Kumbaya Resurrection; Church on a Rocky Mountain High; Mary Oliver Prompts a Question; Are You Caftan-Ready; Loon-y Tunes; Breath and the Retreat

Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 4:26am
Kumbaya Resurrection; Church on a Rocky Mountain High; Mary Oliver Prompts a Question; Are You Caftan-Ready; Loon-y Tunes; Breath and the Retreat

The best of the week — including night music from Minnesota loons, our Webby speech, a cheeky take on summer fashion, unexpected advice on trusting one's creative instincts, and a profound story from a late civil rights veteran.

Commentary by:
Trent Gilliss (@TrentGilliss),  Executive Editor / Chief Content Officer for On Being
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Each week I write a weekly column trying to capture and replay a tiny bit of the incredible conversations and efforts taking place behind the scenes at On Being. Sometimes it's a listener's response on our Facebook page or a gorgeous photo on Instagram, but it's often intriguing. If you'd like to receive my column in your email inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

"Kumbaya. 'Come by here my Lord. Somebody's missing Lord. Come by here.'"

There moments from behind the glass that stop us dead in our tracks. These are times when a wise voice creates a new opportunity to hear something differently, to challenge a conceit, to place us in a position of profundity. Dr. Vincent Harding did this; he tells the story of Kumbaya. I'll never reference this word in the pejorative again.

St. Malo Chapel on the Rock.

Credit: Trent Gilliss

Postcard from the Rockies: St. Malo Chapel on the Rock.

As I was driving through the back roads of Colorado, this devastatingly unexpected sight appeared. Long’s Peak is the backdrop. The caretaker — a rough, craggy older man from Iowa and as good as they come — spent 20 minutes with me, sharing stories and memories about how it came into being. This used to be a boys camp built by an Italian priest in the 1930s; now it's a retreat center. Pope John Paul II visited and hiked here in 1993. Last autumn, flash floods wiped out everything in the valley, but the church held firm. Long may it stand.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art academic building is seen in Manhattan's Cooper Square in New York City. The modern glass and steel building with concave facade was designed by architect Thom Mayne of the Los Angeles-based Morphosis and is heralded as one of Manhattan's newest architectural marvels.

Credit: Mario Tama License: Getty Images.

In last week's newsletter, I asked for some advice on what you'd like to see us improve. One reader, Howard Maple, responded with this pithy quotation from the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne:

"You can't make anything authentic by asking people what they want because they don't know what they want. That's what they're looking at you for."

I appreciate Mr. Maple's honesty and reminder to trust one's creative instincts while paying attention. The onus is on us.

A picturesque scene of a lake at sunset

Credit: Sergey Norin License: Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
"Every wisdom tradition I know urges us to cultivate active awareness of our mortality — because keeping that simple reality before our eyes enhances our appreciation of life, even when things get tough. It also increases the odds that we will come to some new resolve about how we want to live."

In Parker Palmer's weekly Wednesday vignette, he offers a Mary Oliver poem and asks us to ponder a simple question: "How, then, shall I live?" It's rhetorical I realize, but how might you answer if pressed?

Early morning loons fishing together in the fog.

Credit: Steve Wall License: Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Postcard from Minnesota: The loons of Lake Washburn say good night. Listen.

Credit: Jamelah E. License: Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Diane Winston sent me an essay from a young journalist she's been teaching at USC. Melissah Yang shares this lovely reflection on the power of the human encounter — and how a joyous monk in Pune, India taught her the art of mastering the hong and the sau:

"I wasn’t alone in my inability to breathe like a monk. The meditation made me realize that real breathing is actually very difficult to master. So easily do we take for granted our body’s respiratory system that keeps us moving — and living."

I've had the joy of accepting two Webby Awards and delivering the five-word acceptance speech. So this year I sent our associate producer Mariah Helgeson to accept on our behalf. Here's the five words she chose, courtesy of one of our readers.

We have 20 spots open for today's event (May 29th). RSVP and join us in our new space.

Credit: Véronique Hyland License: New York Magazine.

Lest we take ourselves too seriously, a bit of humor for this weekend. Veronique Hyland writes a clever piece, which is really a commentary, for New York Magazine on how to get your body caftan-ready for summer. I'm pursuing this trend with vigor. *grin*

Good advice. Have you got other words of wisdom or ideas for improvement? Send me an email at tgilliss@onbeing.org or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.

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Trent Gilliss is the driving editorial and creative force behind On Being. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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Having read and listened late last night to Krista and Dr. Harding engage and share about the Kumbaya moments, it was very touching to pause this early morning and gaze at the moment of singing and see the unity and prayer in your photo. Thanks.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Joanna, so nice of you to say. I'm glad you found some depth in this pairing!

This is a wonderful compilation of image and reflection. Thanks for the morning inspiration! Yes to Tom Maynes' quote... the journey to discover the wisdom of our own inner authority is a sacred one!

Trent Gilliss's picture

You are most welcome, Stephen. Yes, that Thom Mayne quotation is a beauty.

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