by Krista Tippett, host

» audio-only download (mp3, 51:09)

I’m listening with new ears this week to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s practical approach for calming ourselves, and also being a nourishing presence in the world. Before this interview, I had read and heard of Jon…

Do words have consequences or not? For Palin, it seems, acts of criminality stand alone; yet in the very next sentence she goes on to assert the opposite: that the “journalists and pundits” who want our political rhetoric toned down, and who’ve criticized her image of Rep. Giffords and others caught in the “crosshairs,” are themselves manufacturing a “blood libel” that may well “incite…violence.” So language can manufacture a “blood libel” and incite violence yet she can be so sure that it played no role in motivating a gunman?

Susanna Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College (and daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel) “Palin Cries ‘Blood Libel’: Can Words Harm Us?” | Politics | Religion Dispatches

Tip ‘o’ the hat to Being.

Heschel provides a history lesson, and issues a call to the beloved community.


This podcast was my drive-time listen today. As with so many other installments of Being (née Speaking of Faith), I was absolutely arrested, this time by the lyricism of a particularly Celtic take on divinity and embodiment, spirit and matter. I was so taken by the poetry with which complexities of our humanity rolled off O’Donohue’s tongue, that it made me sad he could no longer be heard in person. To my mind, Anam Cara will be worth a read, and hope that to your ear, O’Donohue will have been worth a listen. Please join the greater conversation, and cultivate an inner landscape.


John O’Donohue’s Ancient Celtic Wisdoms and Modern Longings: A Show of Remembrance

by Krista Tippett, host

John O'Donohue
photo: Will O’Leary

“It’s strange to be here,” John O’Donohue wrote, referring to life. “The mystery never leaves you.” And creating this show has been a lovely, if strange and mysterious, experience.

O’Donohue was an Irish poet and philosopher beloved for his books, including Anam Ċara — Gaelic for “soul friend” — and for his insistence on beauty as a human calling and a defining aspect of God. I sat down with him in the fall of 2007 for a wide-ranging, two-hour conversation. Then just a few months later, before it could go to air, he died in his sleep, suddenly, at the age of 52. And so this hour of conversation (mp3, 51:00) has become a remembrance of him.

We’re putting his lovely, lively, exuberant voice out there in the world, as it touched so many the first time. And he would surely see this as a serendipitous continuation of his life’s work — of bringing ancient Celtic wisdom to modern confusions and longings.

We ended the show with his reading of “Beannacht,” a poem of blessing he wrote for his mother upon the death of his father. A number of listeners who read and loved John O’Donohue’s work have written to us as we began to post this and other poems he read to me during our interview:

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the gray window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

Overlooking Fanore

And we’ve posted our research into the beautiful, essential music for this show — including the style of Gaelic singing called sean-nos and the helpful contributions of an Irish listener from Belfast.

“Music,” John O’Donohue said to me, “is what language would love to be if it could.”


I have a sister in the Hudson Valley, and I have spent some time there. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!


“Hudson River Valley Autumn” Inspired by John O’Donohue

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

For Thanksgiving we’ll be releasing an encore of “The Inner Landscape of Beauty,” which, if I dare say so, is quickly becoming a classic in our program’s portfolio. We’ve received lots of moving responses to our guest’s thoughts and words over the years. And, this week Tom Warren, a listener from Westchester, New York, posted this lovely video on the wall of our Facebook page with the following introduction:

“Krista’s interview with John O’Donohue inspired me to put together a two-minute, video slideshow set to music, celebrating the beauty of autumn, with photographs I took over the last month or so in the Hudson River Valley outside of New York City. I hope you don’t mind my sharing it with the On Being community.”

Of course we don’t mind! And, we’re proud to share it with the rest of our audience who may not check in our Facebook page regularly. We love seeing our productions inspire others to produce new creative works and think or hear or see differently. Thanks Tom!


Are there any Pocket God players out there? What do you think will happen when this comes to Facebook? Will there be some sort of social moral economy? What will this reveal about the character of our culture, particularly in the digital age?


by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Screenshot of Pocket God on Facebook
Screenshot courtesy of Mashable

The popular iPhone gaming app Pocket God, which has sold more than two million units, is making its way to Facebook. What character will this take in a social gaming atmosphere, I can only imagine. But I’m sure my…

Violence pretty much forces a silence on people. When everyone sees a violent act, the first reaction they have to it is, ‘Well, it’s bad and it should stop.’ And then that’s kind of where the brain ends. There’s a lot of moral torture talk…but the ability to turn around and confront, not the torture talk, … but to actually look at the practice, pay attention to it, understand its details, consider what would it take if I took a tool and I did this to such a person, what would its effects be, that’s a pretty horrifying thing. Nobody really wants to go there.

Darius Rejali, from our show “The Long Shadow of Torture”

With new reports of detainee abuse in Iraq emanating from WikiLeaks, we’re going to broadcast/podcast an encore version of Krista’s interview with Rejali in the coming weeks. Rejali argues that, with the right circumstances in place, torture is a likely outcome and that it’s the “situation, not the disposition, that makes people evil.”

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

(via beingblog)

The freedom of limitless possibilities.

“Widening Circles” 
by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows Joanna Macy
» download (mp3, 3:56) 

Joanna Macy reads “Widening Circles” by Rainer Maria Rilke.

I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?

