“When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”
Unrest in Baton Rouge
“Our bodies run with ink dark blood. / Blood pools in the pavement’s seams. // Is it strange to say love is a language / Few practice, but all, or near all speak? // Even the men in black armor, the ones / Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else // Are they so buffered against, if not love’s blade / Sizing up the heart’s familiar meat? // We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat. / Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean. // Love: naked almost in the everlasting street, / Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze.”
Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith
‘Love is a language/Few practice, but all, or near all speak’
”…it’s about caring for our shared world, lest we let it sleep away through inattention and neglect. […] The active threats to that world have multiplied many times over. There’s a new urgency about paying attention and responding to what we see. The Powers that Be are intent on ‘disappearing’ so much that million of Americans care about—pristine wilderness, clean air and water, affordable health care for all, the social safety net, and mutual respect in the midst of diversity.”
Parker Palmer/On Being
What can a person do to help bring back the world?
We have to watch it and then look at a each other.
Together we hold it close and carefully save it, like a bubble that can disappear
Reclaiming this nation starts with reclaiming our attention.
The next time you open up the newspaper or sit down in front of your computer or open an app on your phone to inform yourself about the day’s news, take a moment to set an intention of reading majority non-DT-related news. If you do read a piece related to him, attempt to privilege the information that is about his actions, not his style. When you are in a conversation with someone and it veers down the path of deconstructing something DT has said, intentionally steer it away. Take something you learned while de-prioritizing him and offer it up to your conversation partner. Be part of the solution — highlighting the world around us that has been deeply and poisonously overshadowed by the political climate of the last year and more.
Media obviously has a role to play here, but so do all of us. Our consumption patterns determine what media producers focus on during the next cycle. What we talk about with our friends, neighbors, families all contribute to either feeding or starving this obsession with big politics, as opposed to science, art, our communities, and so much more.
I’m not advocating for disengagement. There’s never been a more important time, at least in my lifespan, for citizens to lean in hard to our duty — to be aware, to be awake, to take action. But obsessing over tweets doesn’t count as civic duty. It’s rubbernecking, not awareness building, and it’s making us feel more disconnected than ever before. Reclaiming this nation starts with reclaiming our attention, our daily media practices, our everyday conversations.”
I sat across the street from my childhood home on the cold curb in the dark and watched the party as if it were a TV on mute. Adults moved in and out of the frame of the big picture window, glasses in hand, laughing, touching one another jovially. The warmth was palpable, even though I was shivering a little bit. It was my parents’ 40th birthday party — a joint blowout to mark the arrival of middle age. Friends brought gag gifts about how “over the hill” they now were and made jokes about their waning eyesight and hearing. I remember, my 10-year-old self thinking they must be getting really old.
I just turned 38. It has been nearly three decades since I sat on that cold curb and watched the merriment inside, trying to wrap my brain around what it all meant. I don’t feel old at all. Some days, in fact, I feel like I’m younger than I’ve ever been — a kind of Benjamin Button, temperamentally speaking. I’ve always been too serious. Aging has helped me lighten up in all kinds of ways. I’m humbled by how hard life can be, how complex. Where I used to jump to judgment, I am now more likely to feel solidarity or sadness. That at the tragic part of the human condition or even wonder. How broken are we, and yet, how beautiful? It boggles the heart.
I want to be one of those people that widens, not narrows, as I age. And yet, as I inch closer and closer to that picture window of my parents, it is the finite nature of life that hits me hardest. Sometimes I will be sitting on the rug in the living room, listening to my youngest daughter pound dominoes (her latest obsession) into our coffee table while my oldest wraps her baby doll in a suffocating number of layers of blankets, my husband banging around in the kitchen making pasta, and time will suddenly halt into a sort of freeze frame profundity. I’ll lose my breath for a second as I think, “Wow, this is it.”
It’s not a sad “this is it.” It’s a happy “this is it.” And yet, it’s interlaced with bafflement — “so really, this is it? These are my daughters? This is my person? This is our house? Huh, amazing.”
The same sort of bafflement creeps into my workday, too. I’ll be hammering away at this keyboard, trying to put a sentence together, and I’ll realize — “Wow, this is it. This is what I do. This is what I am going to contribute to the world in this lifetime.”
I’m not a small town mayor or a nonprofit director or a judge. I’m not a single woman with no children who travels the world investigating war crimes. I’m not a portrait photographer or a chaplain. I’m not a woman who plays the blues harmonica at open mic jazz nights in little clubs in New York City.
