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!
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.
“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?
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.
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
Brooks and Dionne Video, Live with Krista
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
For those of you who only follow the blog, I finally was able to get the video of the Georgetown event encoded to the proper aspect ratio even though the crunch times are still taking way too long. Many thanks to listener Michael Wong for the advice.
A Pipeline to Nowhere
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
More than a year ago Krista, Mitch, and I drove to rural Maryland for an interview with Jean Vanier. When we arrived I assumed we would be setting up in a retreat center with modern amenities. Nope. We were directed to a small, old farmhouse that had been converted for group meetings. It wasn’t much, but most of the power outlets worked, and it had a weak wireless signal.
‘Why not experiment and stream the interview live?’ I thought. Krista was game and Mitch was cool with it too (although you can hear an occasional squawk in the audio from me tip-toeing between the two cameras). We hadn’t promoted it and there probably wouldn’t be much of an audience, if any.
As many of you know, weak wireless often means a drop in signal at times and uploading anything crawls. I was sure our test balloon was going to fail. It didn’t; we piped the full 90 minutes through a free third-party service without a glitch. And, we did the same for Krista’s interview with Columba Stewart in the heart of Marcel Breuer’s concrete walls with another weak WiFi signal.
You know where this is leading. Me making excuses. That’s right.
When I found out Krista would be interviewing David Brooks and E.J. Dionne in a well-equipped auditorium on the campus of a major university, I was convinced this was an opportunity to give our audience a front-row seat for a high-profile event. I promoted the live discussion in our e-mail newsletter; I created an event on Facebook and invited all our SOF group members to attend in person or online; I tweeted about it (@trentgilliss). People showed a healthy amount of interest.
The auditorium was lovely, and, as luck would have it, I was able to get a wired Ethernet cable for a dedicated connection for streaming. Then I lost one of my cameras (the downside of sharing equipment), but I thought, ‘well, at least we’re doing a live stream.’ For five hours before the event, I tested the connection. Success. Uninterrupted video streaming. Then the doors opened.
For five minutes, we were piping high-quality video of the conversation while the crowd filed in and took there seats. Then it dropped. I’m receiving tweets from colleagues; viewers start asking what happened on the blog; my wife phones me. I’m frantic trying to switch to the wireless connection, which was also at a dead halt. Georgetown’s Internet connection was so slow that loading the front page of The New York Times took nearly 10 minutes — without the images loading.
In the end, I failed. I let down our audience and I hate doing that. All I can do is apologize and say we’ll do better next time.
I needed a back-up plan, but I’m still not certain what that is without spending some cash. Cash that we don’t have. If you have any suggestions, I’m game on hearing how others work or ways of making this happen. Post your comments here. And, if you want to let me have it, post your comments here too.
(photo: Marc Zielinski for Speaking of Faith)
A Three Pound Brain, Contemplating Galaxies
Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer
[Online editor’s note: For a better, more immersive experience, I recommend filling the screen by clicking the outward-facing arrows icon in the lower-right hand of the video. And, for good measure, put on a set of headphones.]
Science was never my best subject in school, but as an adult I’ve become a total science geek. And our recent program with novelist Mary Doria Russell was full of topics, from Neanderthals to alien communication, that got my geek juices flowing. I especially loved what she said about looking at a recent diagram of the universe, showing how it might expand and contract over time.
I thought, “It’s the breath of God.” That God breathes in and God breathes out. And when he breathes in, the universe is contracting, and when he breathes out, the universe is expanding. And I immediately was charmed by the metaphor…. God is the largest, most complex, most inclusive, most explanatory idea that human beings are capable of imagining. Now, that said, we’re primates and our brains are like two and a half to three pounds. You know, we’re doing the best we can. But I would hate to say that we’ve got a lock on the universe and deity at this point.
I was reminded of an interview with astrophysicist Howard Smith that we’ve had on the shelf since the summer of 2008. Our production schedule is such that we’re sometimes unable to use every interview that we do. But there were parts of Howard Smith’s interview have stayed in my mind for months. He is a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the author of Let There Be Light: Modern Cosmology and Kabbalah, a New Conversation Between Science and Religion. I loved how he described what it’s like for him to stare into the heart of a galaxy and discover something that no one else knows. That moment, he says, is a spiritual moment.
I wanted to see Howard Smith doing that work, peering out at the universe through the tiny window that is his computer screen, using his three pound brain as best he can to understand what he sees. So with help from Howard Smith, NASA, and Flickr, my colleagues and I gathered images to create this slideshow, exploring how we can find spiritual meaning in the stars.
UPDATE: I’ll be posting footage to this entry
over the weekend as soon as I get the session audio.
UPDATE: I apologize for these technical problems. The bandwidth at the venue came to a screeching halt and has precluded us from streaming live. I’ll post our tape as soon as I can. Thank you, and let me have it. Trent
Live Video: Krista with David Brooks and E.J. Dionne
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
At 6:30 pm Eastern today, we will be streaming Krista’s live public interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne — all live from the campus of Georgetown University. For those of you in Washington D.C., there’s still time to attend the event in person. For those of you who can’t, the best place to watch the conversation is right here at SOF Observed.
The topic of conversation is the legacy of Reinhold Niebuhr and the future of his idea of Christian realism. I’m excited — and prepared to be surprised — to hear where Krista directs this topic as the U.S. shifts gear during a new presidential administration.
I got a preview of Niebuhr’s relevance during our morning briefing (actually, a confab with coffee and pastries). Krista has been reading one of Niebuhr’s later works, The Irony of American History. Part of his book addresses the very real threat of communism of the day. But, Niebuhr warns, that the virtuous founding principles of the United States — simplicity, rugged individualism, frugality, modesty, faith — has lead to the country’s success and great wealth. This prosperity comes at a cost of abandoning some of what made the U.S. great; the threat is to wield such power and might with humility.
I’m also opening up the chat dialog that accompanies this live feed so that you can share ideas with others who may be watching with you. Please let me know what you think of this endeavor. We really do this for the many of you who can’t attend these events in person. It’s a great honor for me and I love to get feedback, even criticism so we can serve you better.