Book of Hours, I 2


Invaded by Connections

Checking to see if my Tumblr queues behaved properly (they didn’t), I spied Speaking of Faith (soon to be Being) at the top of the list of the Tumbloggers I followed. This means there’s a recent post. In it, Trent Gillis, senior editor of one of my favorite podcasts, talks about queuing up The Moth to clean the kitchen. That also happens to be one of my favorite podcasts, and one of the tasks during which I listen to them. Then he goes and throws in Parker Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach, about whom I’m thinking a lot right right now, poised as I am at the top of the snowy hill of a new semester. To top it off, courage was the theme of this morning’s yoga class.

Needless to say, I really identify with Gillis’s sense of being invaded by connections. Like the Winter Warlock in “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” I might complain “I’m so crowded! But at least I’m loved.”


Touch. Solomon on The Moth.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Working for Speaking of Faith (soon-to-be Being) has ruined me. My life is invaded with connections that I otherwise would’ve been oblivious to. So vacations are never completely free of imaginative associations. Nevertheless, I’m thankful. It’s a gift.

A lazy Saturday afternoon. My two boys down for a nap. My wife writing. Me? Cleaning the kitchen. To enliven the mind while performing this domestic simplicity, I cue up a recent edition of The Moth podcast. And who should be the storyteller? Andrew Solomon — a former guest on “The Soul in Depression” who most recently took the stage with Krista at the New York Public Library.

Andrew Solomon on Stage for The MothIn the audio above, he tells the remarkable story of Cambodian woman he met while doing research in that country. He wanted to understand what happens when an entire nation has been subjected to a trauma. This Cambodian woman had survived the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

In a resettlement camp, she started a group to help shattered women refugees rendered lifeless by the horrors of Pol Pot’s regime. As Solomon tells it, she developed three steps to bring these women back to society and help them rediscover their humanity. It’s the third step that struck me and reminded me of a Quaker’s story from 2003:

“‘I would teach them the third thing: which was to perform manicures and pedicures.’ … She said, ‘You know, the worst atrocity of all that was brought by the Khmer Rouge was that half the country turned against the other half of the country. And people who lived through that period knew that they couldn’t put anything in anyone else, and they completely lost the habit of looking anyone else in half in the eye.’

She said and ‘All of these women had been deprived for a long time of any occasion to indulge in the least bit of personal vanity. I brought them to my hut, and I built a special room that I would fill with steam. And it was a pleasure for them to feel beautiful. But what was really amazing for them was that, in this context, it was something that was at once very intimate and very impersonal. And they would start, because I was telling them how to do it and giving them some instruction, to handle each others’ fingers and each others’ toes. And it meant they were touching each other. And if I had told them to begin to hold each others’ hands or to have some kind of physical contact with other people, they would’ve shied away and they would have pulled back. They weren’t ready to do anything with anyone. But, in this context, they would touch each others’ fingers, touch each others’ toes, and then, because it was such a funny context, and because they felt so happy about the fact that they were, for a moment, feeling a little bit beautiful again, they would begin to laugh together. And they would begin to tell each other little bits of stories and things and that was the way that I taught them to trust again.’”

This idea of slowly finding and gently rediscovering one’s humanity through touch is powerful testimony. Testimony I had heard in another story by Parker Palmer, who also appeared in “The Soul in Depression”:

“I’ll just tell that story quickly, because it’s such a great image for me. … There was this one friend who came to me, after asking permission to do so, every afternoon about four o’clock, sat me down in a chair in the living room, took off my shoes and socks and massaged my feet. He hardly ever said anything. He was a Quaker elder. And yet out of his intuitive sense, from time to time would say a very brief word like, ‘I can feel your struggle today,’ or farther down the road, ‘I feel that you’re a little stronger at this moment, and I’m glad for that.’ But beyond that, he would say hardly anything. He would give no advice. He would simply report from time to time what he was sort of intuiting about my condition. Somehow he found the one place in my body, namely the soles of my feet, where I could experience some sort of connection to another human being. And the act of massaging just, you know, in a way that I really don’t have words for, kept me connected with the human race.

What he mainly did for me, of course, was to be willing to be present to me in my suffering. He just hung in with me in this very quiet, very simple, very tactile way. And I’ve never really been able to find the words to fully express my gratitude for that, but I know it made a huge difference. And it became for me a metaphor of the kind of community we need to extend to people who are suffering in this way, which is a community that is neither invasive of the mystery nor evasive of the suffering but is willing to hold people in a space, a sacred space of relationship, where somehow this person who is on the dark side of the moon can get a little confidence that they can come around to the other side.”

If there’s one thing you do this weekend, take 15 minutes and listen to Andrew Solomon’s story. And, then, pay attention. Those connections are waiting for you to be made — and to be shared.

Now that I’m done with the dishes I think I’ll rub my wife’s feet. Well, maybe…


My people, the UUs, are “in focus” on Speaking of Faith.


Unitarian Universalists in Focus

by Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

Earlier this summer, Unitarian Universalists convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota for their General Assembly. The “GA” is an annual event where UUs gather for worship, learning, and fun. We showed up with a video camera in tow to pose a few questions to roughly a dozen “UUs” on the very first night of their gathering:

  • What’s a UU?
  • Why did you decide to attend this year’s General Assembly?
  • How did you become a UU?

We’ve posted shorter video excerpts of people’s candid responses here and here. Now, for the first time, you can watch the fully produced 8-1/2 minute extended remix version that includes all three questions, plus a few other surprises.