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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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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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Sounds of Silence

by Gordon Hempton

Uluru SunsetUluru Sunset (photo by Martin Fisher/Flickr)

The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague.” So said the Nobel Prize-winning bacteriologist Robert Koch in 1905. A century later, that day has drawn much nearer. Today silence has become an endangered species. Our cities, our suburbs, our farm communities, even our most expansive and remote national parks are not free from human noise intrusions. Nor is there relief even at the North Pole; continent-hopping jets see to that. Moreover, fighting noise is not the same as preserving silence. Our typical anti-noise strategies — earplugs, noise cancellation headphones, even noise abatement laws — offer no real solution because they do nothing to help us reconnect and listen to the land. And the land is speaking.

We’ve reached a time in human history when our global environmental crisis requires that we make permanent life-style changes. More than ever before, we need to fall back in love with the land. Silence is our meeting place.

It is our birthright to listen, quietly and undisturbed, to the natural environment and take whatever meanings we may. Long before the noises of mankind, there were only the sounds of the natural world. Our ears evolved perfectly tuned to hear these sounds-sounds that far exceed the range of human speech or even our most ambitious musical performances: a passing breeze that indicates a weather change, the first birdsongs of spring heralding a regreening of the land and a return to growth and prosperity, an approaching storm promising relief from a drought, and the shifting tide reminding us of the celestial ballet. All of these experiences connect us back to the land and to our evolutionary past.

P1010220One Square Inch of Silence is a place in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park — arguably the quietest place in the United States. But it, too, is endangered, protected only by a policy that is neither practiced by the National Park Service itself nor supported by adequate laws. My hope is that One Square Inch will trigger a quiet awakening in all those willing to become true listeners.

Preserving natural silence is as necessary and essential as species preservation, habitat restoration, toxic waste cleanup, and carbon dioxide reduction, to name but a few of the immediate challenges that confront us in this still young century. The good news is that rescuing silence can come much more easily than tackling these other problems. A single law would signal a huge and immediate improvement. That law would prohibit all aircraft from flying over our most pristine national parks.

Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything. It lives here, profoundly, at One Square Inch in the Hoh Rain Forest. It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other. Silence can be carried like embers from a fire. Silence can be found, and silence can find you. Silence can be lost and also recovered. But silence cannot be imagined, although most people think so. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.

Silence is a sound, many, many sounds. I’ve heard more than I can count. Silence is the moonlit song of the coyote signing the air, and the answer of its mate. It is the falling whisper of snow that will later melt with an astonishing reggae rhythm so crisp that you will want to dance to it. It is the sound of pollinating winged insects vibrating soft tunes as they defensively dart in and out of the pine boughs to temporarily escape the breeze, a mix of insect hum and pine sigh that will stick with you all day. Silence is the passing flock of chestnut-backed chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches, chirping and fluttering, reminding you of your own curiosity.

Have you heard the rain lately? America’s great northwest rain forest, no surprise, is an excellent place to listen. Here’s what I’ve heard at One Square Inch of Silence. The first of the rainy season is not wet at all. Initially, countless seeds fall from the towering trees. This is soon followed by the soft applause of fluttering maple leaves, which settle oh so quietly as a winter blanket for the seeds. But this quiet concert is merely a prelude.

When the first of many great rainstorms arrives, unleashing its mighty anthem, each species of tree makes its own sound in the wind and rain. Even the largest of the raindrops may never strike the ground. Nearly 300 feet overhead, high in the forest canopy, the leaves and bark absorb much of the moisture … until this aerial sponge becomes saturated and drops re-form and descend farther … striking lower branches and cascading onto sound-absorbing moss drapes … tapping on epiphytic ferns … faintly plopping on huckleberry bushes … and whacking the hard, firm salal leaves … before, finally, the drops inaudibly bend the delicate clover-like leaves of the wood sorrel and drip to leak into the ground. Heard day or night, this liquid ballet will continue for more than an hour after the actual rain ceases.

Recalling the warning of Robert Koch, developer of the scientific method that identifies the causes of disease, I believe the unchecked loss of silence is a canary in a coal mine-a global one. If we cannot make a stand here, if we turn a deaf ear to the issue of vanishing natural quiet, how can we expect to fare better with more complex environmental crises?

