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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.

Veterans Day Parade on Woodward Avenue

For Rachel Button, who hails from metro Detroit but now lives in the state of Washington’s North Cascade Mountains, images of a Veterans Day parade on Woodward Avenue in Detroit remind her of the march that often goes unacknowledged. Specifically, Eric Seals photographs for the Detroit Free Press inspired her to write this poem:

You wanted the poor and tired huddled masses—
the slack-jawed and stubbled—
but we march alone on Woodward
uniforms stiff on our still-broad shoulders,

The Free Press took pictures.
Photos of men,
mostly men,
marching a street edged by empty sidewalks,
black men and white men
some of us in leather and flannel
others in uniforms which trim our bodies
into silhouettes framed by brass buttons.

Imagine the hands at our sides:
wrinkled, smooth, freckled, gloved—
scarred by cuts and burns, scrapes and time—
hands that held babies,
hands that held our heads when loneliness
felt too heavy to hold on our necks.

We bend into cold with something like pride
not for the battles we fought,
but because we’re still standing, walking, moving,
together, slapping our shoes on Woodward,
standing straight, even if not one soul watches.

For an engaging and informative read, I highly recommend John Carlisle’s columnaccompanying Mr. Seals photos.

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It is a busy time at the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) in Istanbul. People gather outside its walls each night to break the fast with friends and family. Ramadan is soon coming to a close. Meanwhile, this man has a lot of square footage to cover. Back and forth he goes over the crimson carpets in the mosque with his household vacuum.
Photo and text graciously submitted by Peter Speiser

It is a busy time at the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) in Istanbul. People gather outside its walls each night to break the fast with friends and family. Ramadan is soon coming to a close. Meanwhile, this man has a lot of square footage to cover. Back and forth he goes over the crimson carpets in the mosque with his household vacuum.

Photo and text graciously submitted by Peter Speiser

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In the foreground, a cow. In the background, an ancient monastery in Armenia called Harichavank, not far from the closed and sometimes tense border with Turkey. The picture suggests the Armenian connection to the earth; tending animals to make cheese is not a lifestyle choice but rather a necessity.
Cows are knit into daily life, not hidden outside the village for sanitary reasons. The towering roofline in the background suggests the heavenward vision of the church and the beauty of the Armenian liturgy. The church too is knit into daily life. It is typical, for example, to light candles in the sanctuary as you stroll home. The cow and the church. One without the other just wouldn’t make sense in Armenia, both sacred in their way because both give life.
Text by Pete Speiser. Photo by Anna Rudberg Speiser.

In the foreground, a cow. In the background, an ancient monastery in Armenia called Harichavank, not far from the closed and sometimes tense border with Turkey. The picture suggests the Armenian connection to the earth; tending animals to make cheese is not a lifestyle choice but rather a necessity.

Cows are knit into daily life, not hidden outside the village for sanitary reasons. The towering roofline in the background suggests the heavenward vision of the church and the beauty of the Armenian liturgy. The church too is knit into daily life. It is typical, for example, to light candles in the sanctuary as you stroll home. The cow and the church. One without the other just wouldn’t make sense in Armenia, both sacred in their way because both give life.


Text by Pete Speiser. Photo by Anna Rudberg Speiser.

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After listening to an episode of On Being…

After listening to an episode of On Being

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Tea + Ink: The Empty Space Inside the Mountain

by Dorothée Royal-Hedinger, guest contributor

An intimate portrait of ex-Yugoslavian émigré artist Slobodan Dan Paich, Silent Crescendo follows his daily ritual of creating simple drawings with tea and ink. In response to the modern pace of the art scene, Slobodan has embraced these fluid works of art to express his searching approach to life.


Dorothée Royal-HedingerDorothée Royal-Hedinger is a producer at the Global Oneness Project, which produces and distributes films, media, and educational materials that challenge people to rethink their relationship to the world and connect them to our greater human potential. She lives in San Rafael, California.

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In The Sixth Month (A Poem About Pregnancy and Motherhood)

by Sarah McKinstry-Brown, guest contributor

Book Cover (Cradling Monsoons)Your inner ear has fully formed.
You can hear now. I’ve heard
of mothers playing their unborn babies
Bach and Mozart because classical music
makes the brain’s spatial connections
arc towards one another like the fingertips
of Adam and God in the Sistine.

I’ve played no such music for you, and maybe,
some day, when the boy you pine for
is majoring in architecture
or when your brain goes cloudy
as you stare at your pop quiz in geometry,
you’ll hold this against me.

Truth is, I can’t bear headphones on my stomach,
won’t force you to sit in the front row seat
of your mother, the auditorium,
while Pachelbel’s Canon fires off the synapses
of your brain. For the same reason I can’t bring myself
to have your father recite French
or fractions into my belly.

