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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.

Time is, of course, doing its steady work on every object ever made. This complex relationship between the maker, an emotionally invested object, and the growing distance between them is not new, only rediscovered each generation, whether by an artist, a mourner, a mother, or a soldier…

We let go with the hope others will grab hold. These objects ask very human, moral questions: What right do we have to forget? What do we owe to each other’s memories?

- Dario Robleto on memory, forgetting, and time.
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The last phrase of this charming memory from hallywoods is absolutely pure, “learned to appreciate the beauty and serenity of working a cultivated environment.” I suspect this applies to a world much greater than the fertile earth beneath him:

Been reminded lately about family and folks I’ve cared about who are now gone. It’s good to remember, I think.Lillie married José at sixteen. The oldest of a large family, she was a pastor’s wife, had ten kids, lost two in infancy. The last kid she had was born when Lillie was forty. Shortly thereafter she went back to school to become a nurse, a career she then gave herself to for twenty years. Lillie had her share of shortcomings, could talk her way into (and out of) just about anything. I’m pretty sure she loved her daughter the best she knew how. Sometimes, that’s the best we can expect.José was born in Mexico and was a talented guitar player and singer. Like most religious leaders in the charismatic Pentecostal movement, he was equal parts showman and shaman, mystic and holy man, counselor and friend. A man of passionate words behind the pulpit and few words in front of it, he had an open mind and an open heart, and willingly shared his gardening duties with me, from which I learned to appreciate the beauty and serenity of working a cultivated environment.

The last phrase of this charming memory from hallywoods is absolutely pure, “learned to appreciate the beauty and serenity of working a cultivated environment.” I suspect this applies to a world much greater than the fertile earth beneath him:

Been reminded lately about family and folks I’ve cared about who are now gone. It’s good to remember, I think.

Lillie married José at sixteen. The oldest of a large family, she was a pastor’s wife, had ten kids, lost two in infancy. The last kid she had was born when Lillie was forty. Shortly thereafter she went back to school to become a nurse, a career she then gave herself to for twenty years. Lillie had her share of shortcomings, could talk her way into (and out of) just about anything. I’m pretty sure she loved her daughter the best she knew how. Sometimes, that’s the best we can expect.

José was born in Mexico and was a talented guitar player and singer. Like most religious leaders in the charismatic Pentecostal movement, he was equal parts showman and shaman, mystic and holy man, counselor and friend. A man of passionate words behind the pulpit and few words in front of it, he had an open mind and an open heart, and willingly shared his gardening duties with me, from which I learned to appreciate the beauty and serenity of working a cultivated environment.

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This picture is achingly beautiful — and hits much too close to home. Read Jezebel’s post about this touching father/daughter tribute.
(via trentgilliss)

This picture is achingly beautiful — and hits much too close to home. Read Jezebel’s post about this touching father/daughter tribute.

(via trentgilliss)

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Pondering the relationship between remembering and invention.
- From the Twitter desk of Krista Tippett. Any thoughts or reflections on this pairing?
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Poetry is for me Eucharistic. You take someone else’s suffering into your body, their passion comes into your body, and in doing that you commune, you take communion, you make a community with others.
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Mary Karr from her 2010 interview with Judy Valente on PBS’ Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

(via trentgilliss)

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The Quiet Man

by Norman Allen, guest contributor

N.T. Allen

For my father’s memorial service, my sister suggested that I stand before the congregation and say, “We’d like to share with you exactly what it was like to live with our father. So let’s have a moment of silence.”

It’s not that Dad didn’t speak, it’s that he didn’t speak about the personal. He could rant against George McGovern and lift Richard Nixon up as a god, but remain entirely silent about my sister’s adolescent breakdown. A few years later, he declared my hero Jimmy Carter the “greatest embarrassment the White House has ever seen,” but didn’t say a word about my recent emergence from the closet.

Dad built his life on the foundations of a suburban existence: retirement plans, company loyalty, and a close-knit family that gathered to wave him down the street each morning and waited each night for his return. True to his class and time, he made himself a Manhattan before dinner and smoked incessantly. No one was going to change that.

