilmington, Delaware in response to our call-out for pictures on how you are spiritually nourished by gardening and growing things from the soil. Share your photos with us.

Comments

Humming a BBC Melody in Fascist Portugal

Maria Clara Paulino, guest contributor

In response to Speaking of Faith's show about the brutality of regimes around the world and the question of the people who disappear — and their children — I thought I would share with you a scene from my childhood in Portugal during the country’s fascist regime that lasted for almost 40 years and ended in 1974.

I wake up in the middle of the night, as I often do, and walk slowly down the steps of the long staircase. I am eight years old. I come to join my father, who sits in his office listening to a small voice coming from a small radio. The sound is muffled; the words sound detached. I do not understand what it says.

He smiles at the sight of my face peering through the crack of the door.

“So, you’re up,” he says.

Papa Paulino on His Leather "Sofa"That is all he ever says, and I am free to come in or go back. I like that freedom. I sit on his reading couch; the leather is cold to the touch at first, but softening and embracing as I sink into it. Soon he forgets that I am there.

But today he asks me to sit facing him. His voice is stern: “It may be a good idea not to sing this melody outside of this room.”

For brief moments, like now, when the voice that says things I don’t understand stops, a melody fills the air. It is always the same. It is beautiful, and I often carry it into the light of day like a fragment of a dream. Earlier, my mother had given me a concerned look as I left for school, bag full of books, the melody drifting from my lips.

“Not outside this room,” he repeats. “Will you remember?”

I nod, silently. The man’s voice drones on. I stare at the radio. “What is he saying?”

My father looks troubled by the question. “It’s the BBC radio service, in English.” There is a long pause while he chooses the words. “They tell you the truth about what is happening around the world — and in our country too.”

The leather under me goes cold and hard, and my hands curl and cry with sweat. My heart thuds against my chest, trying to fly from the question searing through me: “Will they take you away too, like they took Maria’s father?”

I am looking at his hair; his face is buried in his hands. I want to pin him down and not let him ever leave this room.

Then he looks up. “Yes, that may happen one day. On that day and every other day until I come back, if people ask you, ‘Where is your father,’ hold your head high and tell them. Listen, listen carefully. This is what you will tell them: ‘My father has been arrested because he believes in freedom.’”

We are looking in each others’ eyes now and I see it all clearly: I cannot hold my father in this room, nor can I hold my heart still. I cannot even hold on to me. I watch my childhood leave so suddenly there is no time for remembrance or reckoning.

“Will you do that? Can you do that?” His urgency brings me back. And a voice I do not yet know answers, “Yes.”

Clara PaulinoMs. Paulino teaches English Literature and Art History at the University of Winthrop and at the University of Porto in Portugal. She currently lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina and has recently started a personal blog where she writes about “musings on a home in-between: languages, places, ways of seeing.”

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

Comments

In Praise of Open Windows

Shari Motro, guest contributor

Granni Sunshine
Painting by Ola Schary. “It’s a copy of a postcard my grandmother painted for me when I was a child. She was a great lover of fresh air, a gentle and beautiful soul.”

Krista’s interview with Bill McKibben inspired me to write this, so I thought it would be fitting to post it on this blog.

Last spring, the Obamas planted a White House vegetable garden. This year, why not follow up by cutting the air conditioning and opening the windows? They might also set a temperature range for the White House within which neither artificial heating nor cooling is used — recognizing that for much of the spring and fall what nature provides simply cannot be improved.

I’m no fan of indoor refrigeration even in summer. I realize I’m in the minority. Nevertheless, year-round climate control is surely not what most people want. During these glorious weeks, I cannot believe the office and retail workers who crowd every outdoor café and park bench at lunchtime appreciate returning to their airtight posts. I cannot believe the guests of most major hotels prefer stale recycled air over an April breeze. I cannot believe the bedridden sick and elderly prefer the drone of forced air to the calls of nesting birds. Novelist Henry Miller called the United States the “air-conditioned nightmare.” He had a point.