No sonata or tongue or equation
could teach us what we’re learning already:
that to be human is to be heavy,
to carry more than one heart inside you.


Sarah McKinstry-BrownSarah McKinstry-Brown is a poet and performer living in Omaha, Nebraska. She is the winner of the 2011 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry for her debut collection, Cradling Monsoons, and her poems are featured in The Spoken Word Revolution Redux. You can read more of her poetry on her website and her thoughts at Cradling Monsoons.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through ourFirst Person Outreach page.

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Nurture Wherever It Is Cold, Nurture Wherever It Is Dark

by Preeti Kaur, guest contributor

Preeti Kaur, Her Mother, and Brothers and SistersPreeti Kaur, her mother, her brothers (one wearing a patka) and sister.

In the Sikh faith, the role of the nurturer is one, among many, of the celebrated roles of all Sikhs, regardless of gender. My own father often reminisces to me of how his mother would nurture his growth and curiosity by imparting Sikh teachings to him while he was growing up in Dharamsala, India as a post-Partition refugee family. Everyday when he returned from school, his mother recited the Janam Saakhis, a collection of “birth stories” based on the life and lessons of the first Sikh guru, Nanak Dev Ji. He remembers this nurturing time as his favorite time of the day.

I recently saw a video of Harneel Singh, an extraordinarily eloquent young American man, describing his painful experience growing up as a Sikh boy wearing a patka (a Sikh mini-turban) in school, where he was often taunted and bullied. He speaks very freely that his experience is something familiar to many young people.

The patka is worn by children in preparation for wearing a full turban as a grown Sikh. Many young Sikh boys wear patkas throughout the world, including in America, where Sikhs have lived for over one hundred years. As adults, many Sikh men (and some Sikh women) wear a full turban, or dastaar, as a display of their commitment to accepting their body as it has grown and to distinguish themselves as physically committed to a path of justice. The global political climate of recent years, where turbans are inaccurately portrayed as the garb of global terror, has increased suspicion and violence against turban-wearing Sikhs especially in the form of hate crimes, down to the youngest members of our society in the form of school bullying.

Harneel Singh shares the tender points of his story because he has been nurtured to a point of strength — perhaps through his mother or father, or perhaps through his friends, or the adults in his life, or perhaps even by nurturing his own self, giving birth to a reflective young man.

The following poem, written for the young men who wear turbans in my life, is to honor all steps in the process of nurturing. This includes the process of negative experiences entering our lives — where it is cold, where it is dark — which provide us an opportunity to nurture others and ourselves.

where ever it is dark

after school i tell my mummy
i don’t want to go back tomorrow
she asks me why

i tell her today in the playground
kids push me punch me kick me
shout POTATO HEAD! RAG HEAD! ALLADIN! OSAMA BIN LADIN!
everything i am not

i throw fists back call them ugly
things too i imagine the bullies
as yellow toothed neon green eyed gorillas
like the ones in my closet at night

my cheeks burn my heart thumps
i am MAD i didn’t start this! i am just one
no one listens when i yell STOP IT! LEAVE ME ALONE!
i want to hide in a tent made of my sky blue bed sheets
i wish for a galactic force field
but no hands shield my head
when the bullies rip my
patka off my head

there is no superman
on this playground not even pretend
not sammy who i swing with
everyday on the monkey-bars
or alberto who swaps strawberry jelly sandwiches
with me in the cafeteria
not jenny who i tell knock-knock jokes with on the bus
not even the adults who patrol the playground
with whistles and detention slips to the principal’s office
so everyone might follow the rules

after bloody noses bruises scratches
after we are trees pulled out of the ground
a pile of mud surrounding us
our teacher mrs. jones sits us down
why did you punch back she asks
the teacher pulls me out of the ground some more

inside i am not a tree
inside i am a match
like the ones my daddy warns me not to play with
an orange blue fire on a stick of arms and legs
which grows short in two seconds
burning my insides too fast

i go home and cry and cry
i tell my mummy everything
mummy wraps her arms around my shoulders tells
me she loves me with her eyes
she unwraps my joora lets loose
my long hair runs her fingers through

mummy whispers your hair
is the night sky your hair
is the universe she combs
my kes with a kanga
twists my hair firm on top of my head
a galaxy you carry high mummy says
she takes the square patka
angles the cloth like a diamond
sets the patka on my scalp
ties it tight

mummy tells me this patka crowns you
one day you will wear a turban
cloth as long as the seven oceans
the full span of the earth
will rest on your head

be brave young prince
like Sahibzaadas Zorawar Singh Fateh Singh

when bullies big as kings
threaten them for carrying the universe on their heads
when bullies locked them
three nights in the cold in the dark
they raised their chins high no tears
they turned their fists to hearts
practiced the ways of the lion prince
with questions and conversation

mummy kisses
my cheeks i kiss her back

i tell her i will go back
to school tomorrow i will be
a shooting star prince
bright and brave
where ever it is cold
where ever it is dark

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate my own mother and I celebrate the nurturing spirit which we can each inculcate by sharing the stories of our lives, our own janam sakhis, our own birth stories.