But behind this rigid façade lay a man tragically eager to please. As kids we could always talk him into a double-scoop cone, if we could just get him away from Mom. As an adult, I learned that this tendency went much deeper.

Dad went to medical school because his parents told him to. Failing that, he accepted their second choice and became a mechanical engineer. In a rare moment of intimacy, on a father-son camping trip to the High Sierra, he confessed that his dream was to be a park ranger. I wonder what his life would have been if he’d had the courage to follow that ambition. Perhaps he would have found his voice leading nature hikes and campfire programs.

Dad never broke the habit of trying to please his parents, but he made sure that we didn’t suffer the same fate. He applauded my high school theatricals and provided financial support for a creative college major. On my weekly calls home, he always made sure that I was writing, though he never inquired about the specifics.

True to his nature, he remained silent and stoic through my mother’s seven-year battle with cancer, and continued so when he was diagnosed himself two years after her death. During Dad’s final months, I bathed him, mopped up his bodily fluids, and listened for changes in his breathing. The only concern he voiced was for the future of his dog, an oversized Sheltie who watches as I write.

It was Dad’s Lutheran pastor who put his silence into context. Older congregants, he said, had expressed a need for guidance as they considered death’s approach. My father provided the model they were seeking. Church members who visited in his final weeks all returned with the same tale: Dad was quiet, uncomplaining, unafraid.

In the end, we didn’t ask for a moment of silence at Dad’s memorial service. Instead I shared a story about Saint Francis sending his brothers out to spread the Gospel and telling them, “If necessary, use words.” When one of Dad’s elderly neighbors caught my eye and smiled her appreciation, I knew we’d made the right choice.

Dad was a quiet man, but he renounced his parents’ prejudices, encouraged his children’s ambitions, overcame his own homophobia to welcome new family members, and remained a steady presence through his wife’s long illness. If St. Francis is right, and our actions speak louder than our words, you might say the man never shut up.


Norman AllenNorman Allen is a playwright living in Washington, DC. His plays include In The Garden (Charles MacArthur Award), Nijinsky’s Last Dance (Helen Hayes Award), and The House Halfway, to be produced at this summer’s Source Theatre Festival in Washington, DC.

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

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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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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Seven Year Ache” by Rosanne Cash

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

When I was in my tweens, Rosanne Cash was a staple in our station wagon and in our vans (yeah, my dad loved his Ford Econolines), on our icy trips to school in North Dakota or on our mountainous climbs up the Rockies during summer vacation. It was pure torture.

You see, I was a man of sophisticated rock and alt pop tastes. Give me Devo and let me hold on to dear life as KISS disbanded and made those awful solo albums. I used to squeeze my ears, longing to hear anything but Rosanne Cash with Jon Munson Rosanne Cash or her daddy, much less the Statler Brothers or any other country music my mom used to blast through those tinny speakers.

But 30 years later, the songs I remember most are many of my mother’s favorites. And I was reminded of her victory earlier this year at a performance of Wits, when Ms. Cash made a guest appearance. The first song she performed — the one I still sing to myself on the commute to work or when my baby boys would cry at night — was, yes, her 1981 crossover hit, "Seven Year Ache."

The version you’re hearing and seeing is actually a second take performed after the show was over, which is unfortunate. Although she forgot a few of the words the first time, the moment was part of the pure delight of being at a live show. She endeared herself to the audience, and dare I say the host John Moe and Sandra Bernhard, with her professional embarrassment and quiet humility. Nevertheless, this version is absolutely enchanting and we’re excited to be interviewing her on November 17th before her performance at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

Funny thing is, now, three decades later, Rosanne Cash is still a staple in my life — my online life. Her witty tweets and conversant replies are a part of my daily reading. Who would’ve thought… the hub caps never fell off.

Photos by Eamon Coyne/MPR

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I Am from… Fire

by Angela Blake, guest contributor

SevenPhoto by Alicia Reiner/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I am from fire.

I’m from the fire my father had for life and the fire my mother had for living. His was fueled by parties, drugs, wit, and self-involvement, hers by longing, anger, spite, and sweat. He was vivid; he hit her skin like sunshine and she finally felt warmth from an external source. She smoldered. He was curious to know how her sweat turned to the steam that hovered over her skin. What was her heat source? How could someone burn so hot without catching fire?