Photo by Dan../Flickr

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A Twitterscript with Gordon Hempton

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Gordon HemptonOn March 7, 2012, the audio ecologist and “soundtracker” Gordon Hempton found his way to a comfy-quiet public radio studio in Seattle to speak with our host, Krista Tippett, via ISDN line. We live-tweeted some of the best verbal nuggets from this conversation. What are your favorites?

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The Bible as Thomas Jefferson Read Jesus’ Life

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The Jefferson BibleSix years before his death in 1826, Thomas Jefferson constructed a text for his own personal library, which he often read each night for 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth — commonly referred to as The Jefferson Bible — is a compendium of clippings from the four gospels of the New Testament. The former president and author of the Declaration of Independence cut passages from six texts composed in four languages — English, French, Greek, and Latin — and pasted them in separate columns, side by side, so that he could study and compare the different translations.

The 77-year-old Deist believed Jesus’ life and teachings to be “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” But Jefferson was a product of the Enlightenment and was skeptical of the four authors of the Gospels. He intended to tell a chronological version of Jesus’ life, eliminating the passages that appeared “contrary to reason.” Title Page of The Jefferson Bible There’s no resurrection story at the closing of Jefferson’s Bible; the tomb is shut.

As outlined in the video above, Jefferson’s Bible has undergone a meticulous conservation process and is now being displayed through May 28, 2012 at the Albert Small Documents Gallery in the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. If you can’t make the trip, or even if you can, be sure to check out the online exhibition, which provides high-quality, zoomable photographic images of each of the 84 pages of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. And they’re all transcribed too!

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A Quest to Save the World’s Biggest Cats and the Story of a Man Who Found His Voice

by Krista Tippett, host

Alan Rabinowitz was a discovery, and this interview is as full of revelation and beauty as any I’ve done.

This is in part because he is an extraordinary person. How many people have stories of looking jaguars and lions in the eyes in the wild and walking away? Or of encountering pygmy humans believed to be lost? Or of discovering an unknown primitive species of deer? But the inner odyssey that has taken him towards all these experiences, and that he has taken in response to them, is as remarkable.

Alan Rabinowitz was born with a stutter, before this condition’s neurological base was understood. His difficulty in speaking was so profound that it masked his intelligence and personality for the first 20 years of his life. He was isolated in school, put in classes for “retarded children.”

After being mute all day, as he tells it, he would come home and be able to talk to his animals — a redemptive experience, he tells us, that is shared by many stutterers. Out of ignorance rather than cruelty, his parents essentially left him alone with his pain. But his father did notice that the “Big Cat House” at the Bronx Zoo relaxed and delighted his son, and that after these visits his speech was a bit easier. For Alan Rabinowitz, these were experiences of relief, pleasure, and a painful empathy. He deeply internalized something I think many of us have felt in the presence of powerful, wild creatures circling in cages — a wild, heartbreaking animal with grief and longing. Alan Rabinowitz looked those jaguars and tigers in the eyes and said, I’ll find a place for you — a place for us. A few years later, after rapidly distinguishing himself as a wildlife biologist, he began to do just that.

He is very clear, though, that his earliest exploits of tracking raccoons and bears in the Great Smoky Mountains were as much about getting himself away from people as anything else. In the meantime, he finally found a therapist who helped him thrive in the world of speech, to become the “fluent stutterer” he is today. Soon he began to help create some of the world’s most innovative wildlife preserves where big cats could roam and flourish — first in Belize, and later in Thailand, Taiwan, and Burma.

Alan Rabinowitz with Dawi of the Taron - by Steve WinterHere is where a defining irony — a humanizing and deeply moving irony — of Alan Rabinowitz’s story comes in. Having traveled to the most remote places on earth, driven by his passion to save animals, he kept bumping up against people in unexpected, life-changing ways. He discovered the last 12 members of a community of human beings, Mongoloid pygmies. He had no common language with them, stuttering notwithstanding, and yet he tells us movingly of connecting with the elder of this tribe in a way that transcended words. With this man who was the last viable male of his race, and who could no longer find a mate, Alan Rabinowitz came to understand that he was ready to marry the woman he loved and begin a family.

