Being Here Now, Again
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
The picture above, taken with my iPhone, is the view from my desk on a rainy day. The flowers in the vase are fake, the vase itself a left-over from Mitch Hanley’s wedding, the artifacts hard to make out on the shelf include an amethyst and a piece of old tile from a town on the Croatian coast called Opatija; one of the pictures too backlit to make out is a photo of Albert Einstein with Rabindranath Tagore.
I took this photo of the view I see before me even as I type (though it is brilliantly sunny today) to remind me of something. The something is, to wake up to what is before me; to not become inured by habit into thinking any moment of my day need necessarily resemble the previous moment; to remind me to throw off the routinization to which I am so prone, and in which I take equal amounts of dread and comfort.
Being alive to the present moment, which Ram Dass gave us decades ago as the injunction to Be Here Now isn’t a new idea, but it’s back in a big way and it has a massive new audience because of the work of Eckhart Tolle, whom Krista interviewed recently, in a warm and wide-ranging 90-minute conversation we are about to produce into an episode of Speaking of Faith that will be distributed on August 14th.
It’s a change up for us to interview someone so much in the limelight of popular culture as Tolle, thanks to the exposure of his new book A New Earth in Oprah’s Book Club and in several web seminars with Oprah. Normally, to be honest, we seek out people who are somewhat under the radar, whom we feel a duty to bring to public attention, given the significance of their story, their thought, their work. People like V.V. Raman and Ingrid Jordt, who may never become household names but have incredible intellectual and spiritual wealth to share. We also do interview big names: Jimmy Carter, Elie Wiesel, Rick Warren, Barbara Kingsolver all come to mind.
In this case, as Krista and other staff members sank into his work, we felt it was an opportunity to explore the mind of a genuine spiritual teacher and philosopher who is having an unprecedented experience of celebrity, to hear the story of his own spiritual development, and the effect of his unexpected fame. We found this understated man to be fun and warm, and we’re excited to offer up our very particular conversation with him. I’m reminded in the conversation with Tolle of our recent conversation with Kevin Griffin, who says in that program on spirituality and addiction that after all there is nothing difficult about being mindful except remembering to be mindful. That’s the hard part. And, to complete the circle, I love this nugget from Ram Dass which is cited by Tolle: “If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.”
Stay tuned for our delightful program with this thinker, philosopher, and teacher.
Spirit of Language
Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer
As we prepare to do a show on endangered languages, I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection of language and spirituality. This came up recently with my three-year-old daughter, who has been asking about death since we buried her fish in our back yard. We were driving across town the other day and she said out of nowhere, “Daddy, when will be my last day?” Meaning, When will I die? After a moment of panic, I decided to talk to her about various views of death from different religious traditions. But I quickly realized that she has no knowledge of the words “spirit” or “soul,” and so it was impossible for her to even grasp that concept. In her mind, she is just a body, nothing more, nothing less. And yet, in due time, the English language will give her a concept of the soul, and with it a whole new conception of her self.
Just learning a language is, in part, acquiring a spiritual worldview. And that would explain why religion and language have so often been intertwined in the history of Western civilization. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1450s, the first book he printed was the Bible. A generation later, Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation, and he also produced the first complete translation of the Bible from the original into a contemporary European vernacular. In 1533 Henry VIII broke with Rome and created the Church of England. The result was a whole new English liturgy, with phrases that have since lodged in most English-speaking brains: “Till death us do part,” “Man cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower,” “In the midst of life we are in death,” and “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
When I think of all the spiritual concepts bound up in my own language, it’s hard to believe that (according to organizations like The Living Tongues Institute) languages around the world are dying at a rate of about one every two weeks. What conceptions of humanity and our place in the world are being lost? I’d be interested to know if any of you have learned any rare languages, and if so what unique ways do those languages have of ordering the world with words?