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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.

Indian Muslim girls reciting the Qur’an in their classroom at Madrasatur-Rashaad religious school in Hyderabad. (Photo by Noah Seelam)

I just love how the photographer included the variety of backpacks in this photo. It’s what makes it special — and relatable to the Western observer who might easily focus in on the religiosity of the girls studying. I see a young schoolgirl out my front window in Minneapolis who is carrying a similar Hello Kitty bag.

~Trent Gilliss, chief content officer

Indian Muslim girls reciting the Qur’an in their classroom at Madrasatur-Rashaad religious school in Hyderabad. (Photo by Noah Seelam)

I just love how the photographer included the variety of backpacks in this photo. It’s what makes it special — and relatable to the Western observer who might easily focus in on the religiosity of the girls studying. I see a young schoolgirl out my front window in Minneapolis who is carrying a similar Hello Kitty bag.

~Trent Gilliss, chief content officer

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I kind of think of this interview as a show for those of us on summer holiday. As you’re driving or hiking or sailing, geomorphologist David Montgomery helps you see the world around you differently — through the lens of geology. As I was driving through the Black Hills (Paha Sapa in Lakota) of South Dakota this past week, I looked at the canted rock formations differently. And I found a deeper appreciation for the push and pull between religion and science has shaped advances in geology from the beginning.

And, if you’re looking for some good dinner table conversation, you really ought to listen to David Montgomery talk about how Noah’s Flood might actually be rooted in an historical event — of the Mediterranean rising so high that it spilt over into the valley of the Black Sea. Or, my favorite line: plate tectonics is to geology what DNA is to biology.

Montgomery tells us how the evolution of landscapes and geological processes shape ecology and humanity, and , how we should read rocks for the stories they tell about who we are and where we came from:

"Geology really is, essentially, the scientific creation story. How did it really work? What can we tell from the nature of the universe around us that would inform us in our thinking about how we got to the place we are now? I think that really is central to our sort of view of ourselves as a species, our place in the universe, as well as sort of your personal relationship to the universe. What am I doing here?"

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It is a busy time at the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) in Istanbul. People gather outside its walls each night to break the fast with friends and family. Ramadan is soon coming to a close. Meanwhile, this man has a lot of square footage to cover. Back and forth he goes over the crimson carpets in the mosque with his household vacuum.
Photo and text graciously submitted by Peter Speiser

It is a busy time at the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) in Istanbul. People gather outside its walls each night to break the fast with friends and family. Ramadan is soon coming to a close. Meanwhile, this man has a lot of square footage to cover. Back and forth he goes over the crimson carpets in the mosque with his household vacuum.

Photo and text graciously submitted by Peter Speiser

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“A bit of advice Given to a young Native American At the time of his initiation: As you go the way of life, You will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.” ―Joseph Campbell

“A bit of advice 
Given to a young Native American 
At the time of his initiation: 
As you go the way of life, 
You will see a great chasm. Jump. 
It is not as wide as you think.” ―Joseph Campbell

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Joseph Campbell. His writings on semiotics, comparative religion and mythology (in particular ‘The Power of Myth’ and ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’) helped inspire the framework on which I built my character Robert Langdon. The PBS interview series with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers was hands down the most thought-provoking conversation I’ve ever witnessed. Campbell’s breadth of knowledge about the origins of religious belief enabled him to respond with clarity and logic to some very challenging questions about contradictions inherent in faith, religion, and scripture. I remember admiring Campbell’s matter-of-fact responses and wanting my own character Langdon to project that same respectful understanding when faced with complex spiritual issues.
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Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, in response to being asked about the one writer he could meet, dead or alive, during an interview for The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Of all the people he could meet, I must admit that I’m rather surprised to see it is JC.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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In the foreground, a cow. In the background, an ancient monastery in Armenia called Harichavank, not far from the closed and sometimes tense border with Turkey. The picture suggests the Armenian connection to the earth; tending animals to make cheese is not a lifestyle choice but rather a necessity.
Cows are knit into daily life, not hidden outside the village for sanitary reasons. The towering roofline in the background suggests the heavenward vision of the church and the beauty of the Armenian liturgy. The church too is knit into daily life. It is typical, for example, to light candles in the sanctuary as you stroll home. The cow and the church. One without the other just wouldn’t make sense in Armenia, both sacred in their way because both give life.
Text by Pete Speiser. Photo by Anna Rudberg Speiser.

In the foreground, a cow. In the background, an ancient monastery in Armenia called Harichavank, not far from the closed and sometimes tense border with Turkey. The picture suggests the Armenian connection to the earth; tending animals to make cheese is not a lifestyle choice but rather a necessity.

Cows are knit into daily life, not hidden outside the village for sanitary reasons. The towering roofline in the background suggests the heavenward vision of the church and the beauty of the Armenian liturgy. The church too is knit into daily life. It is typical, for example, to light candles in the sanctuary as you stroll home. The cow and the church. One without the other just wouldn’t make sense in Armenia, both sacred in their way because both give life.


Text by Pete Speiser. Photo by Anna Rudberg Speiser.

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Are we in the matrix? Physicist James Gates reveals why string theory stretches our imaginations about the nature of reality. Also, how failure makes us more complete, and imagination makes us more knowledgeable.

