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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.

The Virtual Journey to Enlightenment
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer

Here’s a preview of video artist Bill Viola's in-progress video game “The Night Journey.” Viola, who has been described as “a Rembrandt for the video age,” has built a career on making video art that’s contemplative, metaphysical, and sometimes spiritual — and this “game” seems to be no exception. From its description on the USC Interactive Media Web site:

Narrative inspiration for this project includes the lives and writings of great historical figures including: Rumi, the 13th century Islamic poet and mystic; Ryokan, the 18th century Zen Buddhist poet, Shankara; the 8th century Hindu mystic and commentator on the Upanishads; and St. Anthony, the 3rd century Christian desert father.

It’s an interesting project, and while it does have some game-like elements like goals and levels, his professed intention is to “explore the universal story of an individual mystic’s journey towards enlightenment.” His video work (which you can see some examples of here and here, as well on his Web site) has often been presented in an immersive, experiential environment. So maybe an interactive experience is a logical next step.

I do wonder, though, how much can this sort of technology evoke a deep metaphysical and/or spiritual experience? Can one really explore spirituality with a joystick?

Coming soon: Speaking of Faith: The Game. (Kidding, of course. I think.)


Mental Blocks

"crosswords" by m_m_mnemonic

Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer

After a group conversation about which Star Wars movie was the best one (discounting the new trilogy, obviously, my favorite The Empire Strikes Back has a strong following), I went out for lunch. In the food court nearest to our building, I saw at a distance a man sitting at a table, pencil in hand, his palm squeezing his forehead. He was looking down at some paper, and looked like he had to figure out a way to balance his finances or die. As I got closer, I saw what he was working on: a crossword puzzle. He was completely taken.

As I walked back to the office, I thought, “Gee, I should take up a new hobby.” I thought of just a few weeks ago when I was playing with my cousin’s son, following the instructions of a Lego jet, sifting through the pieces to find a red block with two studs, and feeling this kind of meditative calm come over me. I remembered being lost, as I would be in childhood, sifting through the blocks the same way. Maybe I should become a Legomaniac as an adult. (Unfortunately, sitting on the floor isn’t much fun anymore.) I guess I’m noticing all this because we just recorded some promotional language for our upcoming rebroadcast of Play, Spirit and Character.

(photo: “crosswords" by m_m_mnemonic/Flickr)

Tagged: #play

Taking Play Seriously

Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Our program on the spirit of play continues to garner attention. This time Krista’s appearance at the New York Public Library with Stuart Brown is the entry point for Robin Marantz Henig’s long-form piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

The program’s trajectory has been a curious one, with a long tail no doubt. I watched the PUSH participants gasp in awe when Stuart Brown showed images of a polar bear and tethered sled dog frolick in the Canadian tundra. The collective sigh amounted to more than an “oh, isn’t that cute” sentiment.

I suggested the topic and Stuart Brown as a potential guest. To my surprise, Krista liked the idea. The idea of play didn’t explicity touch on religion or spirituality, but its implications spoke to the humanity of our nature, as children and now as adults.

We received a healthy number of comments after the radio broadcast/podcast release. And, more unexpectedly, the companion narrated slideshow of animals at play was so successful that it crashed APM’s Web servers. It’s been viewed by more than 2 million people - getting picked up by social recommendation engines such as Digg and by newspaper blogs in Boston and Seattle.

For me, this program is a reminder that one obligation of journalists is to be proxy agents for the public, to stand in and report on events you aren’t able to attend and tell stories that are relevant to your lives. I think we exemplified this, and have inspired other journalists to do so as well.

(photo: Tom Schierlitz for The New York Times)