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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.
Ah, but I love to draw beautiful words, like trumpets of light…I adore you, words who are sensitive to our sufferings, words in red and lemon yellow, words in the steel-blue colour of certain insects, words with the scent of vibrant skills, subtle words of fragrant roses and seaweed, prickly words of sky-blue wasps. words with powerful snouts, words of spotless ermine, words spat out by the sands of the sea, words greener than Cyrene fleece, discreet words whispered by fishes in the pink ears of shells, bitter words, tornado and storm-tossed words, being beaten, evil words, festive words, tornado and storm-tossed words, windy words, reedy words, the wise words of children, rainy, tearful words, words without rhyme or reason, I love you! I love you!
- James Ensor, belgian printmaker and painter on language.
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Doris Lessing on the Impossible

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” ―Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

(via powells)

Tagged: #life
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Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
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G. K. Chesterton,”Evening”

(via dailymarvelous)

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parkstepp:

Today is the 5th anniversary of the passing of my oldest son, Nathan. He would want me to be strong…to laugh, to free myself from the stuff that has hurt us all. And I am….But I cry also..because I miss him…
But my little one is married and soon to be a father…and me a grandfather… Life has a way of moving us toward that Place, where we can Be. The lessons learned from the passing of my son are overwhelming sometimes…but lessons they are. And we let go…and move on.
parkstepp

A virtual big hug to you from all of us here.
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

parkstepp:

Today is the 5th anniversary of the passing of my oldest son, Nathan. He would want me to be strong…to laugh, to free myself from the stuff that has hurt us all. And I am….But I cry also..because I miss him…

But my little one is married and soon to be a father…and me a grandfather… Life has a way of moving us toward that Place, where we can Be. The lessons learned from the passing of my son are overwhelming sometimes…but lessons they are. And we let go…and move on.

parkstepp

A virtual big hug to you from all of us here.

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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It seems like the viability-of-life-on-Mars story resurfaces every few years with renewed enthusiasm. And how can it not be stimulating to think about foreign biological possibilities existing in other pockets of the universe?
From Discovery News:

Life Possible On ‘Large Regions’ of Mars
With higher pressures and warmer temperatures beneath the Martian surface, Earth-like microorganisms could thrive.
read more

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

It seems like the viability-of-life-on-Mars story resurfaces every few years with renewed enthusiasm. And how can it not be stimulating to think about foreign biological possibilities existing in other pockets of the universe?

From Discovery News:

Life Possible On ‘Large Regions’ of Mars

With higher pressures and warmer temperatures beneath the Martian surface, Earth-like microorganisms could thrive.

read more

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Into the Wilderness: Parenting a Terminally Ill Child

by Emily Rapp, guest contributor

Acubaby Ronan

"You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it. But this is truest of the face of an infant. I consider that to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any." ~from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I woke up and held my son for a long, long time. I’d been gone for three days at the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Disorders Family Conference and had missed him terribly. Driving through Boston on the way to the airport, I told my friend Kate that it was so difficult, so impossible even, so disastrous to imagine feeling that way forever. The missing, the ache.

We agreed that, say what you will about heaven or where we go or visions of the afterlife, the truth about someone being dead is that they’re gone from this life, right now, here on earth, with you. That particular person has been removed from your particular life. That’s the gut punch and there is no balm for that, no platitude, no prayer, and, I would argue, no belief even that will fix it. My son will be dead within three years and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Read More

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Día De Los Muertos, in Memory of Lost Loved Ones
by Susan Leem, associate producer
Today is the final day of Día De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Celebrated in Mexico and many other parts of the world, people gather together to remember and honor loved ones and ancestors who have died. The holiday is connected with the Roman Catholic holidays of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, as it occurs on November 1st and 2nd. The face-painting as skulls helps to overcome a fear of death as a natural part of the cycle of life.
About the image: Here, a woman dressed as La Calavera Catrina (“The Elegant Skull”) celebrates at a Dia De Los Muertos Festival in Los Angeles. (photo: Rob Sheridan/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

Día De Los Muertos, in Memory of Lost Loved Ones

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Today is the final day of Día De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Celebrated in Mexico and many other parts of the world, people gather together to remember and honor loved ones and ancestors who have died. The holiday is connected with the Roman Catholic holidays of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, as it occurs on November 1st and 2nd. The face-painting as skulls helps to overcome a fear of death as a natural part of the cycle of life.

