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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.
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An hour with the extraordinary humanity of Congressman John Lewis. The civil rights movement he helped animate was — as he tells it — love in action. He opens up the art and the discipline that made nonviolence work then — and that he offers up for our common life even today. John Lewis so gives voice to the meaning of Passover and Holy Week.

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Krista Tippett interviews civil rights legend and Congressman John Lewis in Montgomery, Alabama during the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Amazing man!

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Oftentimes, for many of us, our way into the world of science is through gazing at the night skies, through astronomy, through NASA. We’re drawn to space and frontiers only limited by our imaginations. Natalie Batalha, a mission scientist on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, brings this same sense of childhood astonishment and wonder to us in our show, "On Exoplanets and Love."
This week’s sketchnotes by Doug Neill captures moments of her insights that, we hope, will lure you into listen and read. Quotations from Carl Sagan and rainbows in oil puddles are only the tip of the iceberg with this show. I encourage you to print it out, hang it on your door or in your office. Share with others. Listen and talk about what you see and what you heard.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Oftentimes, for many of us, our way into the world of science is through gazing at the night skies, through astronomy, through NASA. We’re drawn to space and frontiers only limited by our imaginations. Natalie Batalha, a mission scientist on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, brings this same sense of childhood astonishment and wonder to us in our show, "On Exoplanets and Love."

This week’s sketchnotes by Doug Neill captures moments of her insights that, we hope, will lure you into listen and read. Quotations from Carl Sagan and rainbows in oil puddles are only the tip of the iceberg with this show. I encourage you to print it out, hang it on your door or in your office. Share with others. Listen and talk about what you see and what you heard.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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A mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, Natalie Batalha hunts for exoplanets (yes, she’s a planet hunter!) — Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system that might harbor life. She speaks about unexpected connections between things like love and dark energy, science and gratitude, and how “exploring the heavens” brings the beauty of the cosmos and the exuberance of scientific discovery closer to us all.

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This inspiring story about the love of two brothers had NBA superstar LeBron James on the verge of tears, as you’ll see in the video. Very emotional and so good in so many ways.

Conner and Cayden make up Team Long Brothers and were recently named Sports Illustrated's 2012 SportsKids of the Year. Cayden, 5, is diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy and can't speak or walk on his own. But, in the summer of 2011, Conner, who was seven at the time, decided to compete in the Nashville Kids Triathlon, pulling his younger brother behind him.

They finished together, in last place, but in the process became role models of what is possible and the power of love. When I think about this family, I think of Andrew Solomon’s phrase of “horizontal identities” and what we would miss as people and a community if we didn’t encounter these special people in our daily lives. It’s Conner who says it best:

"The one thing that makes me really made is when people walk down the road and say… the ‘r’ word, if you now what that is. I just tell them that like it doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside, it matters what’s on the inside. He still has regular feelings like we do. And he understands what you say about him.

If people could race with people that can’t walk or talk or can have any kind of autism, it might open eyes of people that don’t really care about it. And, maybe, the people that don’t care in the past will care in the future and actually do it with somebody.”

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Kate Braestrup with Game WardensThis week we feel especially privileged to do the work that we do. A brief post by our senior editor about the decision-making behind this week’s show and why it matters to us. From trentgilliss:

For those of you who don’t know, I edit and produce a national public radio show called On Being with Krista Tippett. It’s played on about 250 public radio stations at different times throughout the week. Part of my gig is deciding our programming line-up. Why do I tell you this?

About a week ago, we had a gap in our schedule and I suggested rebroadcasting our interview with Kate Braestrup, a UU chaplain who works with Maine’s game wardens on search-and-rescue missions and such events. She also lost a husband early in her life. For some, it seemed counter-intuitive to put a show on about death, loss, and grief during this festive time of year. But we know that the holidays can be a lonely time of despair, depression, and loss for many; I hoped our program could meet those people suffering in some minor way — and remind all of us the gift of grace and happiness during this season.

I never could’ve envisioned (nor wanted to) this horrifying scenario before us. And so I worried about the programming decision.

Well, my beloved wife Shelley and I just finished listening to the production on MPR News (yes, believe it or not, on the radio). Kate Braestrup’s stories and insights on love, death, and loss are profound — and more relevant than I could have ever imagined. It’s wise people like her who are most needed during our country’s darkest hours and brightest holidays. Bella and I cried a little; we danced.

