Photo by Graeme Law/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0
It's rare that we write or talk about sport here at On Being. Many of you are devoted sports fans; many others are most adamantly not. I saw Dodge's "So God Made a Farmer" commercial aired during the Super Bowl as an opportunity:
Wow. This Super Bowl commercial is a testament to the power of religious language, Paul Harvey, and the dream of America presented through rural imagery.
Donna Longo DiMichele from Cranston, Rhode Island appreciated the God-talk:
"Ha, I thought it was the voice of Bishop Fulton Sheen. Even so, the power of God imagery was lovely. Yet I was disappointed that the sponsor was an automobile maker."
Many, myself included, echoed Donna's sentiment, waxed a bit nostalgic and identified with our farming lineage. Others saw it as blatant manipulation. Bruce Kinney commented:
"Didn't do anything for me. Using a feel-good piece to sell…what, a truck? American consumerism at its worst."
Others took issue with the lack of diversity, big agribusiness, and environmental issues, as John Wolforth from Michigan points out:
"It is obviously nostalgic. I long for days when more people understood the necessity for the connection to the land too, but playing something like this won't bring that back. The 'green revolution' has helped us feed more people, but it also pushed the problem of hunger further from eyes. It turned food into a commodity, another thing to make someone rich, and did extensive damage to the types of farmers that Harvey talks about. And not just American farmers, Ethiopian and Haitian farmers too. I wish this was how farming really worked, but it's not."
Let's keep this discussion going. Read the many good thoughts in the comments section of my blog post and on our Facebook status update. Please, add your own.
On the global front, Harvard University's Ousmane Kane says we can no longer wax nostalgic about Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa. He writes an informative piece on how the wars in Mali shatter illusions about Islam being more peaceful and different in the Sahel than in other parts of the world. It's a worthy read.
Did you see the "sketchnotes" for last week's show with Rami Nashashibi?
What do you get when you pair Courtney Carmody's arresting photo with Margaret Atwood's prose? Jubilation, and hundreds of reblogs and likes:
"Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress…"
The larger excerpt of Ms. Atwood's passage is really wonderful.
This tweet from Krista (@KristaTippett) inspired a lot of folks:
The People Can Make Art - community college prof and students iluminate a Seth Godin story. Love this.
The backstory is that Wick Sloane (@wicksloane), a community college professor in Boston and columnist for Inside Higher Ed, heard Krista's interview with Mr. Godin and shared his own, more cheerful story (and poetry) to "cheer up Krista and Seth":
"I pulled out Walt Whitman's 'I Hear America Singing' as a last resort one day and asked the students to write their own versions, saying only that they may choose a verb other than 'singing.' The results the first time astonished me."
These poems offer hope and optimism to counter feelings of despair we often hear in our public discussions about the youth of today.
Picking up on that message of possibility is Virgil Leigh. The retired-exec-turned woodturner follows his compass to reveal the inner beauty of felled trees in massive, delicate works of art. A gorgeous video and an incredible artist.
Krista is in the process of writing her third book, but I don't think it's proceeding too quickly…
Writing Purgatory: the torturous, unromantic actual act of writing. Like childbirth in how we forget this part, and even willingly repeat.
What are we reading this week? A whole lot. From Slate's John Dickerson (@jdickerson), Krista shared this lecture William Deresiewicz gave to West Point cadets on learning how to be alone with your thoughts:
On leadership and solitude - especially provocative connection between "heart of darkness" and bureaucracy.
And another BBC article from astrophysicist Mario Livio (@mario_livio):
"More like a Bond villain's lair" than a hub of physics - a fun read on one search for Dark Matter.
Losing power in politics often hastens internal change. I tweeted out this Politico report:
As Hispanic immigrants fill conservative churches, the Christian Right becomes a vocal advocate of immigration reform.
And, sometimes history isn't kind:
A heart-wrenching read by Jerome Elam on the atrocities of Ireland's Magdalene Laundries. The Church has obligations…
It's Black History Month. I pay tribute to this marvelous woman whom I didn't know until reading her obituary:
A woman of class + dignity. Essie Mae Washington-Williams, child of famous but secret father Strom Thurmond, dies at 87.
As you move through the next week, Krista offers this advice:
Questions elicit answers in their likeness. It's hard to transcend a simplistic question. It's hard to resist a generous one.
There is something redemptive and life-giving about asking a better question.