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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.

A Pictorial Corridor

by Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

Conservation biologist Alan Rabinowitz has devoted his career to protecting “big cats” all over the globe — lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, and more. His chosen vocation as a "voice for the animals" has brought him to places many of us only dream of visiting: the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, the jungles of Belize, the jaguar corridors of Brazil.

Experience a taste of Rabinowitz’s adventures for yourself. We’ve paired stunning National Geographic photographs of Rabinowitz’s work around the world with audio gems from his interview with Krista. Hear how Rabinowitz’s struggles with human physical impediments (a debilitating childhood stutter and more recently cancer) have shaped and fueled his passion. And while I’d love to someday ride atop an elephant, I’m glad to absorb these incredible photographs of tigers, panthers, and leopards from the safety of my desk.

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How Did You Become a Unitarian Universalist?
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

Following up on last week’s video post, here’s a 3½-minute video snack where a mix of UUs explain how they came to this tradition. Listening to these voices, it’s clear that each person’s journey is unique and doesn’t necessarily follow a linear path. Some arrived through predictable channels — friends, marriage, family — while others had more surprising stories — and why they decided to stay.

Later this week we’ll be posting a longer-form piece that caps this video series of interviews from the Unitarian Universalist 2010 General Assembly. And, next week, a video showcasing a sped-up procession of beautiful quilted banners for the opening day festivities!

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Embracing the Beauty of Genetic Difference
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

Former fashion photographer Rick Guidotti has been taking pictures of people with genetic differences for over a decade. His organization, Positive Exposure, celebrates “the spirit of difference” and “the joy that comes with self-acceptance.” He’s committed to changing how people with genetic conditions all over the world see themselves, and, in turn, how they’re perceived within their communities.

Guidotti is adamant that his work isn’t about illuminating inner beauty. “This is beauty,” he insists. “This is the real deal. These kids are gorgeous, and you see the beauty there exists. We just haven’t been allowed to see it.”

Photographing people with albinism has been central to Guidotti’s efforts with Positive Exposure. In recent years, he’s photographed some of these young women and men in villages in Mali and Tanzania, where the social stigma can lead to ostracization and sometimes life-threatening consequences, and in South Africa at a school for the blind.

When we sat down at a conference in Minneapolis, I asked him to tell me the stories behind some of his photographs, which we’ve included in our narrated slideshow at the top of this post. You can also download the unedited interview (mp3, 29:21) to hear even more of these stories.

Most of us have probably harbored negative feelings about our physical appearance at some point in our lives. When these feelings lodge and fester, they deplete our spirits. I see Guidotti’s images as a visual reminder to be kinder to ourselves and more generous and joyous in how we construe beauty in all its manifestations.

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Purim Around the World Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer
"Purim is…a holiday traditionally observed not in the synagogue…or even around the family table, but on the street and in nightclubs, surrounded by friends." —from "Unmasked" by Liel Leibovitz
Last month, Jews around the world celebrated Purim, a holiday commemorating the survival of the Jewish people in the face of near-extermination.  The Purim story as it’s told in the biblical Book of Esther features a lively cast of characters including a Jew-hating villain named Haman (an Iago-like advisor to the king) a savvy eavesdropper (Mordechai) and the beautiful queen Esther who ultimately saves the day. Masquerading is a central theme as Queen Esther conceals her Jewish identity throughout most of the story.
We’ve gathered these images of Purim celebrations from around the world to capture the holiday’s carnivalesque festivity. Enjoy!
Jerusalem, 2010. (photo: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)
Amsterdam, 2006. (photo: uruandimi/Flickr)
Jews all over world commemorate Purim with costumes, parties, and parades.
Moscow, 2010. (photo: no_problema/Flickr)
Philadelphia, 2009. (photo: sesu-chan/Flickr)
 Judean Desert, Israel, 2008. (photo: Leandroid/Flickr)
 Judean Desert, Israel, 2008. (photo: Leandroid/Flickr)
Purim plays (also known in the Yiddish as Purim Spiels) have been staged for generations.
 New York City, 1936. (photo: Center for Jewish History/Flickr)
Jerusalem, 2008. (photo: Galit Lubetzsky/Flickr)
Lots of people eat hamentashen — a triangle-shaped cookie with a fruity filling that’s representative of the villainous Hamen’s hat, or alternately his ear.
 Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2009 (photo: Greenbelter/Flickr)
 Moscow, 2010 (photo: no_problema/Flickr)
Noisemakers called “graggers" are used to drown out the sound of the villainous Haman’s name.
 (photo: Fabrangen Havurah/Flickr)
 Boston, 2008 (photo: 1130am/Flickr)
According to the Talmud (Megillah 7b), one is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”
Jerusalem, 2007 (photo: Yoav Lemmer/AFP/Getty Images)
 Tel Aviv, 2006 (photo: Ran Z/Flickr)
 Amsterdam, 2006 (photo: uruandimi/Flickr) 
(lead photo: New York City, 2010. Photo: Nina  Callaway/Flickr)