Those were all, believe it or not, versions of myself that at one point existed in the future. And then days and decisions accumulated and I kept moving further and further into that future and these women started fading, one by one, from the potential story of my life.
And I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel grief over their disappearance. Even Robert Frost admitted to sadness over his road not traveled, though he was sure he did it right. We are practiced and very convincing at creating the fateful narrative in reverse — everything always happens how it is supposed to. Unless it really doesn’t, in which case we pretend it did anyway. That’s what we do as humans — if we are resilient and adaptive, which most of us are, we tell ourselves the stories we need to hear in order to take the edge off of our mourning at the lives we’ll never lead.
Although… what if we might, in fact, lead them, just not this time around?
My friend Sandy, who is on the other side of 40, recently taught me another adaptation that I am reveling in. She said that after a period of feeling acute sadness over all the versions of herself she would never be — “I’ll never be a Russian painter!” she exclaimed — she decided to throw down for reincarnation. When she has a pang of sadness over a version of herself that likely won’t exist, instead of trying to banish it from her brain as quickly as possible, she delights in it, adding it to her file of “next lifetimes.” While feeling genuinely grateful for all that she is packing into this impossibly little life, she’s also conjuring and collecting these potential future versions of herself. Sandy won’t be a Russian painter tomorrow, but what if she is in another century or two? How is she to know that this is or isn’t possible? How exciting!
I don’t believe in reincarnation, per se, but that’s beside the point. I believe in the magic of what I don’t know, and I don’t know that reincarnation isn’t possible. So I’m starting to build up my portfolio of next lifetimes. I know there is beauty in limitation. And this life, with the husband banging around in the kitchen and my babies stumbling around the living room, this life with the sentences upon sentences — well, it’s a tremendous gift. I feel even more capable of recognizing that when I allow for the possibility that during some other journey, I’ll be an NBA basketball star or a labor organizer or a painter with a giant studio somewhere overlooking the water.
‘Does conversation really matter when our disagreements are so stark and important?’
Better Conversations: A Starter Guide
It seems we are more divided than ever before — unable to speak across the differences we must engage to create the world we want for ourselves and others. We offer this guide as a resource for creating new spaces for listening, conversation, and engagement. We’ve created it as producers, but more as citizens, out of what we’ve learned in over a decade of conversation on On Being.
Words That Matter
And, ask three questions:
What are you feeling?
What is the country that you long for?
As your bravest self, what do you do now?
This guide is intended to help ground and animate a gathering of friends or strangers in a conversation that might take place over weeks or months. Adapt this guide for your group and your intentions, choosing a focus and readings you find meaningful and relevant.
If you have an inner voice telling you that how this country is now is not right, / that these shootings aren’t right, / That racism isn’t right, / That treating immigrants as they are isn’t right, / honor that voice. / It’s your heart reminding you that love is real, that there is a more beautiful way to live. / Nurture this voice, and link it to others. / We are not alone. / We are not bound to live in a starless night. / Love will win. InshaAllah. / It will come into public, as justice.
On Being Staff:
“In response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, we offer this special commentary. President Trump called it “an act of pure evil.” Courtney questions why we use the word “evil” to explain such violence. And, she argues, why we should stop making that moral bargain. I realize this is a complex issue. How do you think through it?”
The Mental Bargain We Make When We Use the Word ‘Evil’
by Courtney E. Martin
“’Evil’ is a cop-out. It distances us from asking hard, important, and specific questions about how this could have been prevented and what each of us can do to save lives — actual human lives — in the future. … If there is evil here, it is complacency, and it is collective.”
I don’t want to make that moral bargain in my brain anymore. I’m not going to call Stephen Paddock “evil,” and I’m not going to sit idly by when anyone else does — whether that person is my president or my neighbor. Not for his sake, but for my own. I refuse to live in a moral world of my own making where mass shootings are inevitable and don’t have anything to do with me. Instead of numbing myself with that powerful little word — “evil” — I’m going to dig into moral and strategic questions like:
Why did Paddock have 23 firearms (including an AR-15-style assault rifle) and hundreds of rounds of ammunition? Why does anyone have 23 firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition?
Why can’t this country agree on common sense gun legislation that would prevent the mass murder of innocent people?
What was Paddock’s mental state? Who knew about it? Why didn’t he have connections with people who were more aware of the dangers of his mental state and capable of getting him help?