I am fascinated, too, that in the span of his career, the science of wildlife conservation has made its own version of this circle — integrating a concern for human thriving as essential to the work of animal preservation. Panthera Pantanal 2009 Within a few generations, scientists have learned that the model of isolating endangered big cats in large protected spaces is not a defense against extinction. They need to move far more widely, need to exchange their genetic material, need in fact to coexist with human beings. The projects Alan Rabinowitz works on now are called "genetic corridors." And his organization invests in the flourishing of human communities as part of its investment in the survival of big cats.

There are so many amazing moments in this conversation, especially a story Alan Rabinowitz tells of facing off with a jaguar in a jungle in Belize in a preservation area he had created. The eye contact they shared transported him back to those moments of longing in the Bronx Zoo. But this time they could both walk away and both be free in ways he could not have imagined as a child. And today, as he tells us, he is facing a new inner frontier. He has been diagnosed with a slow-moving cancer that is forcing him anew to see the urgency of his life’s choices — to keep protecting the animals who need him and to be there for his family, including a son born with a stutter, who means the world to him now.

Alan Rabinowitz is as whole and healed as anyone I have ever encountered, by the definition of healing that my wise guests have imparted to me. He has incorporated his sadnesses and wounds, his suffering and grief, into his very identity. They have become part and parcel of the gifts he has to offer to the world. I am better for experiencing his passion and his generosity of spirit towards both animals and humans. I feel grateful to have been in his presence — the presence, indeed, of his wonderful voice. I think you will be too.

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Houses of Life: The Jewish Cemeteries of Jamaica

by Rachel Frankel, guest contributor

Hunt's Bay Jewish Cemetery

At the outskirts of Kingston lies Hunts Bay Jewish Cemetery, Jamaica’s oldest burial ground still in use today. The cemetery has recently been inventoried and mapped, and is now a Jamaica National Heritage Trust Site. Inventory work continues this month on another cemetery in Jamaica, the Orange Street Jewish Cemetery, a 200-year-old bet haim (“house of life”).

Jamaica’s several Jewish cemeteries, which ring this Caribbean island, are not wholly preserved, accessible, or undisturbed, but they contain over three continuous centuries of gravestone imagery, epitaphic language, genealogy, burial patterns, and cemetery site design. Thanks in part to the United Congregation of Israelites Shaare Shalom Synagogue of Jamaica and Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions, these New World necropolises are undergoing inventory, analysis, and preservation.

The Hunts Bay Jewish Cemetery is located across the harbor from Port Royal. Its oldest grave dates to 1672. The cemetery served the local colonial Sephardi community for well over one hundred years, and embodies Messianic theology. It also incorporates versatility as evidenced by multi-lingual epitaphs in Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, and English; Jewish and Christian calendar systems; and fused artistry.

The Orange Street Cemetery is one of the island’s newest Jewish cemeteries, established in the early 19th century by the Kingston congregation on what was then the northern fringes of the commercial capital. Today the burial ground continues to serve as the final resting place for the island’s Sephardim and more recently for its Ashkenazim (Jews of Western Europe) and Jewish progeny of European origin, as well as Jews and non-Jews of African descent. The Jewish cemeteries of Jamaica hold the remains and funerary monuments of important individuals and reflect almost 350 years of Israelite burial practice and Jewish identity in the specific context of Jamaica.

While co-religionists in Poland, Iberia, and elsewhere in Europe fled from anti-Semitic environments, Jews in Jamaica, and their co-religionists in other New World settlements in Suriname, Curacao, Barbados, St. Thomas, St. Eustatius, Nevis, and New York incorporated refugees into their nascent communities. In the early generations, themes of deliverance prevailed worldwide, as evidenced by Manasseh ben Israel’s book The Hope of Israel, about the false Messiah Sabbatai Zevi and a renewed interest in the Hebrew bible among New World Puritans. Ezekielian skull and cross bone imagery on the gravestones of Hunts Bay’s first generation of interments and its relative disappearance after the calamitous earthquake of 1692 reflect Jamaican Sephardi responses to Messianism in its first decades of settlement. The cemetery’s southeast burial orientation — not toward the Land of Israel — suggests the primacy of something of the congregation’s own creation.

Hunt's Bay Jewish Cemetery

Jamaican Jewry is most evident on the compound of the United Congregation of Israelites Shaare Shalom on Duke Street in Kingston. In the beautiful century-old synagogue building under a magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling, lay leaders conduct services attended by members of its 200-person congregation, which is ethnically but not culturally diverse. Not all of Jamaica’s Jews belong to this congregation. Some associate with rabbis and congregations in New York, Miami, and elsewhere. The expansive and wonderful Jamaican Jewish Heritage Center is also located within the compound. It boasts an interesting permanent exhibit and frequently hosts school trips and community events.