About the image: Here, a woman dressed as La Calavera Catrina (“The Elegant Skull”) celebrates at a Dia De Los Muertos Festival in Los Angeles. (photo: Rob Sheridan/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

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I’m not sure Apple even thinks about the competition. They’re uniquely themselves without worrying about anyone else. When I worked for Steve there was little discussion about the competition. The aim was for us to be the most extreme version of ourselves. When you adopt that approach, it causes you to think about things in a different way.
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Keith Yamashita, from "The Apple Effect" in Saturday’s Christian Science Monitor

How should we be “the most extreme version of ourselves” in our own work lives? If more of us lived out this philosophy on the job and perhaps in our personal lives, would we be better off for it? I’m thinking, “Yes!” (within reason, of course). *grin*

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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The Inner Life of the Cell (video)

This animated video is quite serene and gives you an idea of the tremendous activity taking place. I only wish I knew what the heck was going on. PopTech gives a helpful overview of the task at hand:

"Harvard University’s BioVisions project, which is on a continuing quest for new and more powerful ways to communicate ideas in biology, creates precise, yet otherworldly animated visualizations of the molecular processes of cells. Powering the Cell: Mitochondria is one of a handful of animations they’ve created.”

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Sophia Loren on Her “First Real Home”
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

“A house is like a person, you must be together for awhile to be comfortable.” —Sophia Loren said about her Italian villa

So true, so true. Thank you for reminding me of this LIFE Tumblr, while my back stiffens from shoveling hundreds of pounds of moist snow and my basement slowly floods from the February thaw. *grin*

Sophia Loren on Her “First Real Home”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

“A house is like a person, you must be together for awhile to be comfortable.”
Sophia Loren said about her Italian villa

So true, so true. Thank you for reminding me of this LIFE Tumblr, while my back stiffens from shoveling hundreds of pounds of moist snow and my basement slowly floods from the February thaw. *grin*

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Sacred Conversations

by David Gushee, special contributor

Crucifix on the Klein MatterhornAt the heart of my Christian faith is the belief that each and every person I encounter is absolutely cherished by God. I believe every human being is ineffably sacred in God’s sight. This implies a moral responsibility on my part to do my very best to treat them accordingly. If God loves each person, followers of God’s way must love each person too.

This is a mystical vision. It is a mountaintop perspective. It is very hard to sustain it, especially in the vicious street fights of politics. And it is often very hard to see any evidence for it. But this belief is not really evidence-based. It is faith-based.

I am a Christian, born and raised in the Catholic Church before a teenage conversion to Protestant Evangelical faith. By now I find that both strands of my religious history are deeply interwoven and help to define who I am. I think that both of these strands, at their best, teach this vision of the equal and immeasurable worth of each human being. Catholic tradition, especially as articulated by the Vatican II documents and by Pope John Paul II, taught me a “consistent pro-life ethic.” Protestant evangelicalism, as exemplified in men such as Billy Graham, taught me that God so loved the world (each and every person in the world) that he gave his only son on the cross for our salvation. For my salvation!

I am also a Christian ethicist, a moral teacher, and writer. So inevitably my work brings me into occasions in which it is my responsibility and my opportunity to address hot-button issues like abortion, health care, war, torture, or gay rights.

Most conversations about these kinds of issues are profoundly unsatisfactory to me. Academic conversations tend to be highly technical, theoretical, and irrelevant to everyday life. Popular conversations tend to be angry and polemical, partisan and politicized. Neither type of conversation ever really feels very sacred to me. Academics are often scoring their tenure points while politicos are scoring their partisan points.

Over the years, I have tried to do something a little different when I engage difficult issues such as abortion. I try to play neither academic nor political games. I instead try to discern what it might mean to deal with the substance of the issue as if every person involved is sacred in God’s sight, and I likewise try to deal with my dialogue partners as if the same were true.

Frances Kissling Listens to David GusheeWhen I met Frances Kissling and dialogued publicly with her at the Princeton "Open Hearts, Open Minds" conference, I hope that this is the spirit that I brought to that conversation.

I saw in Frances and most of the pro-choice activists and thinkers at that meeting a serious concern for women in general, and women facing unwanted pregnancies in particular. I could tell that they were drawn into this issue because they had caught a vision of the suffering of women whose pregnancies create a crisis for them, and the even more intense crisis that this would be for them if they had no legal recourse to an abortion. Their fixed gaze on the needs and the suffering of women impressed me, and I respected it. Anyone who cares deeply about the suffering of other people is on the right track — because that is one of the ways we demonstrate our love for the sacred persons around us.

I do continue to think that our gaze on this issue must be at least bi-focal — on the suffering pregnant woman, and on the developing human life that she is carrying. I do sense that decades of defending the rights and needs of the pregnant woman have trained many in the pro-choice side to avert their eyes from the child. But I also recognize on the part of many pro-lifers the parallel averting of gaze away from the woman and her situation as she experiences it. Decades of advocacy in a polarized debate have caused both sides to miss the intertwined sacredness of woman and child. And it is certainly clear to me that the only way those whose gaze is fixed on the child will succeed in saving more of them is if they learn not only to look at the woman, but to love her.

