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.

"You run like a girl." "You throw like a girl."

These are two phrases I was brought up with. And, ashamedly, I find myself slipping into using them every so often, even though I have an athletic sister and a heady wife who defy these stereotypes every day. This ad from Always is something I’ll show my boys and remind myself of the power of language — and when not to use it.

Comments

For as far back as Joy Ladin can remember, her body didn’t match her soul. Gender defines us from the moment we’re born. But, how is that related to the lifelong work of being at home in ourselves? You’ve got to check out our show this week, "Gender and the Syntax of Being." Krista’s interview with her explores this question through Joy’s story of transition from male to female — as a poet, as a parent, and as a the first openly transgender woman teaching in an Orthodox Jewish world.

Comments
Download

How do we prime our brains to take the meandering mental paths necessary for creativity? New techniques of brain imaging, neuroscientist Rex Jung says, are helping us gain a whole new view on the differences between intelligence, creativity, and personality.

"With intelligence, there’s the analogy I’ve used is there’s this superhighway in the brain that allows you to get from point A to point B. With creativity, it’s a slower, more meandering process where you want to take the side roads and even the dirt roads to get there."

One of our most popular interviews in which Dr. Jung unsettles some old assumptions — and suggests some new connections between creativity and family life, creativity and aging, and creativity and purpose.

Comments
simbarashe:

Ladine, New York. #hair #fashion #instagood #love #photooftheday #beautiful #follow #girl #instadaily #black #dreads

Now this is fierce.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
simbarashe:

Ladine, New York. #hair #fashion #instagood #love #photooftheday #beautiful #follow #girl #instadaily #black #dreads

Now this is fierce.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

simbarashe:

Ladine, New York. #hair #fashion #instagood #love #photooftheday #beautiful #follow #girl #instadaily #black #dreads

Now this is fierce.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Comments
Download

"A Voice for the Animals" explores the thoughts and life of Alan Rabinowitz. A profound stutterer as a child left him virtually unable to communicate with people. When he’d get home, he’d hide in his closet and talk to his pet turtle. It was the animals that helped him reenter the world of humans.

And now he’s one of the world’s leading conservationists. He’s called the “the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation” by The New York Times and fights for some of the world’s biggest cats in some of the world’s last wild places. He offers extraordinary insight into both animals and the human condition:

"I not only wanted to go out and challenge myself against the environment, against odds, and explore wild places, I also wanted to be a voice for the animals. I did want to save wildlife. I always appreciated science more than any other course I studied because to me science was its own language. Science was a language of truths that would be there apart from whether human beings were on this earth or not. Science presented certain facts and certain realities. It allowed me to delve into a world that didn’t have to do with speech or anything else like that, that was human-centric but had a life of its own."
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Comments
When I’m trying to explain to people what I think is grand and noble about movement, I say that the reason it is our most valuable connector as human beings is because that person onstage, who has a body similar to ours, is using that body in proxy for us. That kind of transference and connection is a very poetic way of saying something that I think the doctor’s given his life to understanding: how an idea about movement can actually be felt. This fact is the way that I’ve been able to deal with issues of identity. And the making of art, the sharing of it, is in some ways — healing sounds way too sentimental — but it bridges the gap between individuals. When I read some of Dr. Sacks’s meditations on how the brain works, in a way he demystifies these things that I have a feeling about. But in another way he encourages me to look with more courage at the physical world.
-

Bill T. Jones~Bill T. Jones

Identity. Just another one of the paths we can take when we finally orchestrate an interview with the great choreographer for On Being. Oh, and we will do so one day. *smile*

(via trentgilliss)

Comments

To Bully a Sikh

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"Being alone somewhere where you’re the only individual of that type really takes a toll on you. Being the only Sikh going around with a turban, or with a patka in this case, it really made me stand out." 

The definition of bullying is difficult to pin down sometimes. Harneel “Neel” Singh shares his experiences of going to school in the U.S. and wearing his patka. He helps us understand that what some consider talking smack or harmless kidding are more injurious than that. They are demeaning a person who demonstrates his faith as a young Sikh in the public education system in the United States.

Comments

The Photos Used in Foreign Policy’s ‘Sex Issue’ May Be a Test Case for Cultural Insensitivity

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Foreign Policy "Sex Issue" CoverThe "Sex Issue" recently published by Foreign Policy magazine has received a fair amount of publicity this past week. And, from the responses I’ve read, it’s Mona Eltahawy’s article "Why Do They Hate Us? The War on Women in the Middle East" that’s been greeted with fanfare by some Western media outlets, as in this response by Newsweek:

"Some powerful photo illustrations come with Foreign Policy’s stunning cover feature on the real war unfolding on women in the middle east, written by the awesome and oh-so-brave Egyptian revolutionary Mona Eltahawy. Read it.”