Hunts Bay Cemetery, and to some degree the 19th-century Falmouth Jewish Cemetery on the island’s north coast, both long closed and now preserved, bear witness to the time when Jamaica was an emerging and variant colony characterized by political tolerance and abundant undeveloped terrain. This was a period when Jamaica’s Jews adhered to their faith yet were distant if not isolated from rabbinical authority. Today, the ongoing use of the enormous centralized Orange Street Jewish Cemetery eludes the documentarians’ efforts to conclusively catalogue, the analysts’ to fully comprehend, and the preservationists’ to wholly determine the bet haim, but it testifies to the continuation and evolvement of Jewish life in Jamaica.


Rachel FrankelRachel Frankel is an architect in New York. She serves as vice president for the International Survey of Jewish Monuments, is the co-author of Remnant Stones: The Jewish Cemeteries of Suriname, and currently leads the Jewish cemetery documentation work in Jamaica.

This essay is reprinted with permission of Sightings from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction on January 20, 2011:

An earlier version of this article misstated that the Hunts Bay Jewish Cemetery is on the outskirts of Port au Prince. It is Kingston.

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A Gift He Wouldn’t Give Anyone

by Krista Tippett, host

A_Rabinowitz CockscombAlan Rabinowitz was a discovery, and my interview with him is as full of revelation and beauty as any I’ve done.

This is in part because he is an extraordinary person. How many people have stories of looking jaguars and lions in the eyes in the wild and walking away? Or of encountering pygmy humans believed to be lost? Or of discovering an unknown primitive species of deer? But the inner odyssey that has taken him towards all these experiences, and that he has taken in response to them, is as remarkable.

Alan Rabinowitz was born a stutterer, before this condition’s neurological base was understood. His difficulty in speaking was so profound that it masked his intelligence and personality for the first 20 years of his life. He was isolated in school, put in classes for “retarded children.”

After being mute all day, as he tells it, he would come home and be able to talk to his animals — a redemptive experience, he tells us, that is shared by many stutterers. Out of ignorance rather than cruelty, his parents essentially left him alone with his pain. But his father did notice that the “Big Cat House” at the Bronx Zoo relaxed and delighted his son, and that after these visits his speech was a bit easier. For Alan Rabinowitz, these were experiences of relief, pleasure, and a painful empathy. He deeply internalized something I think many of us have felt in the presence of powerful, wild creatures circling in cages — a wild, heartbreaking animal with grief and longing. Alan Rabinowitz looked those jaguars and tigers in the eyes and said, I’ll find a place for you — a place for us. A few years later, after rapidly distinguishing himself as a wildlife biologist, he began to do just that.

He is very clear, though, that his earliest exploits of tracking raccoons and bears in the Great Smoky Mountains were as much about getting himself away from people as anything else. In the meantime, he finally found a therapist who helped him thrive in the world of speech, to become the “fluent stutterer” he is today. Soon he began to help create some of the world’s most innovative wildlife preserves where big cats could roam and flourish — first in Belize, and later in Thailand, Taiwan, and Burma.

Here is where a defining irony — a humanizing and deeply moving irony — of Alan Rabinowitz’s story comes in. Having traveled to the most remote places on earth, driven by his passion to save animals, he kept bumping up against people in unexpected, life-changing ways. He discovered the last 12 members of a community of human beings, Mongoloid pygmies. He had no common language with them, stuttering notwithstanding, and yet he tells us movingly of connecting with the elder of this tribe in a way that transcended words. With this man who was the last viable male of his race, and who could no longer find a mate, Alan Rabinowitz came to reevaluate his marriage to the woman he loved and decided to begin a family.

I am fascinated, too, that in the span of his career, the science of wildlife conservation has made its own version of this circle — integrating a concern for human thriving as essential to the work of animal preservation. Within a few generations, scientists have learned that the model of isolating endangered big cats in large protected spaces is not a defense against extinction. They need to move far more widely, need to exchange their genetic material, need in fact to coexist with human beings. The projects Alan Rabinowitz works on now are called “genetic corridors.” And his organizations invest in the flourishing of human communities as part of their investment in the survival of big cats.