Preeti KaurPreeti Kaur is an American of the Sikh faith living in San Joaquin Valley, California. You can read more of her poetry at The World I Stitch.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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How can we not post this awesome sight from our home state of Minnesota?
discoverynews:

A great pic of northern lights from Tumblr Campbench who writes:
ONE of the photos I snapped this evening. It started around 9:30pm (central time) but died soon after. It started up again around midnight and set the sky on fire. I have never before seen the lights this bright and this moving! “Waves” of what I can assume were electro-magnetic in origin would pulsate across the sky. It was definitely one of the most awesome experiences with nature I have ever had (and well worth the frostbite)!Taken on Lake Superior, Duluth, MN.
I will post more photos to my blog when I get the chance.
(Update: also, check out the Campbench Tumblr. There are more great pics there and more to come later!)

And, on a more somber note, shortly before this wondrous event took place the #1-ranked team in the MN Boys’ State Hockey Tournament, Duluth East, was upset by the unseeded Lakeville South Cougars with a 3-2 victory in the Class 2A quarterfinals. Fireworks of a different sort.
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

How can we not post this awesome sight from our home state of Minnesota?

discoverynews:

A great pic of northern lights from Tumblr Campbench who writes:

ONE of the photos I snapped this evening. It started around 9:30pm (central time) but died soon after. It started up again around midnight and set the sky on fire. I have never before seen the lights this bright and this moving! “Waves” of what I can assume were electro-magnetic in origin would pulsate across the sky. It was definitely one of the most awesome experiences with nature I have ever had (and well worth the frostbite)!
Taken on Lake Superior, Duluth, MN.

I will post more photos to my blog when I get the chance.

(Update: also, check out the Campbench Tumblr. There are more great pics there and more to come later!)

And, on a more somber note, shortly before this wondrous event took place the #1-ranked team in the MN Boys’ State Hockey Tournament, Duluth East, was upset by the unseeded Lakeville South Cougars with a 3-2 victory in the Class 2A quarterfinals. Fireworks of a different sort.

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Walking in Olympia

by Brent Colby, guest contributor

I work and live in Olympia, Washington and love my city. I decided to take a walk on my lunch break and took my camera along.

POE

Phone Booth Tag

Construction Glass

Side Maple

Oly Plate


Brent Colby lives in Olympia, Washington and writes on leadership and culture on his blog.

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Apatheists, Spirituality, and Health

by Eric Nelson, guest contributor

Graphic: Percentage of Fewer Reported Mental Health Issues for Those Who Strongly Believe That:Source: Baylor University Department of Sociology

Although we’ve known each other for over 30 years, I can count on half-a-hand the number of times my best friend and I have discussed religion. Ask me to describe his interest in spiritual matters on a scale of 1 to 10 and I’d have to say I don’t really know.

Maybe the best word to describe him is “apatheist,” a term coined by blogger Hemant Mehta, better known as “The Friendly Atheist.”

Apatheists or “So Whats,” to borrow a phrase from USA Today religion writer, Cathy Lynn Grossman, aren’t necessarily people who don’t believe in God. They’re just not particularly interested in exploring the subject further.

Many reasons are given as to why, but the bottom line is that a lot folks are simply giving up on the search for ultimate meaning. Forty-four percent of those who participated in a recent Baylor University Religion Survey said they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom.” Nineteen percent said, “It’s useless to search for meaning.”

That’s too bad, especially since there’s so much evidence to the contrary from people who have found that meaning and purpose and spiritual inspiration actually animates and empowers their life. But acknowledging this spiritual dimension does even more. It has a positive effect on health.

Just ask medical researcher, Gail Ironson.

Dr. Ironson conducted a study to determine the relationship between spiritual consciousness and the progression of AIDS. She looked at two key factors: viral load, which lets you know how much of the virus is in your body, and immune cells, which work to fend off the AIDS virus. Over a four-year period she noticed that those who were actively cultivating a spiritual outlook had a much lower viral load and maintained immune cells at a noticeably higher rate than those who consciously disavowed such activity.

As promising as this sounds, it may not be enough to get the spiritually apathetic to change course. For some, perhaps even most, it’s going to take a fundamentally different perspective on the underlying concepts of God and religion — a sort of cost-benefit analysis, if you will.

What might inspire such a shift in perspective depends, of course, on the individual involved. Regardless, it’s likely that more could be done on the part of those already engaged in spiritual pursuits in terms of sharing with others the benefits of their quest.

Not the least of which is better health.