This vision goes with me to other issues. I have been an advocate for the apparently astonishing view that no matter how much we want to prevent another terrorist attack that would destroy sacred human lives; this does not mean we are free to create a system that abuses suspected terrorists — because those swept up as suspected terrorists are also sacred human beings whom God loves. This view shapes my thinking about the right of all our nation’s children to have a good education, quality health care, and parents who love them. And it means that I refuse to go along with the contemptuous demonization of particular groups that sometimes sweeps us away — most recently exhibited in very disturbing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hysteria.

I find allies anywhere I encounter someone whose words and deeds show that they are operating on the basis of something like this vision. Often, sadly, these allies are not my fellow Christians, for sometimes the passionate commitment of my co-religionists to the positions they advocate causes them to forget their obligation to love even strangers and enemies. No, in public life, my favorites are those who surprise me with the tender and respectful way they encounter the sacred humanity of those around them. They give me hope.

About the images: (top) Atop the Klein Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland stands a giant wooden representation of Christ on the cross. A metal placard beneath is engraved with the same phrase in four languages: “Mehr Mensch sein.” “L’homme d’abord.” “Uomo prima di tutto.” “Be more human.” (photo: mightymightymatze/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

(second) Frances Kissling listens to the author at the “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Fair-Minded Words” conference at Princeton University in 2010.


David P. GusheeDavid P. Gushee is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. He is the co-founder and board chair of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a columnist for the Huffington Post, Washington Post, and Associated Baptist Press, and a contributing editor for Christianity Today. Dr. Gushee also currently serves on the Church Relations Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He has published 12 books, including Kingdom Ethics, Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, Getting Marriage Right, and Only Human.

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Frances Kissling on the Limits of Common Ground: A Sneak Preview

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

 Frances Kissling

Frances Kissling, Charles Camosy of Fordham University, Jennifer Miller of Bioethics International, and Peter Singer of Princeton University at the Open Hearts, Open Minds and Fair Minded Words conference at Princeton University in October 2010. (photo: Ricardo Barros)

The audio above is an excerpt from our upcoming show with Frances Kissling, “Listening Beyond Life and Choice,” which we’re almost finished producing for a January 20th release. In the excerpt above, Kissling, a longtime voice in the public conversation about abortion and former president of Catholics for Choice, says she doesn’t believe there’s much promise in finding common ground with people whose views and ideology we fundamentally oppose: “the pressure of coming to agreement works against really understanding each other.”

Cracking open our deepest divisions requires a willingness to be courageous and alsoto be vulnerable:

"…when people who disagree with each other come together with a goal of gaining a better understanding of why the other believes what they do, good things come of that. … I have changed my views on some aspects of abortion over the last ten years based upon having a deeper understanding of the values and concerns of people who disagree with me. And I have an interest in trying to find a way that I can honor some of their values without giving up mine."

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On Stem Cells and Untold Stories: When Nature’s Tools Provide the Answers

by Krista Tippett, host

I’ve wondered for years how we could contribute some perspective to the moral consternation that stem cell research stirred in recent years. As with so many other real and important questions raised by medical advances, I have been unconvinced by the blunt either/or choice that culture-war debates seemed to present: defining stem cell research as either a slippery slope to killing babies or a straight path to curing a host of dreadful diseases. Efforts to humanize the issue with real-life examples — seeming to present a stark choice between condemning Michael J. Fox to death by Parkinson’s, for example, or finding an immediate way to save him — can misrepresent both the promise of this science and the moral concerns it raises.

Hearing Doris Taylor speak, then, was a revelation. I knew I had found our way in to this topic. When it comes to stem cells — as to everything else in life, it turns out — the truth is complicated. And much of the story of stem cells — the big picture that arguments have obscured — falls outside the realm of the most passionately contested issues.

From Doris Taylor I come to understand, for the first time, that the existence and function of stem cells is one of those discoveries, not unlike DNA, that will fundamentally change the way we think about the human body. I learn that there are billions of stem cells throughout my 49-year-old body, and as I write they are repairing my organs and tissues as they have done all of my life — albeit less vigorously at 49 than at 9 because of the passage of time and the stresses that life has imposed, and that I have imposed on my body.

SoundSeen: Bioreactors and Building HopeThe newness and rapidly emerging nature of our knowledge about stem cells has contributed to incomplete premises and an understandable measure of fear. Doris Taylor has spent time in conversation with people in churches these past years as well. She has come away with a conviction that, if the medical community and journalists had used different vocabulary to discuss stem cells at the outset, some of the most heated debates might have been avoided.