Jag opener - Version 2There are so many amazing moments in this conversation, especially a story Alan Rabinowitz tells of facing off with a jaguar in a jungle in Belize in a preservation area he had created. The eye contact they shared transported him back to those moments of longing in the Bronx Zoo. But this time they could both walk away and both free in ways he could not have imagined as a child. And today, as he tells us, he is facing a new inner frontier. He has been diagnosed with a slow-moving cancer that is forcing him anew to see the urgency of his life’s choices — to keep protecting the animals who need him and to be there for his family, including a son born with a stutter, who means the world to him now.

Alan Rabinowitz is as whole and healed as anyone I have ever encountered, by the definition of healing that my wise guests have imparted to me. He has incorporated his sadnesses and wounds, his suffering and grief, into his very identity. They have become part and parcel of the gifts he has to offer to the world. I am better for experiencing his passion and his generosity of spirit towards both animals and humans. I feel grateful to have been in his presence — the presence, indeed, of his wonderful voice. I think you will be too.

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Curating the Dead Sea Scrolls
Shubha Bala, associate producer

"Scroll" Jar and Lid
An exhibit showcases one of the clay “scroll” jars discovered in the Qumran caves that dates back to 100 BCE–70 CE. (photo: Craig Thiesen/Science Museum of Minnesota)

In late May, a listener from Mississippi, Emily Haire, was walking through the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and noticed an advertisement for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. A few days earlier, she had listened to our show podcast about manuscript preservation in "Preserving Words and Worlds" and submitted this interesting observation:

"Walking through the MSP airport this morning, I noticed advertisements for the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Science Museum. I had just listened to the SOF a few days ago. I’m wondering how museum curators of religious artifacts interpret, or navigate, the distance between very academic topics and the knowledge base of the general public."

So, we decided to contact one of the curators and ask her question, along with some questions of our own. In the audio above, Mike Day, a senior vice president at the Science Museum of Minnesota, sheds some light on the decision-making made by their team about how they present these unique artifacts.

Also, in the unedited version of my interview (download mp3), he expands on how the exhibit touches people, and he even discusses the inclusion of the Saint John’s Bible. When the tape stopped rolling, he told me that the shape of the cave entrance in the photo above is an exact replica of one of the scroll fragments.

Cave 4 above Qumran
Excavations of the caves above the ancient settlement of Qumran yielded thousands of Dead Sea Scroll fragments. This particular cave, Cave 4, held approximately 500 manuscripts that were discovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1952. The scrolls stored here were placed on the floor or on wooden shelves, and the complete fragmentation of these fragile documents made it difficult to reassemble all the pieces. (Ed Fleming/Science Museum of Minnesota)

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Wired BenedictineTrent Gilliss, Online Editor
Each month I look forward to ripping off the plastic wrap of the latest issue of some of the smartest, wittiest, snarkiest writing in magazine format — that’s right, in the tech rag Wired. But, it isn’t the paid contributors that I turn to first. Oh no, the real sass and verve come from its readers — the ones who fire the opening salvo showcased in its Rants section.
And, who should be one of the headliners but Father Columba Stewart, whom Krista recently interviewed at home base of St. John’s University in upstate Minnesota. We tentatively have this upcoming program scheduled for broadcast some week after the glitterball drops. Father Columba’s letter to the editor, cleverly titled “Geek Orthodox,” gives you an idea of this man’s savviness and how dialed in he and his brothers at the Abbey are. They’re progressive agenda in preserving and digitizing ancient manuscripts (watch our video) from India, Ethiopia, and Georgia (not the state) for a centralized repository is exciting and, dare I say, sustainable. And it’s hard not to admire Columba Stewart’s humorous approach to all his pursuits, including reading pop culture periodicals:

In "When Tech Attacks!" (Start, issue 16.09), you say “Christian theologians denounced the printing press as the work of the devil.” Whoa! It wasn’t so simple. Remember, the monks of the Dark Ages preserved classical civilization by copying its texts, making possible the technological discoveries of later centuries. And monks welcomed the printing press. Gutenberg’s most famous project was a Latin Catholic Bible, and you can almost hear the relief in the cloister: “You mean we don’t have to write it out by hand anymore?” As a Benedictine monk working with the world’s largest archive of digital and microfilm images of old manuscripts, I have strong feelings about both the preservation of ancient culture and the benefits of modern technology. Whatever you might say about other neighborhoods in the Church, we Benedictines have always been in the technological vanguard.