Purim Around the World
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

"Purim is…a holiday traditionally observed not in the synagogue…or even around the family table, but on the street and in nightclubs, surrounded by friends."
—from "Unmasked" by Liel Leibovitz

Last month, Jews around the world celebrated Purim, a holiday commemorating the survival of the Jewish people in the face of near-extermination.  The Purim story as it’s told in the biblical Book of Esther features a lively cast of characters including a Jew-hating villain named Haman (an Iago-like advisor to the king) a savvy eavesdropper (Mordechai) and the beautiful queen Esther who ultimately saves the day. Masquerading is a central theme as Queen Esther conceals her Jewish identity throughout most of the story.

We’ve gathered these images of Purim celebrations from around the world to capture the holiday’s carnivalesque festivity. Enjoy!

Orthodox man celebrates Purim. Jerusalem, 2008.
Jerusalem, 2010. (photo: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

Purim party. Amsterdam, 2006
Amsterdam, 2006. (photo: uruandimi/Flickr)

Jews all over world commemorate Purim with costumes, parties, and parades.

Purim Moscow
Moscow, 2010. (photo: no_problema/Flickr)

Purim Philadelphia
Philadelphia, 2009. (photo: sesu-chan/Flickr)

Purim party - Judean Desert. Israel, 2008
Judean Desert, Israel, 2008. (photo: Leandroid/Flickr)

Purim party - Judean Desert.  Israel, 2008
Judean Desert, Israel, 2008. (photo: Leandroid/Flickr)

Purim plays (also known in the Yiddish as Purim Spiels) have been staged for generations.

Cast of Purim play. New York City, 1936
New York City, 1936. (photo: Center for Jewish History/Flickr)

Girl dressed up for Purim. Jerusalem, 2008.
Jerusalem, 2008. (photo: Galit Lubetzsky/Flickr)

Lots of people eat hamentashen — a triangle-shaped cookie with a fruity filling that’s representative of the villainous Hamen’s hat, or alternately his ear.

Hamentaschen
Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2009 (photo: Greenbelter/Flickr)

Purim party. Moscow, 2010.
Moscow, 2010 (photo: no_problema/Flickr)

Noisemakers called “graggers" are used to drown out the sound of the villainous Haman’s name.

Jewish noisemakers or "graggers"
(photo: Fabrangen Havurah/Flickr)

Radical Purim party. Boston, 2008.
Boston, 2008 (photo: 1130am/Flickr)

According to the Talmud (Megillah 7b), one is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”

Orthodox men celebrate Purim. Jerusalem, 2007.
Jerusalem, 2007 (photo: Yoav Lemmer/AFP/Getty Images)

Purim street party. Tel Aviv, 2006
Tel Aviv, 2006 (photo: Ran Z/Flickr)

Purim party. Amsterdam, 2006
Amsterdam, 2006 (photo: uruandimi/Flickr)

(lead photo: New York City, 2010. Photo: Nina Callaway/Flickr)

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Approaches to the Question “Is Religion Potentially Dangerous?”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

In "No More Taking Sides" Krista describes her conversation with Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, who both have lost a loved one in the conflict:

"…this is not another version of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian story to which we’ve all become accustomed from the news. Neither is it a touchy-feely story of isolated good will. This story is fiercely human, admitting grief while also yielding to joy, and it is all the more hopeful for its origins in the hard ground of reality."