Is mental illness on the rise among white men and, if so, why?
What kind of funding goes into addressing the mental health of men like Paddock?
What have I, personally, done in the wake of mass shootings in the past? How can I do something different?
“Evil” is a cop-out. It distances us from asking hard, important, and specific questions about how this could have been prevented and what each of us can do to save lives — actual human lives — in the future.
None of us with the power to vote, organize, and advocate is innocent in a country where this is not only possible, but frequent. Paddock intersected with our health systems, our schools, our gun policies before he put his finger on that trigger. If there is evil here, it is as subtle as you or me, anyone with a beating heart, pointing a finger at one dead man as if the moral responsibility lay only with his cold corpse.
If there is evil here, it is complacency, and it is collective.
“I think what we’re seeing actually is not compassion fatigue, but empathic distress.”
Buoyancy Rather Than Burnout in Our Lives
‘It’s easy to despair at all the bad news and horrific pictures that come at us daily. But Roshi Joan Halifax says this is a form of empathy that works against us. There’s such a thing as pathological altruism. This zen abbot and medical anthropologist has nourishing wisdom as we face suffering in the world.’
[Scott Simon/Peabody Award-winning reporter & host of NPR’s Weekend Edition.]
Today I was researching various websites and periodicals about surviving mass shootings so that I could put some suggestions together for my kids (23 & 21) to consider when they gather in public spaces with larger groups. And then I paused. I realized in that moment what what our country has become for me. Because of the power of the NRA, gun lobbyists, and political greed, guns are more important in the United States than the lives of its people. I heard one television news pundit say in the aftermath of Las Vegas that ‘mass shootings are the price of freedom.’
A most twisted definition of freedom, indeed.
Watching a cable news TV program the day after the massacre, well-known more liberal minded anchors were doing their reporting, standing, situated outside on the Las Vegas strip with the Mandalay Bay hotel/casino positioned behind them. I felt a fear rising within me as I watched them. Not because they were in the Las Vegas aftermath, but because they were exposed, vulnerable, unprotected to the crazed minds who disagree, haters who carry guns in an ‘open carry’ environment. When did this happen? A fear of simply being outside, in a public place, could cause concern for others being harmed, shot, or killed? -dayle
Veteran journalist Tom Brokaw told the TODAY show anchors Monday morning that in the years he reported for the program from 1976-1981, he covered just one mass shooting. With the Las Vegas massacre now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, he suggests the more frequent attacks are a result of radical gun sale changes. “No other Western nation has the number of gun deaths that we have in America, and we need to talk about it.”
Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas
(On the certainty of more shootings.)
by James Follows
No other society allows the massacres to keep happening. Everyone around the world knows this about the United States. It is the worst aspect of the American national identity.
Mass Shootings Don’t Lead to Inaction – – They lead to loosening Gun Restrictions
The most probable policy response to the atrocity in Las Vegas will be new laws allowing more guns to be carried into more places.
by David Frum
The five years since a gunman killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, have seen one of the most intense bursts of gun legislation in U.S. history—almost all of it intended to ensure that more guns can be carried into more places.
Since Newtown, more than two dozen states have expanded the right to carry into previously unknown places: bars, churches, schools, college campuses, and so on. The most ambitious of these laws was adopted in Georgia in April 2014. Among other provisions, it allowed guns to be carried into airports right up to the federal TSA checkpoint.
AXIOS: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and speechwriter for President Reagan, on “Morning Joe”: “There is a sense that society is collapsing — the culture is collapsing. We’re collapsing in crime. The world is collapsing. Crazy people with bad haircuts have nukes. Everything is going bad — terrorism, etc. They want to be fully armed on their hill, at home. … They’re Americans, and they want to go down fighting.”
N.Y. Times columnist Thomas Friedman: “If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim … If only he had shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ before he opened fire … [N]o one would be telling us not to dishonor the victims and “politicize” Paddock’s mass murder by talking about preventive remedies. No, no, no. Then we know what we’d be doing. We’d be scheduling immediate hearings in Congress about the worst domestic terrorism event since 9/11.”
[Vince Gill & Amy Grant pray during a candlelight vigil in Nashville for the victims of the Las Vegas massacre.]
by Roseanne Cash
For the past few decades, the National Rifle Association has increasingly nurtured an alliance with country music artists and their fans. You can see it in “N.R.A. Country,” which promotes the artists who support the philosophical, and perhaps economic, thrall of the N.R.A., with the pernicious tag line “Celebrate the Lifestyle.”
