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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.
We come out of nowhere, don’t we, in the sense that we’re a total accident. Our parents met. There’s the accident. And, you know, we’re born. Obviously, we come from someplace physiologically. And then comes the emergence of our being, which is the psychological and spiritual emergence of our being that takes time, experience, education of a certain kind with parents and neighbors and teachers and relatives and from one another humanly. And this slow emergence of our psychological being and our spiritual being is itself a great mystery. And mystery, you bet — mystery is a great challenge. It’s an invitation, and it’s a wonderful companion, actually.
- Robert Coles, in The Inner Lives of Children.

Robert Coles: “Children Consider Human Conflict”
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

As promised in our show with Robert Coles, "The Inner Lives of Children," we are finally able to bring you the video of Robert Coles’ Lowell Lecture at Harvard Extension School in April 2008. We had a few technical difficulties and permissions procedures to clear, but we think it’s worth the hour. In particular, he talks about his first encounter with Ruby Bridges in New Orleans, and his subsequent conversations with her.

If you’d like to take the video on the road, you can download the file from Harvard’s presence on iTunes U.


Editorial Session: To Script, or To Give Goose Bumps?
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Ideas from an interview and approaches to editing it can change during the production cycle of each show. I might hear something that I relished in the “pre-edit listen” that’s lopped off before the first group listen — which we call the cuts and copy — and wonder what happened.

Most of the time, it’s for the better. I hear the value in making some of those tough deletions — the conversation flows better, points are made more clearly, ideas are distilled. But, sometimes I’m disappointed at what is cut; an indescribable essence of the conversation is lost for the sake of understanding or expedience, an incredibly human moment of imperfection that didn’t cut the muster.

Coming out of our pre-edit listen with Robert Coles, all of us were enamored with something Coles said. His words were poignant because he said them in a different time — during his conversation with Krista in 2000. He provided a glimpse back to what things were like only eight years ago; the world seems like such a different place now.

Well, what he said was a challenge because Krista didn’t want to confuse the listener with an outdated reference. His words were cut and Krista had scripted in the notion of what he was saying to bring people into the present. But, to my ears, the moment was lost. So, what you see here is our production staff deliberating this edit, and coming to a resolution.

And, if you haven’t listened yet, check out the produced program with Dr. Coles, and compare the finished product.


Wise Words from the “Old Ones” of New Mexico

by Trent Gilliss, Senior Editor

There’s a certain amount of serendipity that offers itself to any person who works on SOF. But I have to be open to it, to be able to acknowledge that chance connection or a life lesson is often garnered during a pause rather than while railing to meet a deadline. This is my pause.

While writing an entry on Robert Coles’ book, The Old Ones of New Mexico, for our particulars page for “The Inner Lives of Children,” I re-read a profile about Señor and Señora Gallegos, owners of a small rural market known simply as “The Store.” I was looking for quotes on the relationship between children and their grandparents. What I discovered were threads of wisdom for living a virtuous life as a businessperson during these economic times.

Our series on the spiritual and moral aspects of the economic downturn is called "Repossessing Virtue." Perhaps we here got that title wrong. Perhaps virtue isn’t a matter of ‘possession’ at all but a series of tiny, indiscrete moments of character that emanates from within. You can no more own it than you can cage an electron. In my bones, I know that Señor Gallegos understands this better than most:

"The people near here like to come by every day. Some mothers send their husbands to the store each morning before breakfast. No wonder I have to be ready for them; they expect me to know by heart what they will be asking for. And why not? After all these years I’d be of no use if I couldn’t predict what my customers want and need. Still, with age one has to think a little harder. So, about six-thirty I am picturing the men, and looking at the shelves to see that I have what they’ll come for. Usually they don’t even have to talk much when they enter. I look at them and go for the milk or some cereal or some cans—and of course, I have the doughnuts near the coffee. They put the money for the doughnuts in the glass jar; that is separate. The rest I ring up.

"We charge more than the big markets in the city. We must. We don’t get to buy at the low prices a chain of stores can make the wholesale people set. Maybe one day there will be no stores like ours left. I apologize all the time to my customers. I tell them that if they would only drive twenty miles, they could do better. I know that some storekeepers like me have a fine time bleeding their customers—the people who can’t travel or are in a hurry for something. But it is not in me to run that kind of business. I am too old to do a dance because I squeezed an extra nickel here, and a quarter there, out of some neighbors of mine. I would have nightmares, thinking of what they wished me: a long stretch in Hell. And I would belong there!