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While editing a commentary on the persecution and imprisonment of Baha’is within Iran, I happened upon this interview with Roxana Saberi. The American journalist, who was accused of espionage by the Iranian government, talks about the time she spent in an Iranian prison and the relationships she developed with Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, two of the seven Yaran (“the Friends”), who are sentenced to 20 years in prison because of their faith:

"I think the lessons that Mahvash and Fariba taught me in prison are universal. And they can apply to anybody, anywhere in the world. You don’t have to be in prison. We have our own prisons, are own adversities, and we can try to turn those adversities into opportunities."

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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This interview with poet Christian Wiman has to be one of my top 10 favorite shows. He cuts to the quick with a generosity and truthfulness rarely heard. And his penchant for remembering poetry and weaving it into life experiences with cancer, love, and death is incredible.

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A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk.



"Monk!”



He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.



"Teach me about heaven and hell!"



The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,



"Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dumb. You’re dirty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you."



The samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the monk.
Looking straight into the samurai’s eyes, the monk said softly,



"That’s hell."



The samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.
The monk said softly,



"And that’s heaven."



Excerpted from Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk.

"Monk!

He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.

"Teach me about heaven and hell!"

The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,

"Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dumb. You’re dirty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you."

The samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the monk.

Looking straight into the samurai’s eyes, the monk said softly,

"That’s hell."

The samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.

The monk said softly,

"And that’s heaven."

Excerpted from Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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From a 2011 Pew Research Center report, a graphic showing the median percentage of Muslims across seven Muslim countries who say each of these traits describes people in Western countries and median percentage of non-Muslims across the U.S., Russia, and four Western European countries who say each of these traits describes Muslims.
I highly recommend reading Michael Young’s op-ed "What Does Muslim-Western Relations Mean?" that gets at these ideas about values, characteristics, and identity.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

From a 2011 Pew Research Center report, a graphic showing the median percentage of Muslims across seven Muslim countries who say each of these traits describes people in Western countries and median percentage of non-Muslims across the U.S., Russia, and four Western European countries who say each of these traits describes Muslims.

I highly recommend reading Michael Young’s op-ed "What Does Muslim-Western Relations Mean?" that gets at these ideas about values, characteristics, and identity.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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"What we’re doing is praying with our feet, with our bodies."

Aztec dance instructor Centzi Millia wears chachayotl, the thick anklets of Aztec danzantes made of rattling seed pods during a class. She’s part of a new movement of Catholic Latinos in the U.S. who are turning to the spiritual practices of their indigenous ancestors, such as the Aztecs and other ancient traditions, and finding “a mestizo way of life.”
Read more of Shweta Saraswat’s article, “Aztlan, Anew,” which gives you a glimpse of what’s going on in your neighboring communities that you might not even be aware of.

"What we’re doing is praying with our feet, with our bodies."

Aztec dance instructor Centzi Millia wears chachayotl, the thick anklets of Aztec danzantes made of rattling seed pods during a class. She’s part of a new movement of Catholic Latinos in the U.S. who are turning to the spiritual practices of their indigenous ancestors, such as the Aztecs and other ancient traditions, and finding “a mestizo way of life.”

Read more of Shweta Saraswat’s article, “Aztlan, Anew,” which gives you a glimpse of what’s going on in your neighboring communities that you might not even be aware of.

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trentgilliss:

I adore these closing stanzas from this poem by Marie Howe:

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,

the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath —that was the first devil.
It was always with me.

And that I didn’t think you — if I told you — would understand any of this —

She is one of those all-too-rare poets who can read her work with a fluidity and a clarity that doesn’t sound forced. It was such an honor to edit and produce this interview with her for On Being.

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A Nigerian Easter in the Midwest

Woman in Gele, Iro, and Buba

From the front door she calls, “He has risen!” Her children respond, “He has risen indeed. Let’s eat!”

I dodged church Easter Sunday this year. My mother Gbeme, however, worshipped at the Baptist church she’s been attending twice weekly for the past 20 years.

Raised Catholic in Nigeria, my mother’s Easter begins the seasonal swap from heavy wools to floral prints and pastels. She wears a beautifully vibrant gele — an intricately fashioned tie around the head worn by Yoruba women — and iro and buba — the matching outfit traditionally worn by Yoruba women — to church. She exchanges compliments with the other congregants about their upbeat clothes and steady health. For two hours the pews fill, the choir sings, and for the larger Easter crowd, the young new pastor delivers an especially rousing sermon. Soon thereafter, church dismisses. Time to eat.

For many Americans, Easter is synonymous with the egg. But in my bicultural household, Map of Yoruba and Igbo Peoplecreamy frejon is the signature Easter week delicacy. The bean soup is made of smoothly blended brown beans called ewa ibeji and steeped coconut, then sweetened with cane sugar to taste.

In the mid-1980s, my mother left metropolitan Lagos to attend college in rural Wisconsin — and made necessary modifications to the original frejon recipe. Back then international foods weren’t as integrated. In lieu of traditional Nigerian dishes, my mother observed her first few Easters amid sweet friends, sweet rolls, egg salad, and hearty Midwestern casseroles. After she graduated, she moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota, reuniting her with city dwelling, a dense Nigerian immigrant community, specialty grocers, and Easter frejon.

Read more of Caroline Joseph’s essay on Yoruban Catholic tradition.

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An enchanting hour of poetry drawing on the ways family and religion shape our lives. Marie Howe, poet laureate of New York State, works and plays with her Catholic upbringing, the universal drama of family, and the ordinary time that sustains us. The moral life, she says, is lived out in what we say as much as what we do — and so words have a power to save us.

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