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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.
We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved. That is true of the relationship between God and scientific knowledge, but it is also true of the wider human problems of death, suffering, and guilt.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in "Science and Being"
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"Everyone has a message out there. You not agree with all of them. You may agree with some of them. You might be disarmed by some of the messages that people are bringing. And I think the overall, maybe I’m attracted to this more so than others, but you know the overall theme of all the messages is, we want a better place."

— photographer Matthew Septimus.

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"Animals make us human." —Temple Grandin, from her book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
Photo by sleepyneko (distributed with instagram)
"Animals make us human." —Temple Grandin, from her book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
Photo by sleepyneko (distributed with instagram)

"Animals make us human."
Temple Grandin, from her book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

Photo by sleepyneko (distributed with instagram)

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A different vantage point truly can change one’s perspective on things. Thanks, Science:

Astronaut Ron Garan did an AMA on reddit. This photo was his reply when asked, “Have you seen anything when looking down on earth or into space that has you completely awed that is captured in your memory for the rest of your life?” It’s the illuminated border between India and Pakistan, as seen from the International Space Station.

Realizing what this picture depicted had a big impact on me. When viewed from space, Earth almost always looks beautiful and peaceful. However, this picture is an example of man-made changes to the landscape in response to a threat, clearly visible from space. This was a big surprise to me. (…)
The point is not that we can look down at the Earth and see a man-made border between India and Pakistan. The point is that we can look down at that same area and feel empathy for the struggles that all people face. We can look down and realize that we are all riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family.


~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A different vantage point truly can change one’s perspective on things. Thanks, Science:

Astronaut Ron Garan did an AMA on reddit. This photo was his reply when asked, “Have you seen anything when looking down on earth or into space that has you completely awed that is captured in your memory for the rest of your life?” It’s the illuminated border between India and Pakistan, as seen from the International Space Station.

Realizing what this picture depicted had a big impact on me. When viewed from space, Earth almost always looks beautiful and peaceful. However, this picture is an example of man-made changes to the landscape in response to a threat, clearly visible from space. This was a big surprise to me. (…)
The point is not that we can look down at the Earth and see a man-made border between India and Pakistan. The point is that we can look down at that same area and feel empathy for the struggles that all people face. We can look down and realize that we are all riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family.


~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

A different vantage point truly can change one’s perspective on things. Thanks, Science:

Astronaut Ron Garan did an AMA on reddit. This photo was his reply when asked, “Have you seen anything when looking down on earth or into space that has you completely awed that is captured in your memory for the rest of your life?” It’s the illuminated border between India and Pakistan, as seen from the International Space Station.

Realizing what this picture depicted had a big impact on me. When viewed from space, Earth almost always looks beautiful and peaceful. However, this picture is an example of man-made changes to the landscape in response to a threat, clearly visible from space. This was a big surprise to me. (…)

The point is not that we can look down at the Earth and see a man-made border between India and Pakistan. The point is that we can look down at that same area and feel empathy for the struggles that all people face. We can look down and realize that we are all riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family.

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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What is the Path to Integrating Technology into Robust, Meaningful Living?

by Krista Tippett, host

Sherry TurkleWe’ve been paying attention to Sherry Turkle for some time, as a thinker and observer on technology in terms of the human self, spirit, and identity. I love the philosophically witty title of one of her books: Simulation and Its Discontents. She is a social scientist through and through, an immensely serious researcher into what she calls the “subjective” side of technology. For over three decades, she’s been analyzing the inner effects of the digital tools that are transforming our days — how they affect our attention and relationships, our sense of reality, and even of “aliveness.”

Earlier this year, she made waves with her book Alone Together. That title itself has become a catchword for the ironic capacity of communications technologies to alienate us from one another. Alone Together was reviewed in that vein as well — as a call to unplug our tablets and phones, our players and laptops. And yet, as I read Sherry Turkle and listen to her speak, I hear her saying something far more thought-provoking and indeed hopeful: that each of us can find practical and meaningful ways to shape technology to our purposes, towards honoring what we hold dear in life.

I once heard Sherry Turkle insist to an interviewer, with some exasperation: “I’m not saying, ‘unplug.’ I’m saying, ‘reflect.’ I’m saying, ‘converse.’” And here is the starting point for the conversation she would encourage all of us to have within ourselves, within our workplaces, and especially within our families: just because we’ve grown up with the Internet doesn’t mean the Internet is grown up. The reality check is that we are meeting the glorious communications technologies of this century in their infancy. It is up to us to mature them, to direct them to the best of human potential, and to develop wise habits for living deliberately and sustainably with them.