I’m unsure of why Newsweek refers to these images as “photo illustrations” but I think they miss out on the complexities of the issues at hand when they frame it in this way. To be sure, I can understand why many people like these photos. They are stunning images; the article’s title is gripping. But, most of us in the U.S. lack an understanding of the history and the cultural context of using such provocative imagery. For many Arab and Muslim women, these images are offensive. The pictures represent a problem that dates back centuries: the hypersexualization of the veil and the women who wear them. Perhaps we should tread more lightly upon this sensitive ground.

For Samia Errazzouki, these are images of “a nude woman covered in a black body-painted niqab.” In her Al-Monitor rebuttal, ”Dear Mona Eltahawy, You Do Not Represent Us,” she writes:

"All of the women close to me who wear the niqab do so for different reasons. One friend only wears the niqab when she attends protests because she feels comfortable in it. Another friend has chosen to wear the niqab, against the will of her family since she was 14. The representation of the niqab as splattered body paint on a naked woman degrades the decision of women who wear the niqab as a choice. …

Foreign Policy "Sex Issue" Photograph with Pull Quote

The monolithic representation of women in the region, illustrated by an over-sexualized image of splattered black paint over a nude body, however, does nothing to rectify the position of women in any society.”

Leila Ahmed, a revered and oft-cited scholar of women and gender issues in Islam and the Arab world, takes issue not so much with the choice of photos used but with Ms. Eltahawy’s “sweepingly dismissive views of prayer and religion” finding “almost every paragraph of Eltahawy’s essay similarly troubling as, again and again, broad brushstrokes and sweeping generalizations erased subtle nuances and garbled and swept aside important differences.”

If you’re interested in reading more responses, I recommend Muslimah Media Watch’s excellent survey of other female voices appearing in various posts and articles. The opinions vary widely. And, I’d definitely read their round-table discussion with five women who reflect on the larger issue at and and the Foreign Policy issue itself. You’ll gain a better sense of the range of opinions on the issue and the really smart women who wrestle with these issues every day.

Comments
Download

Who Germany Wants to Be

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Zoe Chace’s report for Planet Money on the budgetary meltdown in Greece has got to be one of the better pieces of information journalism I’ve heard on NPR’s morning air. Lost in the debate of bailout-no bailout over Greece’s debt — and the necessity of Germany floating it — runs an undercurrent: the narrative of belonging to a unified Europe, and the varying perspectives of Germans on their responsibilities and the kind of community they want to be part of.

Chace’s focused narrative and inclusion of the voices of Germans from several walks of life deepen our understanding of some of the motivating factors driving this debate. She gives the listener a sense of history: how that past is living forward in the German psyche and how their identity — as a broken people, a vibrant culture, and a affluent nation — is predicated on the past and on whom Germans want to be in the future.

My only regret is the reporter’s use of “Kumbaya” in the piece. As I’ve shared before, I’ve taken Vincent Harding’s story to heart and will never use that reference again in such a way. Nonetheless, it’s a slight quibble and this type of reporting on thick subjects is something I long to hear more of.

Did anybody else listen to this? What’s your take? I’m also thinking through this as we push forward with a more ambitious agenda for On Being online in the coming year. Let’s talk.

Comments

Wing Young Huie Photographs Remind Us That the American Experiment Lives On

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

On this Fourth of July, photographer Wing Young Huie reminds us of what it means to be an American, taking time to remember the greatness of this dynamic cultural and social mix of strangers in a strange land.

"Growing up in Minnesota, ya know, people would ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ And I would say, ‘I’m from Duluth.’ People would say, ‘No, no, where are you really from?’ And I’d say, ‘Really, I’m from Duluth.’

It’s an innocent question, but implies a lot. It’s assumed that I must be a foreigner. I think there are times where my family, or myself, we felt that I wasn’t a true American, wasn’t a true Minnesotan, growing up in the land of Lake Woebegone. But, the realities of what I am and how I’m perceived bumps up into the perceptions of what Minnesotans are, on a regular basis.

So, for hyphenated people like me, there are hundreds of thousands of people who bump into this, the myths of the state. So, in a way, what I’m trying to do is create a new iconography. One that fills a gap between the perception of who we are and the reality.”

The child of Lake Superior’s shores spent more than four years taking thousands of photographs of a dynamic range of people who inhabit a stretch of six miles of road in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Titled the University Avenue Project, hundreds of Huie’s images became an urban street installation being displayed in storefronts, on the sides of buildings, in windows of houses. If you ever question whether the great American experiment lives on, Huie’s work will challenge your assumptions and most likely give you a sobering bit of hope.