In the end, he combusted, was consumed by his own fire. In his 30’s, he was raging out of control, in his 40’s he was a smoking pile of embers. Today, he’s ash. He is gray and the heft of him scatters with the slightest breeze. Even his wit burned away. His heat from the outside stoked her burning on the inside and she nearly exploded. She had to protect herself or be destroyed.

She put down her longing, anger, and spite and put in more sweat. She worked and struggled and toiled and fought — she sweat, sweat, sweat, sweat — until the steam rose and condensed and rose and condensed, protecting her from the fire that was him and keeping the burn inside of her. It was a kiln, churning and working — always working — to produce something better, something that wasn’t just burning away life, but something that was living. She wanted to go on living, she needed to keep on living. She couldn’t let him take her, too. She couldn’t be burned away too. She had to work, work, sweat, sweat, burn, burn!

And I was born. I was ignited and her steamy sweat cooled me so I wouldn’t burn away. His flames, her burning, my birth.

I am living with a pocket full of ashes and a stomach full of embers. I am from fire.


Angela BlakeAngela Blake lives in South Bend, Indiana and regularly rants, rambles, and reflects on life as a black chick in the Midwest at Afro(ec)centric.

Angela submitted this essay in response to our call-out for readers to fill in the blank, “I am from…” If you’d like to finish this phrase and share something about yourself, your heritage, your geography, your interior mind, your imaginings or vulnerabilities, read the simple guidelines and submit your work for consideration.

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Wishing for Less Time

by Leah Elliott, guest contributor

Autumn is here(photo: Leandro Pérez/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

I never used to go anywhere without my cell phone. It was not only a means of communication, but my sole timepiece, and not knowing the time made me crazy.

That all changed one afternoon when my oldest son was two years old. After four years of living in the Southwest and its two seasons of hot and hotter, we moved to the upper Midwest. I couldn’t wait to experience the change in seasons, so one crisp October day I packed up my son and a picnic lunch and headed to a nearby state park to see some fall colors.

When we arrived, I unfastened the buckles of his car seat, retrieved our lunch, and instinctively reached for my cell phone. Then I paused.

It was one of those rare days when I had no other obligations or deadlines. My husband was on a business trip, so there was no one waiting for us to come home. I asked myself, 'What if I just don’t worry about time today?'

I returned my cell phone to its resting place among the loose coins in front of the gear shift and turned my full attention to enjoying the afternoon with my son.

After our picnic lunch, we wandered over to a pile of fallen leaves. My son splashed through them up to his thighs, tossed them in the air, and giggled as I buried him over and over. “Wow!” he gushed appreciatively as gusts of wind rearranged the pile and made little leaf cyclones.

While he was enthralled, I felt myself growing bored and impatient. I wanted to pull out my “five more minutes” ultimatum and move on to something I deemed more interesting; but, without my phone, I would have had no way of knowing when five minutes had passed. Then I reminded myself, 'There is nothing you have to do today except be with your little boy.'

I gave myself over to the freedom of not worrying about what would come next. Right now, nothing mattered except sharing in my son’s joy of as he raced through those leaves.

We went for a walk and came to a bridge spanning a river. I let him run back and forth across it as many times as he wanted, a carefree “Whee!” accompanying each crossing. We wandered farther up the path. He peered at the insects hopping through the tall grass, and I was right there with him. The ability to share in his wonder and curiosity came naturally once I quit clinging to a preconceived schedule.

When he tired of walking, we headed back to the car. I welcomed the delay when some flowers caught his attention. We stooped and examined them to his satisfaction before moving on.

I can’t tell you whether that afternoon lasted one hour or four, but I do know that we both had the time of our lives. Eckhart Tolle points out that humans existed for millennia without clocks. Our modern obsession with time perplexes me when I remember this. I wish for less attachment to time. I wish for more afternoons when time doesn’t matter. I wish for my son’s ability to be fully in the present moment.