This show doesn’t make sense of the tragedy in Connecticut; nothing can. But, Kate Braestrup offers a framing for how to think about love and tragedy, how we live forward. If you’re looking for something to listen to with your loved ones, listen to this show. And, if you do, please write me and share your thoughts. It would mean a lot to me: tgilliss@onbeing.org or @trentgilliss.

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This week we’re focusing our production efforts on the Sufi idea of ashk, the love of Allah and the divine that has no end. But, inothernews reminds me that romance lives on in the States — in an arena:

The First Family took in an exhibition game between the U.S. and Brazil men’s basketball teams in Washington, D.C. Monday evening.  Above, Michelle Obama reacts to seeing herself and POTUS on the “Kiss Cam” at Verizon Center — before the two decide to smooch for the masses.

More amazingly, perhaps, Brazil — up by as many as 10 points during the match — was only down by 7 points in the 4th quarter.  The U.S. eventually won the pre-Olympics warmup, 80-69.

(Photos: Alex Brandon / AP [top]; Jonathan Ernst / Reuters via NBC News)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.
Tagged: #love #L'Arche
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“I’ve been more than blessed with people, with miracles, with angels all around. When I’ve been in trouble and couldn’t get up the stairs, along came a neighbor, and she just said, ‘Can I help you?’…So I consider myself really blessed, and I want my children, I want everyone to know that they need to help one another. It comes back to them ten-fold.” —Ruth Wilkes, on what she would like to tell her family before she dies
Photo courtesy of StoryCorps and Suncoast Hospice (distributed with instagram)

“I’ve been more than blessed with people, with miracles, with angels all around. When I’ve been in trouble and couldn’t get up the stairs, along came a neighbor, and she just said, ‘Can I help you?’…So I consider myself really blessed, and I want my children, I want everyone to know that they need to help one another. It comes back to them ten-fold.”
Ruth Wilkes, on what she would like to tell her family before she dies

Photo courtesy of StoryCorps and Suncoast Hospice (distributed with instagram)

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The Witness of True Love and the Grace of Loss (Video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The notion of contemplating mortality can be an abstract one for those of us not facing death. It can be waxed about in highly romanticized language, such as in a Wallace Stevens poem, or shown on television in the most inhuman ways, leaving us cold and unmoved.

While editing this week’s show on facing and contemplating reality, I suggested we ground our interview with Dr. Ira Byock, a leading figure in palliative and hospice care, with other people’s voices from StoryCorps. Annie and Danny PerasaTheir words, their stories, I hoped, would take Dr. Byock’s clinical experiences and complement the doctor’s ideas about dying well with the necessary pathos of those families facing death.

To close the hour, we included audio of Annie and Danny Perasa, a couple from Brooklyn, New York. They had been married for 27 years when Danny was diagnosed with a fast-spreading, painful form of terminal cancer. It’s a love story illustrating that the process of dying is not only a medical event, but a personal one in which “eloquence, grace, and poetry” can still be found. Danny passed away on February 24, 2006.

As a result, we’ve heard from so many listeners asking to hear this audio again. Here’s a wonderful animation extending the story you heard on the radio.

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What Unity and Fracture Looks Like, In a Poem

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"Who we are and how much we split ourselves apart," says Jon Kabat-Zinn, often cannot be explained in a cognitive way. Rather than offer ”some definitive prose statement which is bound to be inadequate and incomplete,” the scientist and mindfulness guru offers (in the audio above and text below) the Nobel laureate Derek Walcott’s poem as a way of communicating his point about unity and fracture:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

"Love after Love" from COLLECTED POEMS 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

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"Love is a choice — not simply, or necessarily, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile." —Carter Heyward, feminist theologian and Episcopal priest, from Our Passion For Justice
Photo by Dave 77459 (distributed with instagram)

"Love is a choice — not simply, or necessarily, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile."
Carter Heyward, feminist theologian and Episcopal priest, from Our Passion For Justice

Photo by Dave 77459 (distributed with instagram)

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From Outside Faith and Within, Being Religious Is Being Transformed

by Krista Tippett, host

Recently I spoke to a class of college students — by way of Skype — in southern Minnesota. We talked about how religion is portrayed through news media. As often in my experience, this was a critical discussion about the narrow and often inflammatory way religion comes up, and usually in the context of politics.

Krista Tippett, host of Being

I asked them if they felt at all represented in media portrayals, or how they might. One young man in the back of the classroom said, “I don’t think there is any real expression of what it means to be religious now. It’s different.”