The ubiquity of windows that do not open may cause some not to notice what they are missing. Sealed spaces divide, they alienate, they blind us to what is happening beyond our threshold. They rob us of the goose bumps you feel as the sun sets at the end of a balmy day, of the sounds of crickets and children, of the smell of freshly mown grass, honeysuckle, earth. A different kind of comfort emerges when we tune in rather than anesthetizing ourselves to our given reality, and with this comfort comes a different kind of compassion for ourselves and our surroundings.

In the end, of course, this isn’t only about us. Americans make up 4% of the world’s population and we produce a quarter of its carbon dioxide pollution. I don’t know where you draw the line between personal comfort and responsibility, but treating our air 12 months a year, 24/7 is on the wrong side of it. This isn’t comfort, it’s gratuitous waste.

Who stands to lose from an open-window revolution? The multibillion dollar HVAC industry. I’m okay with that.

It’s been a long winter — let the sun shine in.

Shari MotroMs. Motro teaches law at the University of Richmond in Virginia. This essay was first published in The Wall Street Journal on April 10, 2010 and reprinted with permission of the author.

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

Comments

A is for Alleluia

by Pádraig Ó Tuama, guest contributor

"Olibhear" Twomey

A is for Alleluia.

A is for Ashes and last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the day when many denominations observe the beginning of Lent — the 40-ish days leading up to the Last Supper, the death of Jesus, the finding of the empty tomb, and the mysterious appearances of Jesus.

Lent comes from the Latin word for Spring. So, it seems that Lent is for Spring.

When I was a small boy, the talk in the class was what you were giving up for Lent — crisps, or lemonade, or, for the radically committed, sweets. Last Tuesday, eating pancakes and lemons, some friends discussed what to give up. We were all agreed: Lent is less for giving up, and more for making space.

We make space to contemplate what it is that we will celebrate in 40 days’ time. We make space to recognise our faults. We pray a little more. We allow our emptier stomachs to remind us of the pithiness of our observations in comparison with real hunger. We give more money. We confess. We reconcile. We listen to emptiness for a while. We do not say Alleluia.

This Ash Wednesday, I went to Clonard Monastery between work meetings. There were workmen, nurses, office people, people in tracksuits, children, teenagers, young, old. We lined up and had ashes, made from the burnt palms of last year’s jubilant celebration of Palm Sunday, smeared on our foreheads with the words “Turn away from sin and return to the Gospel”. After Mass, I walked from the Catholic Falls Road through the city centre into the Protestant Donegall Pass. I wiped the ash from my head, aware of offence and violence.

This year, I have been a sometimes-absent, sometimes-silent friend. I have been bad at communication. Good intentions, frankly, have not been enough. Decisions about what charity to give to have resulted in distraction, not action.

I am hoping that empty space will create something for me. I am giving up eating anything between meals. Three square a day for me. And, pithy as it seems, I am also giving up sweet things. Hard core for me this Lent.

On Holy Thursday, the Eucharist is removed from the tabernacle in the church. We attend the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, reminding ourselves of the emptying of God by God. We remember the descent of our tortured and abandoned brother into Hell. We allow emptiness to create hope.

A friend of mine told me a month ago that he’s been diagnosed as HIV positive. Another friend is in the gut-clenching grip of heartbreaking decisions. Someone is unemployed. Someone is lonely. And I am hoping that Lent will create a bit of space for me to commit my time, my body, and what love I can give. Such resolutions will not, please God, end with an Easter celebration, when a fire will be lit outside the monastery and we will process into the church with springtime candles lit from that same fire.

A is for Allel…


Mr. Ó Tuama, originally from Cork, works in Belfast, Northern Ireland doing chaplaincy and community work, mostly through the Corrymeela Community and the Irish Peace Centres. Part of his community work involves writing poetry to encapsulate some of the stories of living and dying in the context of the Irish conflict.

He submitted this essay through our First Person Outreach page. Submit yours too.

Comments