On Being Blog
I love this week's program with Kate Braestrup, chaplain to the game warden service in Maine. Simply, her practical theology just makes sense to me — a daily translation of spirituality into caring, useful, deliberate action. And I'm glad we were able to add a Unitarian Universalist voice to the many diverse religious perspectives we delve into, just in the way we like to, exploring that perspective through a person's “lived theology” (Krista Tippett phrase).
This was one of our programs that came together randomly and quickly. Krista saw a reference to Braestrup's memoir a few months back, and she was curious about her story and her journey to Unitarian Universalism. We got a copy of the book, and as I read it I was immediately absorbed by its reality and humor, and by Braestrup's wisdom, searching, compassion, and gutsy movement between grief and hope.
We booked the interview, grateful that our guest was willing to drive almost two hours from her small coastal hometown to Portland, Maine, so we could record her conversation with Krista via ISDN (the best broadcast-quality audio connection possible). Right after the interview, we decided it would be a good balance to the other voices, viewpoints, and topics we've done in recent weeks, so we front-burnered it into production. You've perhaps read other producers' accounts of how some shows take time to find the right voice or precise approach, brewing like sun tea to get the best flavor. Others are like good espresso — best when ground fresh and served immediately. To me, Kate Braestrup is like that fine espresso, giving me a jolt of optimism and inspiration. (Full disclosure: I don't drink coffee, but I was a barista for a short time).
We edited, wrote, listened, edited again, tossed around titles, planned content for the Web site. Mitch took cues from the interview and laid in Cole Porter music, but he wouldn't give in to the "Sweet Home Alabama" reference near the end. And we laughed questioningly at Kate Braestrup's description of a t-shirt one cop wore in a D.C. bar crammed with law enforcement officers — words I'm sure have never before been uttered on a Speaking of Faith program. Not suitable for radio, so you'll have to listen to the unedited interview to hear them.
I exit this program with a new appreciation for the work of law enforcement officers of all kinds who are theologians in their own way, as Braestrup describes:
"Law enforcement officers, like all human beings, are presented with grand questions about life's meaning and purpose. They consider the problem of evil, the suffering of innocents, the relationships between justice and mercy, power and responsiblity, spirit and flesh. They ponder the impenetrable mystery of death. Cops, in short, think about the same theological issues seminary students research, discuss, argue, and write papers about, but a cop's work lends immediacy and urgency to such questions. Apart from my familiarity with and affinity for police culture, I was sure working with cops would take me right up to where the theological rubber meets the road."
Each day I read the e-mails you send us about how you experience the work we do here. Some days, when the inbox is flooded with generic promotional materials for authors who have published books like The Bad Breath Bible, it can feel a chore. More often, however, I am inspired by the very personal messages you send about this program (both its finest points and its flaws).
The e-mails that include moving personal stories, or that articulate the value of the show in a way none of us ever could, shoot around our inboxes with messages attached like, “Nice reflection on something we’ve been thinking about,” or “So good to get this now,” on a day when things aren’t going so hot.
The point is, having the chance to read your e-mails has completely changed my attitude toward making contact with the people who produce the content of our culture. I’ve learned that authors aren’t as far removed as they feel when I hold their books in my hands. Musicians want to know how people respond to their work. Artists are looking for signs of the impact they have. Any chef is grateful if you send word to the kitchen that you particularly enjoyed something she made.
Because you taught me this, I recently wrote to one of my favorite authors (who lately became a staff writer at The New Yorker) to say how much she has impacted my life, how grateful I am for her work, and congratulations on her latest achievement. Within hours, she wrote me back to say I made her day.
So thanks for all your thanks. Your messages have taught me in a new way that showing gratitude matters, that it can inspire work and create joy. I look forward each day to knowing what you think.
(photo: Medico Maceti/flickr)
We called out for your suggestions for the five-word acceptance speech at the Webby Awards. We received hundreds of suggestions on the blog and via e-mail. I had a few favorites — some slightly brash (“Two are better than one.”), others literate (“Our barbaric yawp was heard.”), and a few wise ones (“Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens”).
In the end, I was challenged by a trusted friend to practice what I preach to Krista and our staff: disclose and reveal. The Webbys are a tad irreverent, and, being a bit of a showman who aims to please the crowd, I opted for a humorous, somewhat ironic five words — knowing the sequencing progression from our 2005 win helped.
To be honest, I became a tad anxious after I delivered it, worrying that Krista or some of you might take offense. Thankfully, she was gracious upon my return; hopefully you will be too. I’d love to hear your comments.
The video above was taken with a digital phone and uploaded directly to our Vimeo account. As you can see, our table was only 20-odd rounders to the right of Stephen Colbert, David Byrne, will.i.am, and other celebs. “Just a bit outside…” (to quote Bob Ueker in Major League).
A couple of interesting items as we approach the show on languages, in which we speak to novelist David Treuer about his efforts at the revitalization of Ojibwe.
- American Indians work to preserve their languages (The Guardian, UK)
- Harper ‘sorry’ for native residential schools (The Toronto Star)
- Local language recognition angers French academy (The Guardian, UK)
Katherine Marshall, who has spent three decades in international development, sounds like a really interesting voice. Later this week, she’ll be co-moderating a panel in Washington with Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals. It’s a meeting of American Evangelicals and Moroccan Muslims who are both concerned about global warming. I introduced myself and she says she’s got tons of stories. I’d love to hear more about this Moroccan thing. Anyway, out to lunch now.