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.
We cannot write well or truly but what we write with gusto. The body, the senses must conspire with the spirit — Expression is the act of the whole man. That our speech may be vascular — intellect is powerless to express thought without the aid of the heart and liver and of every member — Often I feel that my head stands out too dry — when it should be immersed. A writer, a man writing is the scribe of all nature — he is the corn and the grass and the atmosphere of writing.
- Henry David Thoreau, in a journal entry dated September 2, 1851.
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"Learn by heart the forms to be found in nature, so that you can use them like notes in a musical composition. That is what these forms are for. Nature is a marvelous chaos, and it is our job and our duty to bring order into that chaos and — to perfect it. Leave it to others to puzzle over old books on geometry or the problems of higher mathematics. We are going to enjoy the forms we see before our eyes."
— Max Beckmann, “Drei Briefe an Eine Malerin” (1948)

(Photo of a woman looking at Max Beckmann paintings at Hypo-Kunsthalle in Munich by Joerg Koch/Getty Images)

"Learn by heart the forms to be found in nature, so that you can use them like notes in a musical composition. That is what these forms are for. Nature is a marvelous chaos, and it is our job and our duty to bring order into that chaos and — to perfect it. Leave it to others to puzzle over old books on geometry or the problems of higher mathematics. We are going to enjoy the forms we see before our eyes."

— Max Beckmann, “Drei Briefe an Eine Malerin” (1948)

(Photo of a woman looking at Max Beckmann paintings at Hypo-Kunsthalle in Munich by Joerg Koch/Getty Images)

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Striking photo of the turquoise water of Havasu Creek merging with the murky brown of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.
Photo by Erin Whittaker

Striking photo of the turquoise water of Havasu Creek merging with the murky brown of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Photo by Erin Whittaker

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We’re all drawn to beauty, though our views of beauty may differ widely. Beauty speaks to our hearts, to our souls. We’re attracted to it as moths are to flame. Whether we find beauty in music or a painting, in a poem or a person, a mountain top vista, a windswept lake, or the smile of our dog, we know it when we see it. But what exactly are we seeing? My sense is that when we recognize something as beautiful, we feel ourselves connected to it and somehow to its origin. The ripples of appreciation that beauty generates pay tribute to the source from which it stems.

From this marvelous piece of writing, Humbled by Beauty in the Universe and in Nature.

We’re all drawn to beauty, though our views of beauty may differ widely. Beauty speaks to our hearts, to our souls. We’re attracted to it as moths are to flame. Whether we find beauty in music or a painting, in a poem or a person, a mountain top vista, a windswept lake, or the smile of our dog, we know it when we see it. But what exactly are we seeing? My sense is that when we recognize something as beautiful, we feel ourselves connected to it and somehow to its origin. The ripples of appreciation that beauty generates pay tribute to the source from which it stems.

From this marvelous piece of writing, Humbled by Beauty in the Universe and in Nature.

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There is religion in everything around us
A calm and holy religion
In the unbreathing things in Nature
It is a meek and blessed influence
Stealing in as it were unaware upon the heart
It comes quickly, and without excitement,
It has no terror, no gloom.
It does not rouse up the passions,
It is untrammeled by creeds
It is written on the arched sky,
It looks out from every star,
It is on the sailing cloud, and in the invisible wind
It is among the hills and valleys of the earth
Where the shrubless mountain-top pierces the thin atmosphere
of eternal winter
Or where the mighty forest fluctuates before the strong wind
With its dark waves of green foliage.
It is spread out like a legible language upon
the broad face of an unsleeping ocean.
It is the poetry of nature
It is that which uplifts the spirit within us
And which opens to our imagination a world of spiritual beauty and holiness.
~John Ruskin
Photo by Justin Kern

There is religion in everything around us

A calm and holy religion

In the unbreathing things in Nature

It is a meek and blessed influence

Stealing in as it were unaware upon the heart

It comes quickly, and without excitement,

It has no terror, no gloom.

It does not rouse up the passions,

It is untrammeled by creeds

It is written on the arched sky,

It looks out from every star,

It is on the sailing cloud, and in the invisible wind

It is among the hills and valleys of the earth

Where the shrubless mountain-top pierces the thin atmosphere

of eternal winter

Or where the mighty forest fluctuates before the strong wind

With its dark waves of green foliage.

It is spread out like a legible language upon

the broad face of an unsleeping ocean.

It is the poetry of nature

It is that which uplifts the spirit within us

And which opens to our imagination a world of spiritual beauty and holiness.

~John Ruskin

Photo by Justin Kern

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Yes, it’s live-streaming video of an eagle nest on a Georgia college campus. Just amazing.

(h/t to Doug Denton for the recommendation)

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Seeing this photo of an elephant family on Smithsonian magazine’s Tumblr reminds me of an observation by the acoustic biologist Katy Payne, who spent most of her years researching elephants in the Dzanga clearing:

"Families in elephants are females related to one another, sometime three, even more, generations who live together and take care of each other’s young — a very tight, very integrated community. The males are considered to be outside the families, even though they are of course progenitors, but they live a very different kind of social life that involves competition between themselves. Most of the calls we found — although there were some calls associated with aggression, some calls associated with moving from one place to the next, very many of them were calls between calves and their mothers or their aunts or their cousins."