Updating the site for rebroadcast, we’ve also been editing our video footage from Krista’s live conversation with Robert Wright earlier this month. His answer to the audience question, “Is religion potentially dangerous?” is one that’s often asked in the context of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

As we produce this interview for air, the most recent script characterizes Wright as “relentlessly logical” — and you might say that Wright’s assessment of religion’s role in this conflict is relentlessly logical in the best sense. But, while logic can be extremely helpful in understanding the forces behind human conflict, it says very little about the experience of those conflicts.

That’s where Robi and Ali come in. When Wright tells us that “human life is potentially dangerous,” their stories show us this on a gut level. Their partnership is a living example of why we’re all in this together is an idea really worth considering.

Ali Abu Awwad, from the transcript:

"When I get to the library that [Robi’s son] David was preparing for the student, a good library, and I saw Robi start crying there, I don’t know, it’s strange, that feeling that I got at that moment. I have that feeling that David is telling me, ‘Take care of my mother.’ This is the first time I’m telling that. I never told Robi that.

And I think [my brother] Yousef was so happy that Robi was taking care of me and I really don’t feel this identity when I feel about David, when I feel about Yousef. I don’t feel that.

They just put us — by passing away, they put us in this deeply feeling with our humanity. And if people appreciate and if politicians appreciate the life as they appreciate the death, peace will be possible.”

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Office Chair Exploration
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

One part that stood out to me from Krista’s conversation with Bill McKibben was his statement that “we’re going to have to learn to do a lot more travel via Google than American Airlines.” I was a bit skeptical of the idea that virtual globe-trotting could ever replace experiencing a different landscape and culture first-hand.

Then I found myself living that reality last week as I culled through the thousands of photos in 350.org’s Flickr account. Not only did I learn about a melted glacier in Bolivia and a school in Zulfiqarabad, Pakistan, I also read the story of a six-year-old girl from Samoa reading her poem about climate change. I’m still not quite sold on the prospect of travelling “via Google,” but I can’t help but feel a bit more worldly after putting this slideshow together.

If you’d like to dig deeper, I’ve collected these photos — as well as a few that didn’t quite make it into the slideshow — into two galleries (1, 2) on Flickr. Do a little digital exploration of your own.

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In the Room, with Doris Taylor
Trent Gilliss, online editor

Unfortunately, one of Krista’s recent interviews wasn’t available for viewing by the time "Stem Cells, Untold Stories" was available for download and broadcast. I say unfortunate because it’s a rare opportunity when Krista is able to interview a guest in our home studios at Minnesota Public Radio — and we’re able to film it and then make it accessible.

After tweaking our encoding specification so that it would properly upload to our video vendor, it’s finally available and wanted to make you aware of it. For those of you who struggle with the limits and the priorities of stem cell research and its outcomes, I highly recommend watching Dr. Taylor talk about her own research and ethical understanding. If nothing else, you’re able to see the passion she conveys when she talks about human physiology and the body’s ability to regenerate and adapt.

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Life in Doris Taylor’s Lab
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

After watching Krista’s interview with Doris Taylor, it was hard not to want to see her lab in person. Krista referenced Laurie Zoloth’s phrase “fiction science” during her conversation with Taylor and many of the the mental images that resulted — decellularized “ghost hearts,” cells beating in a dish, rows of pumping regenerated rat hearts — seemed to fit into that category.

So, I was excited to see how those images would hold up when we made a trip Taylor’s lab several months after the interview. While we didn’t didn’t see rows and rows of beating hearts, in the video above, we did see a singular regenerated rat heart beat in an apparatus Taylor called a bioreactor, and a moment later we also heard the story of the man with an incurable heart disease who told her that she was “building hope.”

And, in this video, we also saw the magnified image of beating heart cells as Taylor explained why “cells alone don’t make a heart” and Krista handling animal organs with their cells removed as she discussed the “surprising beauty” of the heart with Taylor (see video below).