Wing Young Huie: University Avenue projectphoto: Wing Young Huie

Comments
I am asking some of you old timers, the Gen-Xers, to take a breath and see how far things have come. When we were kids our parents forced us to be doctors or engineers. When I have a kid I am going to force him/her to be a governor.
-

—Abhi, blogger for Sepia Mutiny

Nikki HaleyDo cultural identity and role models have a different form between generations? I had to wonder after reading this article from The New York Times about Indians in U.S. politics. Nikki Haley, the Republican nominee for governor of South Carolina, and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, are both of Indian descent. They both converted to Christianity in their early 20s. Governor Jindal changed his first name from Piyush to Bobby, after the Brady Bunch character.

The reaction is mixed within the Indian community. Many are asking whether they should celebrate the increased visibility of Indian Americans within politics, or lament their conversions that mask or downplay their South Asian heritage.

But Abhi’s quote above might point to a difference in generations. It seems the younger generation of Indian Americans views their identity as diverse and more fluid. Thus, they are more willing to revel in similarities, whereas the older generation might be more rigid in their definitions of identity. What do you think? 

Shubha Bala, associate producer

Comments
Four Pairs of Interfaith Fellows: Arash + RaminAndy Dayton, associate web producer



» download (mp3, 8:32)
You may recognize these two voices from last week’s program, "Curiosity over Assumptions." We used an excerpt from Arash and Ramin Nematollahi’s conversation in the show, which included as part of audio above. Hearing their conversation, one gets a sense of their bond not only as Iranian-Americans and Muslims, but also as brothers.Much of their conversation seems to center around the complexity of identity that can come in a pluralistic society. “I don’t have a particular identity,” Arash says, “I’m very proud to be American … but there’s an Iranian part of me that is there, and there’s a Muslim identity in me.” Ramin picks up on this comment, contrasting that experience to the country they were born in, Iran:
"You would say ‘I am Iranian’ and that’s it — case shut. And I’m Muslim because that’s what everyone tells me to be … But in America you have all these different choices. I totally understand what you’re saying, ‘cause I am American, but I’m also Muslim, I’m also all these different things. What does that mean at the end of the day?"
For me, this really resonated with what we’ve heard in the last few months from our "Living Islam" and "Revealing Ramadan" programs. I was especially reminded of Samar Jarrah, who wrote about what makes being an American Muslim unique: “Living in the USA and being exposed to so many different Muslims from so many different countries and cultures made me realize that there are many faces to Islam.” Later in her essay, she writes:
"But being a Muslim in America makes me a better Muslim. A more hopeful one. I have had hundreds of amazing messages of love and support. I have had Americans shake my hands with tears in their eyes asking me to speak more. Just this Saturday morning, I was in the company of a very intellectual group of retired men and women (oldest was 95) who are still wanting to learn about Islam from a Muslim, and for this I am forever grateful to be a Muslim in America."
Find more stories from other NewGround fellows here. Special thanks to StoryCorps, who recorded these stories in Los Angeles in 2009.
Four Pairs of Interfaith Fellows: Arash + RaminAndy Dayton, associate web producer



» download (mp3, 8:32)
You may recognize these two voices from last week’s program, "Curiosity over Assumptions." We used an excerpt from Arash and Ramin Nematollahi’s conversation in the show, which included as part of audio above. Hearing their conversation, one gets a sense of their bond not only as Iranian-Americans and Muslims, but also as brothers.Much of their conversation seems to center around the complexity of identity that can come in a pluralistic society. “I don’t have a particular identity,” Arash says, “I’m very proud to be American … but there’s an Iranian part of me that is there, and there’s a Muslim identity in me.” Ramin picks up on this comment, contrasting that experience to the country they were born in, Iran:
"You would say ‘I am Iranian’ and that’s it — case shut. And I’m Muslim because that’s what everyone tells me to be … But in America you have all these different choices. I totally understand what you’re saying, ‘cause I am American, but I’m also Muslim, I’m also all these different things. What does that mean at the end of the day?"
For me, this really resonated with what we’ve heard in the last few months from our "Living Islam" and "Revealing Ramadan" programs. I was especially reminded of Samar Jarrah, who wrote about what makes being an American Muslim unique: “Living in the USA and being exposed to so many different Muslims from so many different countries and cultures made me realize that there are many faces to Islam.” Later in her essay, she writes:
"But being a Muslim in America makes me a better Muslim. A more hopeful one. I have had hundreds of amazing messages of love and support. I have had Americans shake my hands with tears in their eyes asking me to speak more. Just this Saturday morning, I was in the company of a very intellectual group of retired men and women (oldest was 95) who are still wanting to learn about Islam from a Muslim, and for this I am forever grateful to be a Muslim in America."
Find more stories from other NewGround fellows here. Special thanks to StoryCorps, who recorded these stories in Los Angeles in 2009.