Photo of the Day: Addo Elephant Park
Korli Swart (Los Angeles, CA); Addo, South Africa

Seeing this photo of an elephant family on Smithsonian magazine’s Tumblr reminds me of an observation by the acoustic biologist Katy Payne, who spent most of her years researching elephants in the Dzanga clearing:

"Families in elephants are females related to one another, sometime three, even more, generations who live together and take care of each other’s young — a very tight, very integrated community. The males are considered to be outside the families, even though they are of course progenitors, but they live a very different kind of social life that involves competition between themselves. Most of the calls we found — although there were some calls associated with aggression, some calls associated with moving from one place to the next, very many of them were calls between calves and their mothers or their aunts or their cousins."

Photo of the Day: Addo Elephant Park

Korli Swart (Los Angeles, CA); Addo, South Africa

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"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."
—John Muir, from The Yosemite
About the photo: The Saar River forms this wondrous loop (Saarschleife) in Germany. Photo by Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."

—John Muir, from The Yosemite

About the photo: The Saar River forms this wondrous loop (Saarschleife) in Germany. Photo by Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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An incredible minute-thirty soaring through the mountains with this eagle. Just amazing!

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My Modern Met has posted Kamil Tamiola’s mystical series of images of a frozen waterfall on Italy’s Cascate di Lillaz. The photographer puts it so poignantly:

“Vertical ice formations are something truly special, emanating with great power and provoking deep emotions.”

Be sure and check out the rest of Tamiola’s photos.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

My Modern Met has posted Kamil Tamiola’s mystical series of images of a frozen waterfall on Italy’s Cascate di Lillaz. The photographer puts it so poignantly:

“Vertical ice formations are something truly special, emanating with great power and provoking deep emotions.”

Be sure and check out the rest of Tamiola’s photos.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Hoh Rain Forest - Elk

If you’ve never heard this soundscape meditation with Gordon Hempton, I implore you to listen to this aural hike through the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park to One Square Inch of Silence — with the chirping twitter of the Western wren and the haunting call of the Roosevelt elk:

"Good things come from a quiet place: study, prayer, music, transformation, worship, communion. The words peace and quiet are all but synonymous, and are often spoken in the same breath. A quiet place is the think tank of the soul, the spawning ground of truth and beauty.

A quiet place outdoors has no physical borders or limits to perception. One can commonly hear for miles and listen even farther. A quiet place affords a sanctuary for the soul, where the difference between right and wrong becomes more readily apparent. It is a place to feel the love that connects all things, large and small, human and not; a place where the presence of a tree can be heard. A quiet place is a place to open up all your senses and come alive.

Sadly, though, as big as it is, our planet offers fewer and fewer quiet havens. …

In 1984, early in my recording career recording nature sounds, I identified 21 places in Washington state (an area of 71,302 square miles) with noise-free intervals of 15 minutes or longer. In 2007, only three of these places remain on my list. Two are protected only by their anonymity; the third lies deep within Olympic National Park: the Hoh Rain Forest in the far northwest corner of the continental United States. I moved near the Hoh in the mid-1990s just to be closer to its silences. In the Hoh River Valley, nature discovery occurs without words or even thoughts — it simply happens. Wondrously. But you have to listen.

And to do that, you first have to silence the mind.”

If you can, be sure to listen with a pair of headphones or earbuds. You’ll discover quieting sounds you might miss without them. I promise! Download the MP3 and share it with your friends.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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There are answers in the silence. I feel the presence of everything, nothing shouts importance. Quiet is quieting.
- ~Gordon Hempton, reflecting on the hike to One Square Inch in the Hoh Valley Rain Forest
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On one of the loudest holiday weekends of the year, a show about the importance of silence. Being a boy from the Dakota prairie, this week’s show with acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton just tugs at my heart strings.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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"Radical change remains a possibility within us right up until our last breath. The greatest tragedy of human existence is not to live in time, in both senses of that phrase." ~Christian Wiman
Reading this passage from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer and seeing this one early morning.
Photo by Trent Gilliss

"Radical change remains a possibility within us right up until our last breath. The greatest tragedy of human existence is not to live in time, in both senses of that phrase." My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman~Christian Wiman

Reading this passage from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer and seeing this one early morning.

Photo by Trent Gilliss

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trentgilliss:

I grew up with Evil Knievel and the Flying Wallendas. Thrilling as their stunts were, it was always a noisy spectacle. It seemed to be more about man conquering the Grand Canyon or the Tallulah Gorge than interacting with nature. The backdrop was a prop.

In this video, though, Michael Schaefer and Dean Potter create a scene as thrilling in its composition as in the act itself of walking the highline at Cathedral Peak. As the sun sets and descends, the moon rises and looms large — the orb cradling the dyad of rock towers turned burnt-red. As the National Geographic filmmakers say, it is “the ultimate full moon shot” — captured from over a mile away with a serious telephoto lens.

As Mr. Potterbegins his unaided walk, you hear the camera operator take deep, calm but anxious, meditative breaths. And you breathe with him. Oh, if we all could witness such panoramic beauty like this each day…

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