Eric NelsonEric Nelson is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. He also works as a Christian Science practitioner, helping those interested in relying solely on the power of prayer for healing.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Do Nothing for Lent and Be Grateful

by Amy Ruth Schacht, guest contributor

Contemplating"Contemplation" (photo: Kasia/Flickr cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

Ash Wednesday is today, inaugurating this year’s season of Lent. Cultural customs dictate “giving something up” for Lent. Without any meaningful or theological reflection, it becomes “giving up for the sake of giving up,” as though the mere act is enough. Is there more to it than just giving us something to talk about and a way to feel good about ourselves?

Perhaps a more faithful practice is to connect an act, or the abstinence from an act, with our longing for God. Give up Facebook, and all that may happen is that other chores fill in that time the way the ocean fills our sandcastle moats; the castle eventually falls, and there’s no trace of our intention left. Give up chocolate, and all that may happen is that we fill our mouths with Skittles or our minds with obsessing about chocolate. Neither connects us with the grace of God, present every moment.

If our intention is to remember our efforts and our strivings cannot save us, it would be better for us to do nothing, and do it often, these six weeks. Stare out the window at creation. Hold a warm cup of tea and sit. Waste an hour doing absolutely nothing. God fills the emptiness that comes. In a culture that measures our worth by the length of our daily accomplishments or the volume of our inbox or how scheduled our days, how countercultural would it be?

To commit to doing nothing. It takes practice to build up the tolerance for non-productivity. Who are we if we are not working? What are we here for if we do nothing? Where is God, and what does the Divine expect for us and from us? What about this invitation for Lent: for a set number of minutes every day, do nothing. It’s more of a sacrifice than we realize, for we are sacrificing what defines us and what gives us life. Perhaps then we will discover the power of grace that comes in every breath.


Amy Ruth SchachtAmy Ruth Schacht is a pastor at Laurel Presbyterian Church in Maryland.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through ourFirst Person Outreach page.

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Desecrated Bodies, Dashed Hopes

by Arezou Rezvani, guest contributor

Splashing water onto tombShia mourners splash water onto a tomb during a traditional burial ritual in Bahrain. (phoot: Al Jazeera English)

When a video of U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters became international headline news last month, national dialogue around the incident centered mostly on its impact on U.S.-brokered peace talks, the safety of military personnel in the region, and the military culture that some argue contributed to the dehumanizing act. Largely absent from mainstream news media coverage, however, was any meaningful attempt to understand how the global Muslim community viewed the desecration of the corpses.

What took place in January was not unique. In 2010 images of a group of U.S. Army soldiers dubbed the “kill team” posing with mutilated Afghan corpses emerged and were eventually published in Rolling Stone magazine. Now, just over a year later, a similar war crime has been committed by American Marines, sparking a fresh but familiar conversation about how the psychology in and around war is not well understood by the American public.

It is indeed an important conversation to be had, particularly if there is any sincere interest in helping the latest and largest wave of U.S. troops that left Iraq in December transition back to civilian life. What is equally important, however, is a discussion around the recurring theme of desecrating the dead in a Muslim country.

In Islam, desecrating enemy corpses was forbidden by the Prophet Muhammad and is regarded today by practicing Muslims as a sin and a crime. The religion also rejects cremation as a proper rite for death as it is believed that the tailbone, which is thought to regenerate the complete human being on the Day of Resurrection, would be destroyed. Another interpretation within Islam condemns any desecration of a corpse on the premise that the resurrected body will appear as it did at the moment of death.

When one considers the funeral rites and regulations in Islam, from the process of washing the body — a step that in itself entails a very particular set of instructions — to the act of shrouding a corpse in white prior to interment, it becomes clear that the rituals associated with the transition between life and death are an integral part of the faith.

The most recent incident of depriving the dead Taliban fighters of that ritual could have been an opportunity to start a dialogue around Muslim religion and culture. Instead, most of the coverage further enabled the American public’s blindness toward the “other.” This disinclination to examine the global consequences of collective ignorance, which in this instance manifested as an indifference toward the desecration of Taliban corpses, only serves to exacerbate tensions between Americans and the broader Muslim world.

American news media have an obligation to offer comprehensive coverage and fine-grained contextualizing of events that the public is not always ready confront. To be sure, debates around whether the incident will prompt another wave of anti-American sentiment in the region, or whether military culture is to blame for the dehumanizing act, makes for good television and two-page spreads in print publications. But ultimately it’s cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue that will help to avert similar future acts of dehumanization and diffuse tensions. Until the news media are willing to create the kind of broad narrative understanding of events that makes such dialogue possible, their tacit enabling of collective ignorance means that they will be complicit in any future acts of dehumanization.


Arezou RezvaniArezou Rezvani is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles, California. Her work appears on NBC Los Angeles and American Public Media’s Marketplace, where she explores themes related to business, religion, and foreign affairs. You can see more of her reporting at Spectrum.

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