Four Pairs of Interfaith Fellows: Arash + Ramin
Andy Dayton, associate web producer


» download (mp3, 8:32)

You may recognize these two voices from last week’s program, "Curiosity over Assumptions." We used an excerpt from Arash and Ramin Nematollahi’s conversation in the show, which included as part of audio above. Hearing their conversation, one gets a sense of their bond not only as Iranian-Americans and Muslims, but also as brothers.

Much of their conversation seems to center around the complexity of identity that can come in a pluralistic society. “I don’t have a particular identity,” Arash says, “I’m very proud to be American … but there’s an Iranian part of me that is there, and there’s a Muslim identity in me.” Ramin picks up on this comment, contrasting that experience to the country they were born in, Iran:

"You would say ‘I am Iranian’ and that’s it — case shut. And I’m Muslim because that’s what everyone tells me to be … But in America you have all these different choices. I totally understand what you’re saying, ‘cause I am American, but I’m also Muslim, I’m also all these different things. What does that mean at the end of the day?"

For me, this really resonated with what we’ve heard in the last few months from our "Living Islam" and "Revealing Ramadan" programs. I was especially reminded of Samar Jarrah, who wrote about what makes being an American Muslim unique: “Living in the USA and being exposed to so many different Muslims from so many different countries and cultures made me realize that there are many faces to Islam.” Later in her essay, she writes:

"But being a Muslim in America makes me a better Muslim. A more hopeful one. I have had hundreds of amazing messages of love and support. I have had Americans shake my hands with tears in their eyes asking me to speak more. Just this Saturday morning, I was in the company of a very intellectual group of retired men and women (oldest was 95) who are still wanting to learn about Islam from a Muslim, and for this I am forever grateful to be a Muslim in America."

Find more stories from other NewGround fellows here. Special thanks to StoryCorps, who recorded these stories in Los Angeles in 2009.

Comments

Transgender Identity in Iran: A Film
Trent Gilliss, online editor

The topic of gender and sexuality is on our long list of shows we want to produce in the coming year — in particular, a show on transgender people. The videos above and below are excerpts from Be Like Others, a documentary about a number of young men who are transsexuals living in Iran and pursuing surgical changes.

In these two clips, Iranian-American director Tanaz Eshaghian shows the complex, multi-layered conversations and struggles for transgender people living in an Islamic state — from conversations about proper attire and wearing of the hijab to familial struggles about cultural norms.

What’s surprising to me in these clips is the nature of the conversation. Even though there are discussions about operations and genetic tests confirming a biological male identity, the root of these conversations is love and caring and community. Despite her objections about his transformation, the mother in the second clip spends as much energy lecturing her son on wearing less makeup and donning the hijab properly when going out; in the first clip, a member of the transgender community reprimands a peer for going out in public with hair hanging out the back of her hijab and talks of bringing respect to their community.

Although these individuals are pursuing lifestyles that are outside the cultural norm, it doesn’t mean that they abandon their upbringings and the values instilled in them. They continue to live within the larger culture, defying some strictures while observing others. Obviously, they face predicaments I can’t imagine, but, it’s also heartening to see that their families remain in dialogue with them in tense circumstances. I find that heartening and am anxious to view the documentary.

Update (6.21): The film will be broadcast on HBO2 on June 24th.

(via VSL)

Comments

Is There Such a Thing as “The Muslim World”?

Trent Gilliss, online editor

We’ve begun a new First Person initiative asking Muslims to share their perspectives for a project we’ll be working on during the coming months. We pay a lot of attention to the wording and phrasing of invitations like this because we want it to be generous and open-ended but maintain a focus. We also want to do something special, something inherent to the sensibilities of Speaking of Faith.

For this call-out, the phrase “the Muslim world” came up in initial drafts — which made me uneasy because of the broad brush implications. This article from Foreign Policy reminded me of why I became uncomfortable when the phrase was suggested:

To see the trouble with the term “Muslim world,” one needs only to try and define it. Who is included in the Muslim world? What countries — or individuals — make the cut, and who defines it?

[…]

"Muslim world" unfairly and singularly assigns adherents of Islam into a figurative ghetto. And particularly in the post-September 11, this relegation carries a real moral hazard: By lumping together extremists, secularists, and everyone in between, the term "Muslim world" legitimizes the idea that all of the group’s members are locked in deadly conflict with the non-Islamic world.

If you are Muslim, we’d like to understand more about the complexity and diversity of your personal and cultural expression of Muslim identity. What does being Muslim mean to you? What do you find beautiful about Islam and how does this find expression in your daily life? What hopes questions and fears are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition? Share your stories and images with us.

Comments