"The older I become, the more I think of others. Have I been a good husband and father? Will my friends think well of me when the casket with me in it moves down the street toward the cemetery? What will my cousins and my nephews and nieces and neighbors and customers think when they stand there and see me put to rest: ‘He is a scoundrel who took away from the poor and cheated people by touching the scale with his hand and raised prices far beyond what was fair?’ or ‘He did the best he could, and tried to be honest, and had a smile on his face most of the time?’ I cannot say for sure; maybe I have been more thoughtless and rude than I will ever know. When God gives you the extra time he has given me, it may be because he expects you to examine yourself very closely, and think about what you have done wrong. I know that when I was younger I worried about money: I wanted there to be some for our old age. Back then I thought: If we live to be sixty-five, or seventy, we will be lucky, and we will no doubt be weak and so our son will have to run the store all by himself. But we lived longer, and here I am, still opening the store, so that my son can have a decent sleep, and see his children off to school.

"I didn’t grow rich; nor will my son. He would like to make more money, I know. He resembles me: he is torn between the desire to make money for his wife and children, and a great loyalty to our customers. How can you take more than is due you—especially when you know you are lucky to have the store and live comfortably as you do, and many of your customers aren’t at all in the same shoes? I have no answers; I wish everyone in the world had enough to eat, good clothes, and a roof that doesn’t leak over their heads. I tell our priest all the time that it is no joy, taking money from people who don’t have much, and who work so hard for the little they do have. He slaps me on the back and tells me that it is not me or Señora Gallegos or our son who are the enemies of the poor. He tells me about other stores he knows of, from his past work: the owners are politicians, and they push the people around and take every cent they can get. I feel good, hearing him speak well of me, but I still worry: God must know that I have had my moments of greed.

"There have been people I have not liked, and they have pushed me hard: Why do you charge such high prices? Why do you try to bleed us? I have tried to answer: it is trying and lonely running a store like this one, and if I give everything away, I will have to beg myself, rather than run the store. But I can hold firm; no one will knock me down, not when I think I am in the right. Sometimes I feel ready to fight; and sometimes I have said to myself, ‘Take all you can get, because they are the mean ones, and they will only respect a man who is as mean as they are.’ And you know, that is true: there are people on this earth who have contempt for a man who tries to be generous; he is seen as a fool, or up to some clever trick. That is God’s way—to put many different kinds of people here, and let us all prove ourselves to him."


Robert Coles on the Spiritual Intuition of Children
» download (mp3, 5:38)
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer

As promised, here’s preview audio for our upcoming program with Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist who often deals with the spiritual lives of children. Originally, he was a prominent voice in an older Speaking of Faith program, Children and God. I believe that was just the second episode of SOF I ever listened to, and I remember loving it, yet apparently the program was beginning to show its age. The program also featured three voices. Back then, they said a radio program with just one long interview for one entire hour was a crazy idea. It’ll never work!

Kate and Rob listened to Robert Coles’ full interview with Krista again, and were convinced we had to bring this back to air as a one-voice show, taking it completely back to the drawing board and producing a new show from it. Here’s a rough tidbit from the new program we’re producing. Enjoy! The full program is scheduled for the first week of January.

Editor’s Note: You can now listen to the entire program on the Web site for “Robert Coles and the Inner Lives of Children.


Warming Coles

Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

I have to express my excitement about the show we have scheduled for podcast release on New Year’s Day. Back in 2000, Krista sat with the wonderfully insightful and heartwarmingly endearing child psychiatrist Robert Coles.

A small part of this 60-minute interview was incorporated into the show "Children and God." This show single-handedly made a SOF superfan out of me. And, it wasn’t until recently that Krista mentioned that she spoke with him for a full hour. Hearing that was a revelation, and thank goodness Rob listened to it and recommended him for a new show, a fresh production.

Eight years later, his ideas about children’s curiosity about understanding the world and their innate spiritual sensibilities — and that they are witnesses to events and behaviors and ideas — resound so much more loudly now than when I originally heard him. Not only because I’m a father now, but more so because I’m a working witness to the economic downturn who’s asking himself basic questions about trust and need and responsibility.

We’ll be posting some preview clips from the program. I can’t wait for you to hear it.