A Peabody Award!
We’re all a little giddy around here today. This morning we learned that we won a 2008 Peabody Award, for our program on Rumi. This is broadcasting’s highest award, and for us it is a sign of arrival. Speaking of Faith launched almost five years ago as a weekly show. In the beginning, many simply didn’t believe that it would be possible to put a program on religion on the air without alienating, inflaming, or proselytizing.
It has been a great adventure pulling that off. And it has been a team effort to say the least. I include our listeners in that - listeners who encouraged and supported us and their public radio stations along the way, saying that, yes, this subject is too important not to risk finding a way to do it differently and get it right. I’ve sensed this past year that we are hitting our stride, finding our voice, in so many ways, and this award feels like a confirmation of that.
We will keep risking, experimenting and, I hope, getting better and better. But, for today, we’re celebrating and not getting much work done! Take a look here at the great company we’re in.
Tony Soprano, Ojibwe Poetry, and “Technicians of the Sacred”
We do talk about big ideas at work. But we also talk about what TV shows we are catching up on. I happen to be watching the final season of The Sopranos on DVD. I will not include a spoiler here. But I will mention a minor but significant plot element that occurrs in one episode — an Ojibwe poem I first read in the break-through anthology Technicians of the Sacred years ago. Here it is, in one of its many variant forms:
Sometimes ISeeing this poem turn up on TV was like bumping into an old friend in an unexpected place after many years. Watching the haunting impact it had on Tony Sorprano reminded me of my first reading of it, which might be something like: “Get over yourself. Life is changeable and various.”
I go about pitying
While I am carried by the wind
Across the sky.
But I actually learned something from Tony Soprano’s take on it, which I would characterize as slightly different — and oddly even more positive — than mine: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Life is a long, wonderful journey.”
Technicians of the Sacred changed how many writers thought about literature and poetry in the 1970s. It’s gratifying to see that it is still being carried by the wind across the sky.
Move On Up, with Marva
I can’t think of my mother without thinking of Mahalia Jackson’s recording of “Move On Up a Little Higher”, with its promise of seeing one’s loving mother in heaven, and its crazy-ecstatic refrain, It’ll be always howdy howdy and never goodbye, that makes me just fall apart. The heart-stopping idea is that loss is erased, that it’s just gone from us, in heaven.
My mother died in 1984, when she was 69 years old, of emphysema, in a race with heart disease. Her health was poor; in addition to lifelong asthma from hay fever and allergies, she had crippling osteoporosis and serious circulatory problems. She was also a life-long smoker, and — bless her — an alcoholic who stayed sober for over 25 years before her death. Like the other lucky ones of her generation, having squared themselves with their Higher Power and found sanity and sobriety in A.A., she smoked like a true addict, as Bill Wilson himself is said to have smoked, as if her life depended on it.
I’m my mother’s difficult youngest daughter, and one of her children who got the heritable propensity for addiction. Addiction: the blessing-curse that instructs me each day in who and what I am, as a guest on SOF once said. All by way of saying that having spent much of my childhood complaining loudly about my parents’ cigarette smoke and begging them to roll down the windows of our crowded Chevy station wagon to let some air in, I became a smoker in my late teens, and stayed a serious smoker long past the time most people had quit.
A year ago today, just as Krista Tippett and I were about to embark on the tour for publication of the hard cover Speaking of Faith, I too quit, using a smoking cessation medication called Chantix. Unbelievably, it worked.
It seems obvious to say I had no idea what I had been doing to myself with my cigarette habit, but it is sadly — even pathetically — true. And I don’t mean just the awareness that I was contributing to the threat of early death or ill health. I mean that once we lose our freedom, it’s almost impossible to know what it is to be free. Living life on a short leash didn’t seem odd, or unusual. It seemed like life. That’s one of the reasons so many of us, who in one form or another have had to come to terms with addiction, are actually grateful for it. As I am, today, marking 365 consecutive days of freedom, in memory of Marva Maxwell, my mom.
Irish Singing, Old School
by Mitch Hanley, senior producer
In production on next week’s homage to the late John O’Donohue, I have been researching Celtic music, attempting to not have a show full of jigs and reels, but to have a good cross-section of this genre. I came across this style of Gaelic singing, sean-nos, meaning “in the old style,” in a YouTube video of Iarla O’lionaird (fronts the band Afro Celt Sound System) singing in a pub.
Imagine yourself in a tucked away nook of Ireland, hearing this haunting, sad melody, carrying you back some thousands of years. It is just beautiful.
Also fun is trying to follow along with the words…
Bog braon, bog braon, bog braon don tseanduine,
bog braon, bog braon, bog braon don tseanduine.
Cuir a chodladh, cuir a chodladh, cuir a chodladh an seanduine,
cuir a chodladh is ní a chosa is bog deoch don tseanduine.
Ubh chirce, ubh chirce, ubh chirce don tseanduine,
ubh chirce is blúire ime is a thabhairt don tseanduine.
Feoil úr, feoil úr, feoil úr don tseanduine,
feoil úr is braon súp is a thabhairt don tseanduine.
National Cathedral to Dupont Circle Yoga to Princeton
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
A fabulous turn-out yesterday at the National Cathedral. It looked like six or seven hundred people in the pews, filling the nave of the Cathedral for the Sunday Forum, during which Dean Sam Lloyd interviewed Krista — always a treat, I think, for the listeners to hear Krista’s take on the sorts of questions she puts to others. Keep an eye on the Cathedral’s site for video. (We’ll be getting a copy as well for possible posting here.) Also very nice to meet and work with our friends at WAMU on this visit, especially Andrea Travis, who really helped make it a fine event.
We made a quick turnaround and headed for a Bikram yoga studio in Dupont Circle… just the thing to wring out any remaining adrenalin and balance the energy after a big event!
My phone is not cooperating in attempts to send pics, so I’ll try to figure out what the problem is. Later today a train to Princeton for the final event on this trip. More soon!
Krista at the National Cathedral
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
Krista and I head out tomorrow for D.C. where we have another event in our 2008 World Tour, at the National Cathedral’s Sunday Forum. Our travels are exciting, and by far and away the best thing about them is meeting our listeners. It’s just an amazing gift. The event is at 10 am Sunday February 3rd, and is free and open. See you there!