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(photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Of all the perspectives she sheds on this challenge, none is more sobering than the fact that the adults she’s studied are at least as culpable as any teenagers in giving their lives over unthinkingly to digital gadgets. Far too often, she says, it is parents who are on their BlackBerries at the dinner table, parents responding to email and therefore failing to look up and meet their children’s eyes when they pick them up from school, parents failing to be present with and for their children in ordinary moments that make up the memories of a childhood — on playgrounds, on a nature walk.

Sherry Turkle puts arresting words around what is at stake. On a very deep level, for example, we can fail to teach our children the rewards of solitude — of being able to be at peace in our own company. This is an enduring human challenge. Yet the possibilities for missing it are perhaps more abundant and seductive in this generation. And, as Sherry Turkle reminds us, “If you don’t teach your children to be alone, they’ll only always know how to be lonely.”

How Letters Used to BeSince speaking with Sherry Turkle and taking in some of her strategies, I’ve been more deliberate (not yet perfect) at drawing lines with email between work and home. I’ve taken an idea she offers — of selectively declaring “sacred spaces” like the dinner table as off limits for technology. And while my children grumble, they too are embracing this. I’ve started regularly printing out emails that are substantive or special in some way and putting them in boxes like I did once upon a time far more naturally with letters or thoughts written in the first place on paper.

And as I talk about this in my circles of family and friends, I’m hearing about all kinds of strategies others are devising to make the technologies we love more humanly compatible and even nourishing. With this show, we’re hoping to spark a lively and useful exchange of such ideas among listeners. Tell us and other listeners if you’ve created strategies to lead an examined digital life — to shape it to honor what matters. Please join in!

About the images: top, portrait of Sherry Turkle (photo: Jean-Baptiste Labrune/Flickr); bottom, Is the age of the handwritten letter over? (photo by papertrix/Flickr)

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Ace Ventura Director’s Near-Death Experience Results in Documentary of Hope

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

I was not prepared to get a little choked up when watching this movie trailer. Partly because of the use of “new-agey” in the description below. But, it doesn’t feel new-agey at all. Just hopeful and aspirational. A big thanks to the Utne Reader for posting:

"You wouldn’t expect the director who gave the world ridiculous films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Bruce Almighty to make a new-agey documentary about the interconnectedness of all life—but that’s what has happened with I Am, Tom Shadyac’s earnest new feature. Read the full review …

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Our humanity is not an attribute that we have received once and forever with our conception. It is a potentiality that we have to discover within us and progressively develop or destroy through our confrontation with the different experiences of suffering that will meet us through our life.
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Xavier Le Pichon

Thanks for reminding us of this powerful quotation from our interview with the great French geophysicist.

Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Shifting Plates, Shifting People
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

This week we’re wrapping up production on our program with French geologist Xavier Le Pichon, which will be released on podcast this Thursday. Krista and Le Pichon cover a wide range of topics — from his childhood in French Indochina to underwater plate tectonic research in submersible vehicles, to life in a spiritual community aiding the disabled in southern France.

Karl JaspersWith such a wide scope, there seems to be countless jumping off points to different ideas throughout the conversation. One of those points is Le Pichon’s mention of what the German philosopher Karl Jaspers referred to as the “Axial Age” — the period between 900 and 200 BCE when many of the great spiritual traditions of the world began. As Krista mentions, the Axial Age is also central to Karen Armstrong’s recent book, The Great Transformation (preview above). Armstrong has been a guest on our program before, when she spoke to Krista about the roots of her “freelance monotheism.” Armstrong writes about the “Axial Age”:

This was the period of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, and Jeremiah, the mystics of the Upanishads, Mencius, and Euripides. During this period of intense creativity, spiritual and philosophical geniuses pioneered at an entirely new kind of humane experience.

What I found most engaging about Le Pichon’s conversation with Krista is his ability to link seemingly disparate parts into a unified whole — an ability which he links to his daily prayer routine. It’s in this spirit that I see his worldview and Karen Armstrong’s book connected in unexpected ways. They both deal with the grander, sweeping evolutions of our world — Le Pichon with the shifting of our planet’s tectonic plates and Armstrong with the spiritual evolution of the human race. And while geology might seem unrelated to spiritual evolution, perhaps by sheer scale alone they share a unique vantage point of the human race.

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