On Being Blog
One thing we know about our fan base — they (you?) love words, especially poesy. The response to Tess Gallagher’s poem about her time with Thich Nhat Hanh made that clear.
So, in one of Krista’s limited face-to-face interviews (see Shiraz’s post about what a more typical interview looks like), she was regaled by the lilting tongue and picturesque poetry of the late Irish poet John O’Donohue in September. Mr. O’Donohue passed away earlier this year, but his verse lives on.
Colleen crafted a lovely audio slideshow (keep your eye out for her post) of O’Donohue’s recitation of “Beannacht” threaded with phototgraphs of scenic Celtic landscapes taken by several of his dear friends. And, since many of O’Donohue’s recitations won’t make it into the final, produced program, I wanted to offer them up here for download — or, if you prefer a more expedient and organized approach, through our podcast.
All of them are mp3s you can download. Just right-click your mouse and select save as:
A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
A Blessing for One Who Holds Power
For the Pilgrim a Kiss: The Caha River
For the Pilgrim a Kiss: Between Things
For the Pilgrim a Kiss: Body Language
Since You Came
And, my apologies for all the parenthetical comments. Yowza!
As the newest member of the Speaking of Faith staff (I've been working for the show for almost 3 months now), I'm still navigating the somewhat awkward transition from fan to employee. This week's upcoming show really brought that into relief.
Before I got this job, Whale Songs and Elephant Loves was perhaps my favorite show in the history of SOF. I remember listening to it more than a year ago, in my car, and there was that amazing moment when Krista points out how hard it is for people to really understand that their lives affect the survival of animals half-way around the globe. And Katy Payne gets very quiet and almost whispers, "Here we are on the radio; our task is to make this real. This planet, this planet is the only place where we have this kind of life. Let's not blow it." That just knocked me out. It seems so obvious, but when she states it that way I can't help but marvel at the idea. This planet is the only place where we have this kind of life.
Flash forward about a year, and it's now my job to get in contact with Katy Payne to find out if we need to update anything for the rebroadcast of the show. I dial her number, listen to it ring, and then suddenly that distinctive voice, somehow fragile and strong at the same time, is coming through my telephone. I tell her who I am and why I'm calling and she answers my questions, and I'm aware the whole time of how strangely small the world is, that a year ago I was marveling at the words over the radio of this woman who's spent her life listening to whales and elephants, and now I've called her up and she's listening to me. I'm almost surprised to find out she's real. I thank her and say goodbye and she says, "Well, thank you. I loved that show. I think I'll celebrate by listening to it again myself."
Photo of Katy Payne from Poptech.org
Most of the interviews Krista does with her guests are remote interviews, meaning that we’re here in our studios while our guest is in another studio in another city. We connect through the magic of technology using a broadcast-quality line. From Studio P at American Public Media, Krista interviews Steve Waldman, founder of Beliefnet, on some of the themes in his new book, Founding Faith. We’re hoping to get this show turned around pretty quick because of a trip to San Diego some of the gang is embarking upon next week. More to come about that later.
Here’s Krista cozying up to the microphone. She usually listens to her guest with her eyes closed—no distractions.
American Public Media engineer extraordinaire Josh checks the mixing board as Krista and Steve Waldman chit-chat before the interview.
Rob (left) is about to give away the ending of Deadwood, Season 1, to Mitch, who says, “La la la, I can’t hear you!” Colleen is clearly sad about coming to the end of The Sopranos. The back of Josh’s head is lustrous! All this as we wait for technicians on the other end of the line to finish their setup.
Whenever I was on the plane heading to Washington, my wife was kind of looking through… actually some verses in her Bible — and she handed her Bible to me. It was Romans 13, verses one through five, and verses four and five were the verses that she told me to read. And, I mean I’m not gonna sit here and quote Scripture or whatever, but if you’re interested in that, those are the verses I read. And I needed to tell the truth.
The verses read:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.
I’ve been really drawn to this idea, brought to our attention by a listener, of the Ultimate Black Belt Test. It’s a very intense 13-month martial-arts training course. This course involves many things, some more traditionally “martial” than others: 1,000 rounds of sparring, 10,000 push-ups, and other grueling physical exercises.
Having taken karate for four years during high school, I still remember doing push-ups on my knuckles until they turned blue and purple. And I don’t mean “really red.” I mean like, “I need medical attention.” For days, I would look at my knuckles in horror at what they had become. I remember getting kicked in the stomach on several occasions, being completely drenched in sweat after rounds and rounds of drills, and wondering during the rest of the week whether I had the stamina or the will to go beyond myself to get that black belt.
As a moody 17-year-old, I decided that I’d had enough. I got to the second level of brown belt, but the black belt (the next belt) would have required another 3-5 years of serious dedication, and I simply didn’t care badly enough.
I was studying a form of martial arts that had been removed from its cultural context, and focused on the techniques of punching, kicking, standing, and other outward physical forms. I suppose I gave up because I didn’t have a core motivation inside me to push me through the training I would need to get to black. I didn’t know why I should care. I was never a very confrontational person, and sparring terrified me.
(Photo by tanueshka)
What fascinates me about the UBBT is how it fills out that inner dimension I never found in karate, which I had taken up purely as exercise. In UBBT, aside from the pain, you have to do things like practice 1,000 acts of kindness, live for a day as a blind person, clean up the environment, and profile your ten living heroes. Some of the UBBT trainees this year are heading to Greensboro, Alabama, to participate in Rural Studio home-building projects. (We had done a show on the Rural Studio a few months ago.) And, yes, that area is known as the Black Belt.
When we think of martial arts, or even military training, we rarely associate it with ethical living. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War regularly finds its place in business training. We’re so conditioned to be aggressive, to fend for ourselves, to fight to get ahead. Maybe that’s the dark side of individualism.
In any case, many martial arts traditions have immense philosophical depth to them that have accrued over centuries. It’s fascinating to me to see a program that encourages the development of the inner self and treats it as seriously as the physical regimen. I don’t plan on delving back into martial arts, but I’m drawn to the story of the UBBT, and it’s something I hope we can explore in some form on
Speaking of FaithOn Being. We’ve talked in the past about having web features, and this might be a topic for such a feature.
Our program on the spirit of play continues to garner attention. This time Krista’s appearance at the New York Public Library with Stuart Brown is the entry point for Robin Marantz Henig’s long-form piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
The program’s trajectory has been a curious one, with a long tail no doubt. I watched the PUSH participants gasp in awe when Stuart Brown showed images of a polar bear and tethered sled dog frolick in the Canadian tundra. The collective sigh amounted to more than an “oh, isn’t that cute” sentiment.
I suggested the topic and Stuart Brown as a potential guest. To my surprise, Krista liked the idea. The idea of play didn’t explicity touch on religion or spirituality, but its implications spoke to the humanity of our nature, as children and now as adults.
We received a healthy number of comments after the radio broadcast/podcast release. And, more unexpectedly, the companion narrated slideshow of animals at play was so successful that it crashed APM’s Web servers. It’s been viewed by more than 2 million people - getting picked up by social recommendation engines such as Digg and by newspaper blogs in Boston and Seattle.
For me, this program is a reminder that one obligation of journalists is to be proxy agents for the public, to stand in and report on events you aren’t able to attend and tell stories that are relevant to your lives. I think we exemplified this, and have inspired other journalists to do so as well.
(photo: Tom Schierlitz for The New York Times)
— said by Kate Moos when discussing how to implement the American Public Media brand more effectively in working with potential guests and media companies