And while the fiction science elements of her lab were fascinating, it was most engaging to see Taylor’s energy and passion come out while she was clearly in her element. Her perspective helped keep what might sound like a Mary Shelley-inspired experience focused on the aspect of her work she seems to be most interested in — life.

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The Timeliness of Telomeres
Marc Sanchez, associate producer

The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded this week to Dr. Elizabeth A. Blackburn, Dr. Carol W. Greider, and Dr. Jack D. Szostak. Their work in the 1980’s brought to light the importance of telomeres. In the simplest terms, telomeres live at the ends of our chromosomes, and up until the time of this research, nobody really knew what they were for. Their work shows how telomeres protect our chromosomes, so that during cell division our DNA can be precisely copied from one cell to the next.

Our staff was introduced to telomeres a few weeks ago when Krista interviewed Dr. Doris Taylor. Taylor has gained notoriety recently for her work studying stem cells and "building" hearts. We’re hard at work getting the full interview ready to air in a couple weeks, but here’s an excerpt of that interview in which she talks about stress, stem cells, and telomeres.

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Krista Tippett Chats with Cognitive Neuroscientist Adele Diamond
(photo: Trent Gilliss)

Live Interview with Professor Adele Diamond
Time: 2:00 pm CST
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

On the heels of Krista’s morning interview with Matthieu Ricard, we’re going to live stream video of her conversation with cognitive researcher Adele Diamond. The live video will only appear real-time and then we will substitute it with higher-resolution produced video at a later date.

Update: The live video stream only aired during the period of the interview and is currently not available. I’ve substituted a photo until I can replace it with a full produced video taken with our HD cameras!

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Matthieu Ricard and Krista Tippett Post-Interview
(photo: Trent Gilliss)

Live Video of Krista’s Interview with Matthieu Ricard
Time: 10 am CST
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

Hello all. The ethernet connection in this hotel isn’t fast, but we’re going to try and bring you Krista’s interview with Matthieu Ricard, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who is in Canada for the Vancouver Peace Summit, along with the Dalai Lama and many Nobel laureates and great thinkers.

I hope you enjoy and rest assured that we’ll have a high-quality recorded version for your viewing.

Update: The live video stream only aired during the period of the interview and is currently not available. I’ve substituted a photo until I can replace it with a full produced video taken with our HD cameras!

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SoundSeen: Chris Farrell Puts Neuroeconomics and “Cleansing” in Focus
Trent Gilliss, online editor

The production tour for this week’s program with Paul Zak was rather circuitous. After Krista’s interview in late March, schedules and time lines became hectic and we had resigned ourselves to the fact that it wasn’t going to make for an hour-long production. A couple months later, Kate, our managing producer, asked about the interview and thought it was worth reviewing with fresh ears. Fortunately, she did, and we now have a program.

With all the interesting information about trust and oxytocin influencing personal financial decisions, Paul Zak’s statement about “the cleansing effect of recessions” prompted more questions for me:

"Economists talk of the cleansing effect of recessions. So recessions are necessary because they kind of cull out the companies that are not providing the best customer service, that are not making a profit, that are not providing some product or service that people need. And when those businesses go out of business, then those resources are redeployed to more important uses. The machines are reused; the people get different jobs. And so this keeps the economy kind of efficient. We don’t want to kind of limp along and have high levels of inefficiency just because we love the name General Motors or love the name of some company if they can’t kind of keep up with the herd. So competition drives that and that’s an important part of maintaining efficiency.

But I think the same thing can happen in individual lives. I think as we get towards the end of every boom period, today or two years ago, the end of the 1990s and dot-com bubble, the end of the ’80s and this kind of “me,” “greed” generation, I think we do get out of whack because human beings are adaptable and we are watching what other humans are doing. We also become adaptable to this sort of yuppie, ‘more stuff for me’ lifestyle.

