Ragamala Dance at Northern Spark; The Civic Fabric of Communal Singing; Ehrenreich's Latest; Tikkun Olam Visualized; Melancholy Interrupted; Merton on Joining the Dance
Our weekly roundup of all things curious and inspiring, including a night of communal singing with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, a reflection on Barbara Ehrenreich's mysticism, a young preacher's remembrance of a legend, and a visualization of tikkun olam from artist Anselm Kiefer.
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!
Thursday night we welcomed Tesfa Wondemagegnehu into our Loring Park studios (watch a recording of the live video stream here) to lead a group of 60 friends and listeners in an exercise of communal singing. A 30-year-old African-American man who was born and raised in inner-city Memphis, he was an absolute delight and a commanding presence.
He told compelling personal stories about the power of choral music in his own life and also made a case for why communal singing is a vital part of our civic fabric. He warmed up the crowd with some old familiar standards ("Amazing Grace" being one) and then led the group in singing a Swahili song. He also noted how all of us (especially Minnesotans) can be tough on each other when it comes to singing together — and that we should be more inclusive and patient when folks don't quite hit that right note.
Coming together to sing familiar and unfamiliar music can be beautiful and connective tissue, which very much resonates with our philosophy for The Civil Conversations Project. The act of being with one another and singing a single note of harmony is a moment not to be underestimated.
"What's our next event," you ask? Northern Spark, I say!
"Northern Spark? What's that?" A dusk-to-dawn arts festival in Minneapolis that happens on one night, Saturday, June 14.
We've commissioned the nationally acclaimed Ragamala Dance to perform "Honoring Tagore: Sacred Earth" that night. It'll be an interactive experience inspired by the poetry of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose engagement with nature was a continuous motif in his poetry, his music, and his painting. The performance will integrate dance, ephemeral visual traditions, music, and poetry, and will also include audience participation and discussions on innovation within tradition.
It's free but seating is limited. RSVP and make the trip. Then wander about the rest of the festival; it'll definitely be worth it. Oh, and if you're willing, help us out and volunteer for a two-hour shift. Meet the staff and other folks... and get a free, newly designed On Being t-shirt. ;)
Changing gears. How about this interesting review of Barbara Ehrenreich's new (and first) memoir from Betty M. Bayer of Sightings. A self-described atheist, she leans into the word "mystical" and encourages more cosmic wandering.
And the week wouldn't be complete without some thoughtful reflection from our good friend Parker Palmer. When melancholy begins to set in, he encourages us to stop, take in the world around us, and write some poetry to recall life's aspirations.
When I learned of Vincent Harding's death, I reached out to Lucas Johnson to write a personal narrative about the man whom he affectionately called Uncle Vince. The young preacher and peacemaker remembers the legendary figure and "his gift of sight to help us see ourselves and each other."
On our Tumblr this week, a stunning visualization of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam from German artist Anselm Kiefer. We discovered it by way of a listener, of course, who chooses to remain nameless. Thank you.
"The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life…the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity, and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not. Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds, and join in the general dance."
May the wind always be at your back.