She has often encountered the false impression that the stem cell lines used for research came from aborted fetuses. In fact, as she says, “fetal cells” are too old for the work she does. And the “embryonic cells” she uses have all come from eggs fertilized by way of in vitro fertilization (IVF) that would otherwise be destroyed. This insight, of course, does not address moral quandaries over embryos and IVF technology.

But much of the research Doris Taylor and others are doing might one day circumvent all of these issues. If she could build me a heart by way of the process she and her colleagues are refining in the University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair, she would use my heart stem cells to do so.

From my visit to Doris Taylor’s lab, you can see elaborate architectural glass bulbs with tubes feeding suspended rodent hearts — one lifeless with old cells; another one stage farther, a pale “scaffold” ready for stem cells to be injected; and finally a regenerated heart pink, pumping, alive and beating on its own. Also, hear the story of the man with a heart disease that told Taylor she is “building hope.”

Seeing the untold story of stem cells beyond the lightning rod, moral issues clears my vision to see unexpected spiritual implications of this work. The genius of Doris Taylor’s work is in its simplicity — in realizing that there was no need to “build” a heart from scratch. Instead, she works with a dead heart, extracted from a cadaver — nature’s cardiac “scaffolding,” as she thinks of it. She washes the lifeless heart, cleans it, and injects the decellularized scaffold with cells that know how to colonize it — and begin to beat and live again.

Doris Taylor echoes one of my favorite themes: beauty is essential to life itself — beauty as a core moral value — as she describes the architectural perfection of nature that she honors and works with. In an exhilarating “field trip” to her lab, I was able to hold the translucent heart of a pig in my hand and see its exquisite intricacy — at once delicate and muscular — for myself.

Approaching the mechanics of life at this level inevitably raises questions about life’s mystery. Doris Taylor says she is passionate about “regenerating heart on a lot of different levels.” And as she considers how new knowledge about stem cells might one day change the way we think about health across the life span — facing aging, for example, or cancer — she is studying how spiritual technologies like prayer and meditation might support that. She describes a very simple test she did on the Buddhist spiritual teacher Matthieu Ricard. She measured a vast increase in stem cells in his blood after just 15 minutes of meditation.

All of this said, the fascinating science of stem cell research still comes with a world of real and complex moral uncertainties. We hope this conversation with Doris Taylor might broaden existing conversations and inform fresh thinking on the moral and ethical questions her science touches. Let us hear your thoughts — either as they’re sparked by this conversation or through your own experiences and knowledge.

 

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An argument often given for why Earth couldn’t host another form of life is that once the life we know became established, it would have eliminated any competition through natural selection. But if another form of life were confined to its own niche, there would be little direct competition with regular life. And, in any case, natural selection doesn’t always mean winner-takes-all.
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— Paul Davies, from his op-ed "The Aliens Among Us" in last Thursday’s New York Times.

The theoretical physicist/cosmologist/astrobiologist who appeared in "Einstein’s God" posits that we should look “under our noses” — right here on Earth — for extraterrestrial life as well as scanning the universe. If you’re at all intrigued by the thought of extraterrestrial life, this article will get the synapses firing.

Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Photos of the Day Einstein Died Trent Gilliss, senior editor
LIFE magazine recently released a series of photographs by Ralph Morse that it had been holding since the day of Albert Einstein’s death in April 1955:

"At the request of Einstein’s son, who asked that the family’s privacy be respected while they mourned, LIFE decided not to run the full story, and for 55 years Morse’s photographs lay unseen and forgotten."

The photo above, one of my favorites, reminds me of his many papers Colleen and I sifted through at Princeton University while first producing our two-part series on "Einstein and the Mind of God" in 2007.  The setting is rather cluttered, disheveled but contained. Messy but  not sloppy. And that’s the way I think of Einstein’s mind: quiet and  active, mischievous and driven.

Photos of the Day Einstein Died
Trent Gilliss, senior editor

LIFE magazine recently released a series of photographs by Ralph Morse that it had been holding since the day of Albert Einstein’s death in April 1955:

"At the request of Einstein’s son, who asked that the family’s privacy be respected while they mourned, LIFE decided not to run the full story, and for 55 years Morse’s photographs lay unseen and forgotten."

The photo above, one of my favorites, reminds me of his many papers Colleen and I sifted through at Princeton University while first producing our two-part series on "Einstein and the Mind of God" in 2007. The setting is rather cluttered, disheveled but contained. Messy but not sloppy. And that’s the way I think of Einstein’s mind: quiet and active, mischievous and driven.

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