He’s right. I think about this all the time. There has been a dramatic break with ways of being spiritual and religious that held, in the West, for many generations.

Before I created this radio show, I spent two years interviewing people across the Christian Church — from Armenian Orthodox to Nazarene Holiness — who had in some way been involved in the ecumenical movement that surged after World War II and through the 1960s. Sitting with them, probing their memories, I relived the absolute shock and thrill of first encounters between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. This felt unprecedented, impossible, and utterly liberating. It’s not just that faith looked new; the whole world looked full of possibility and kinship that had not been there before.

Rigid, rule-bound ways of being religious — of being identified not merely by the same denomination but perhaps the very same church or synagogue your parents and grandparents attended before you — have transformed in a handful of generations.

Strong religious identities survive and thrive. But more than ever before, even in their most conservative iterations, they are chosen. And alongside them is a world of flux and questioning — a new phenomenon of people who have been raised with more questions than answers, more choices than givens. They are not abandoning religion, though, or revealing it as something primitive that modernity has outgrown (as intellectuals since the Enlightenment have predicted they would). They are rediscovering and reinventing it.

Christian Wiman Reading from His Book on Bill Moyers Show

I did not realize, before I spoke with Christian Wiman, how provocatively and profoundly he has become a poetic witness and voice for this change. He grew up in a West Texas world soaked in a particular charismatic Christianity. When he left that world behind, its religious core ceased to make sense.

For many people who were never religious or who leave the religion of their childhoods behind, it’s the experience of having children of their own that brings an urgency to the question of what they believe. For Christian Wiman, it was the experience of love — of falling deeply in love with the woman who would become his wife. Because he is a poet, perhaps, he became wonderfully articulate about the power of love to make life more vivid, to make us reach for the best in ourselves, to feel we have touched transcendence and to want to rise to that experience. And then, hard on the heels of that, he was diagnosed with a mysterious blood cancer that could kill him in 30 days or 30 years.

Christian Wiman believes that a whole new religious language is being created. It will include traditional religious insights and language, but will also reach beyond them — or better approximate the animating essence of them. He even imagines “that God calls some people to unbelief in order that faith can take new forms.”

From outside faith and within it, Christian Wiman has pondered this question: “How does one remember God, reach for God, realize God in the midst of one’s life if one is constantly being overwhelmed by that life?” You don’t need to be diagnosed with cancer these days to share in that question.

This conversation, "Remembering God," about what he has learned about faith, and how he is living his questions, is rich with humility, challenge, and an infectious courage.

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The Final Words of Texas’ Death Row Offenders Made Visual
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The poet Elizabeth Alexander once asked, "What if the mightiest word is love?"
For the 280 men and one woman executed in Texas between 2000 and 2012, “love” was the mightiest word — by an overwhelming margin, with three out of five saying the word in their last living moments.
Dylan C. Lathrop and GOOD created this graphic with a word cloud generated from the offenders’ final thoughts shortly before they were put to death. The word “love” was used by 173 of the 281 people. That’s more than 60 percent. Nearly half of them mentioned religion in some form, using “God” and “Jesus” and “Lord,” to name a few. And note the petitions of prayer, expressions of apology and notions of family are present in their minds. Some were silent, others were defiant — and I’m guessing that’s why “warden” shows up so prominently.

The Final Words of Texas’ Death Row Offenders Made Visual

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The poet Elizabeth Alexander once asked, "What if the mightiest word is love?"

For the 280 men and one woman executed in Texas between 2000 and 2012, “love” was the mightiest word — by an overwhelming margin, with three out of five saying the word in their last living moments.

Dylan C. Lathrop and GOOD created this graphic with a word cloud generated from the offenders’ final thoughts shortly before they were put to death. The word “love” was used by 173 of the 281 people. That’s more than 60 percent. Nearly half of them mentioned religion in some form, using “God” and “Jesus” and “Lord,” to name a few. And note the petitions of prayer, expressions of apology and notions of family are present in their minds. Some were silent, others were defiant — and I’m guessing that’s why “warden” shows up so prominently.

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Confessions on Life, Death and God (video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

This PostSecret video is imbued with a lot of light-hearted moments, but there are two people who tell stories that touched me deeply. Those are the takeaways that I’ll sit with and remember in the most unexpected moments. What are those two for you?

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