(photo: Colleen Scheck)
Wired BenedictineTrent Gilliss, Online Editor
Each month I look forward to ripping off the plastic wrap of the latest issue of some of the smartest, wittiest, snarkiest writing in magazine format — that’s right, in the tech rag Wired. But, it isn’t the paid contributors that I turn to first. Oh no, the real sass and verve come from its readers — the ones who fire the opening salvo showcased in its Rants section.
And, who should be one of the headliners but Father Columba Stewart, whom Krista recently interviewed at home base of St. John’s University in upstate Minnesota. We tentatively have this upcoming program scheduled for broadcast some week after the glitterball drops. Father Columba’s letter to the editor, cleverly titled “Geek Orthodox,” gives you an idea of this man’s savviness and how dialed in he and his brothers at the Abbey are. They’re progressive agenda in preserving and digitizing ancient manuscripts (watch our video) from India, Ethiopia, and Georgia (not the state) for a centralized repository is exciting and, dare I say, sustainable. And it’s hard not to admire Columba Stewart’s humorous approach to all his pursuits, including reading pop culture periodicals:

In "When Tech Attacks!" (Start, issue 16.09), you say “Christian theologians denounced the printing press as the work of the devil.” Whoa! It wasn’t so simple. Remember, the monks of the Dark Ages preserved classical civilization by copying its texts, making possible the technological discoveries of later centuries. And monks welcomed the printing press. Gutenberg’s most famous project was a Latin Catholic Bible, and you can almost hear the relief in the cloister: “You mean we don’t have to write it out by hand anymore?” As a Benedictine monk working with the world’s largest archive of digital and microfilm images of old manuscripts, I have strong feelings about both the preservation of ancient culture and the benefits of modern technology. Whatever you might say about other neighborhoods in the Church, we Benedictines have always been in the technological vanguard.

(photo: Colleen Scheck)

Wired Benedictine
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Each month I look forward to ripping off the plastic wrap of the latest issue of some of the smartest, wittiest, snarkiest writing in magazine format — that’s right, in the tech rag Wired. But, it isn’t the paid contributors that I turn to first. Oh no, the real sass and verve come from its readers — the ones who fire the opening salvo showcased in its Rants section.

And, who should be one of the headliners but Father Columba Stewart, whom Krista recently interviewed at home base of St. John’s University in upstate Minnesota. We tentatively have this upcoming program scheduled for broadcast some week after the glitterball drops. Father Columba’s letter to the editor, cleverly titled “Geek Orthodox,” gives you an idea of this man’s savviness and how dialed in he and his brothers at the Abbey are. They’re progressive agenda in preserving and digitizing ancient manuscripts (watch our video) from India, Ethiopia, and Georgia (not the state) for a centralized repository is exciting and, dare I say, sustainable. And it’s hard not to admire Columba Stewart’s humorous approach to all his pursuits, including reading pop culture periodicals:

In "When Tech Attacks!" (Start, issue 16.09), you say “Christian theologians denounced the printing press as the work of the devil.” Whoa! It wasn’t so simple. Remember, the monks of the Dark Ages preserved classical civilization by copying its texts, making possible the technological discoveries of later centuries. And monks welcomed the printing press. Gutenberg’s most famous project was a Latin Catholic Bible, and you can almost hear the relief in the cloister: “You mean we don’t have to write it out by hand anymore?” As a Benedictine monk working with the world’s largest archive of digital and microfilm images of old manuscripts, I have strong feelings about both the preservation of ancient culture and the benefits of modern technology. Whatever you might say about other neighborhoods in the Church, we Benedictines have always been in the technological vanguard.

(photo: Colleen Scheck)

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Moving a 100-Year-Old Church
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

After witnessing the time-consuming, breaking-a-bead deconstruction and reconstruction of a church in Alabama for “An Architecture of Decency,” I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the lighter, musical rendition of preserving a country church.

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Establishing Roots to the PastTrent Gilliss, Online EditorThe foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.
Establishing Roots to the PastTrent Gilliss, Online EditorThe foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.
Establishing Roots to the PastTrent Gilliss, Online EditorThe foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.

Establishing Roots to the Past
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

The foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.

The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.

Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.

In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.

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