I have to live by the clock day-to-day to keep appointments, interact with the adults in my life, and meet my children’s all-important bedtime deadline each night. Whenever I can, though, I put all my clocks out of sight and out of mind. I let my children take the lead and slip into their world, where nothing matters but the present moment and time is reckoned in hugs and laughs instead of hours and minutes.


Leah ElliottLeah Elliott lives with her two sons in Fargo, North Dakota, where she is working on a master’s degree in vocal performance. She blogs about carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism at The Whole of All the Earth.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Get published by forwarding your original work on our submissions page.

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What Do You Think Williams’ Mother Meant by Giving Her Those Journals?

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

spiralsThis bit of audio from our Terry Tempest Williams interview has us all mystified. It resulted in this “thought experiment” among our staff, which led to wildly varying interpretations.

Take a listen to this confounding story about the journals her mother left her:

What do you think Williams’ mother was trying to say about herself? To tell her daughter?

What do those pages say about “voice” to the rest of us?

I’ve told and retold this story to many of my friends and family, and each person has a distinct take on what it all means, but they all ask with a wrinkled brow: Why? Why? Why? I’m anxious to hear your interpretation because I can easily come up with a half-dozen theories.

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When Gifts Are Offered, Take Them: Advent in Nicaragua

by Kate Moos, executive producer

President José Napoleón Duarte Visits with Mayor of Minneapolis
José Napoleón Duarte, president of El Salvador, speaks with Minnesota delegation while I place my microphone.

In the late 1980’s, an unlikely series of events carried me to Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador to meet high-ranking political figures and rebel leaders. But, it was an unexpected encounter with an unknown woman in Managua during La Gritería that made the trip so memorable and changed the way I see the Advent season forever.

Back then, Ronald Reagan was the sitting president, the nuclear clock was ticking loudly, hemispheric relations were fraught with Cold War geopolitics, and the deployment of the state of Minnesota’s National Guard troops in central Honduras was part of a foreign policy that became a focal point for protest and debate. The state actually filed a lawsuit contesting the federal government’s authority to deploy the state militia overseas. Its significance is hard to grasp now, when our “weekend warriors” are an integral part of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it was a different military and a different time then.

Revolutionary governments in the region were thought to destabilize American interests, even potentially the Panama Canal. In Nicaragua, the revolutionary Sandinistas toppled Anastasio Samoza, the last of a dynastic dictatorship. In El Salvador, “the disappeared” was a terrifying coinage used to describe the thousands of people who were killed by death squads.

In the midst of this as a local news reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, I accompanied a group of attorneys and lawmakers on a trip intending to learn about the long history of human rights abuses in the region, an important piece of history this blog post can’t begin to retell, and explore the constitutional and legal safeguards of those rights.

We had an exhausting itinerary and were being received by the highest ranks of Central American governments. We met with then-president José Napoleón Duarte in the presidential palace in San Salvador. Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega came to meet with us in Managua.

Daniel Ortega with English Translator
Daniel Ortega with his English translator.

These were, without exaggeration, dangerous times in Central America. As we rode from Sandino International Airport to the city of San Salvador, one of our guides nodded down a road where, a few years earlier, a Salvadoran death squad had murdered a group of church women. A couple days later we stood at the tomb of the assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, all but enveloped by flowers and cards containing personal prayers and petitions from the faithful. …

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Remembering Begins Again
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor



An unexpected package arrived in the post several weeks ago. A book. A gift to myself. Something I ordered over a year earlier. A memory of a memory. A truly moving account.
After a year of waiting, Phillip Toledano’s endeavor is finally published — and it’s gorgeous. I felt so utterly fortunate to experience his online chronicle the first time, and now I can hold this elegant book in my hands and share his story with my children. Find a reason to give Days with My Father to someone you care about.

Remembering Begins Again

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

An unexpected package arrived in the post several weeks ago. A book. A gift to myself. Something I ordered over a year earlier. A memory of a memory. A truly moving account.

After a year of waiting, Phillip Toledano’s endeavor is finally published — and it’s gorgeous. I felt so utterly fortunate to experience his online chronicle the first time, and now I can hold this elegant book in my hands and share his story with my children. Find a reason to give Days with My Father to someone you care about.

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