So I think, from a spiritual perspective, that recessions are also cleansing. So I think it’s very important that we don’t shy away from recessions and we don’t try to outlaw them. I think we should say, ‘Hey, there were excesses. This is how the excesses are corrected. And the excesses were both kind of on the macro level and even perhaps in my own life. Maybe I got a little over-excited about the extra bonuses I was getting and the bigger car. And now I want to sit down and reevaluate what’s really important to me.’ So I think there are great analogies between the micro and the macro, and we should embrace that.”

These are bold statements that have implications. So, after our final editorial session, I suggested that perhaps Krista might ask Chris Farrell, APM’s resident expert on economics and all things financial, for a broader perspective on the field of neuroeconomics and its place within the larger world of economics. And, more explicitly, Krista asked Chris about his view of Zak’s perspective on moments of economic and moral “cleansing.” Chris’s historical and critical analysis I found helpful, and surprising.

I’m not sure if there are absolute right or wrong answers to this final point, but there are consequences. How do you think about this?

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The Lasting Impact of Maathai’s Song in a Minnesota Winter
Colleen Scheck, Producer

It’s a sticky, stifling day here in St. Paul — “Africa hot,” an old friend always used to say when intense summer heat made its brief annual stop in Minnesota. That recollection reminded me of my deadline for Trent’s request to write about our interview with Wangari Maathai.

The day we interviewed the Nobel Peace Prize winner, over three years ago now, was about as opposite as possible from today. Eight inches of slushy snow greeted us that morning as we drove to the Holiday Inn in Minneapolis where Maathai was staying. We still managed to arrive early enough to soundproof the room, set up mics and laptops, test levels, and make sure Krista had some breakfast.

The hotel space we’d reserved — a dark, bland, deflated suite on an upper floor (to avoid traffic noise seeping in) — was sadly the best, most convenient option given Maathai’s tight schedule. That drab room was brought to life, though, the moment she entered in a vibrant red-blue-gold dress and headwrap, her simultaneously gracious and powerful person filling the space.

During the interview, I sat in the bedroom area on the floor transcribing on my laptop. My fingers were tired by the time we started to wrap up, 90 minutes later, and then one of my favorite SOF moments happened.

Krista concluded the interview, and Mitch asked Maathai for music recommendations, specifically songs she remembered singing during her environmental activism in Kenya, that we could maybe include in the program. Her reply:

"I would have to ask them (laughs). Because we do sing sometimes, but those are very local songs. Like, one song I always sing when we are together with the women — here comes my faith — because there is a lot of our — people are still very religious, and so quite often when I’m talking to them I use religious songs. And one song that we always sing is one that says ‘there is no other god, there is no other god but Him, there is no other power but Him.’ It is like a chorus. You want me to sing for you?" After drinking a sip of cold, bad hotel coffee, she continued, "And this kind of song would be appropriate because when we are singing, when we are moving, we always want it to be peaceful, non-violent, so singing religious songs was very common…. We go?"

She cleared her throat, and off she went (her song is included in this video).

I’ve listened to this song so many times in the past three years. I remembered Trent saying he’d sing it to his young boys, and now I do the same with my 6-month old son when rocking him to sleep. I don’t get the words right, but I don’t care. It reminds me of strength, wisdom, compassion — things I hope to inspire in him.

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Yeats Reminds Me
Trent Gilliss, online editor

Today is William Butler Yeats birthday. Reading his obituary, I paused on his words about Ireland: “We are a nation of believers. We produce anti-clerics, but atheists, never.” I wanted to know what the great poet meant by that so I started digging for the source of his quote.

After falling short on a number of searches, I stumbled upon this panel discussion of leading journalists around the country discussing the historical relationship of religion and secularism. Scanning the transcript, I thought, “Boy, Krista really should have participated in this… maybe she did?” Lo and behold, a find within the transcript revealed that she was there. The date of the conference: December 2007.

Not exactly breaking news but well worth watching if you’re interested in listening to leading journalists discuss religion in public life. And, please drop me a line if you have any idea about the Yeats quote.

To end, a couple of lines from "In the Seven Woods":

I am contented, for I know that Quiet
Wanders laughing and eating her wild heart

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