I encourage more artists in country and American roots music to end your silence. It is no longer enough to separate yourself quietly. The laws the N.R.A. would pass are a threat to you, your fans, and to the concerts and festivals we enjoy.
The stakes are too high to not disavow collusion with the N.R.A. Pull apart the threads of patriotism and lax gun laws that it has so subtly and maliciously intertwined. They are not the same.
I know you’ll be bullied for speaking out. This is how they operate. Not everyone will like you for taking a stand. Let it roll off your back. Some people may burn your records or ask for refunds for tickets to your concerts. Whatever. Find the strength of moral conviction, even if it comes with a price tag, which it will. Don’t let them bully you into silence. That’s where their power lies — in the silence of rational voices and in the apathy of those who can speak truth to power.
This is a moment in American history that can’t be met with silence. According to PolitiFact, from 2005 to 2015, some 300,000 people were killed by gun violence. That’s roughly the population of Pittsburgh. The grief that extends through the affected families is endless.
Those of us who make our living in “the tower of song,” as Leonard Cohen so eloquently put it, must let our voices ring out.
We can’t survive in a constant state of agitation.
by Sharon Salzberg
When a change in law or policy harms us, we may feel powerless and discarded, unworthy of love. Experiencing that helps us empathize with the suffering of others. We may feel heartbroken when we see people so battered by circumstances and lack of opportunity that they feel that they have nowhere to turn. And we may feel a deep love for the planet, and recent actions to discredit climate change might be the cause of our anxiety.
In that way love presents itself as risk, as it often does when you love another. The love you feel causes you to care deeply and when you do, you may take on some of the hurt that your beloved feels. Love can also protect you. It is love that is the point of contact for how much we care about what happens to ourselves as well as those around us.
Finding common ground with others who share our values and taking collective actions that express those strongly held beliefs reminds us of the good in the world and the good in others. If we allow the bad news to be the only news we hear, we may give up the fight, which would be the most debilitating of all actions. The best way to stay engaged is to make a choice when and how to do so — and to do so from a balanced stance of love for ourselves and love for the world, at the nexus where we can draw those two together in actions that connect both.
“Piety is something you do alone,” he says. “True freedom, spirituality, can only be achieved in community.”
On Being with Krista Tippett
“…I was searching for that elusive thing that all of us search for. Most of the time we’re not even conscious of it, but we’re searching for ourselves in an authentic way. We want to recognize the person we see in the mirror, and embrace that person with all the brokenness and lackluster, all the things that only we are aware of in the depths of our being.”
Trying to release the collective heartbreak of the past year and embrace hope; that the kindness and compassion of so many in our country will continue to work and strive within community to overcome the senseless greed, hate and lies that our country’s new leadership is seemingly embracing. I will not give up, or in, but RESIST. And love.
‘And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing…’
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
I see you.
I am here.
[African Bushmen greeting]
‘To have who we are and where we’ve been be seen. For with this simple and direct affirmation, it is possible to claim our own presence, to say, “I Am Here.”
But just as important as bearing witness is the joy with which these bushmen proclaim what they see. It is the joy of first seeing and first knowing. This is a gift of love.
In a culture that erases its humanity, that keeps the act of innocence and beginning invisible, we are sorely in need of being seen with joy, so we can proclaim with equal astonishment that of all the amazing things that could have been or not, We Are Here.
As far back as we can remember, people of the oldest tribes, unencumbered by civilization, have been rejoicing in being on earth together. Not only can we do this for each other, it is essential. For as stars need open space to be seen, as weaves need shore to crest, as dew needs grass to soak into, our vitality depends on how we exclaim and rejoice, “I See you!” I Am Here!”
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
N E W Y E A R ‘ S D A Y
‘We have been given the ability to inititate a new chain of causation. There is but One Mind and we use it. The laws of nature are universal, but our use of them is individual and personal.
Everyting is continually being re-created. Spirit is forever making all things new. Let us confidently affirm the Divine Presence and actually believe that It is guiding us as we consciously bring a problem we are facing into our thought, not as a problem, but as though we were receiving the answer.
I am open to new ideas, new hopes, and new aspirations. This which so recently seemed a problem no longer exists, for the Mind of God, which knows the answer, is quietly flowing through my thought and feeling. Great peace and joy come over me as I accept this answer from the Giver of all Life.’
-Science of Mind
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
“We need senators who have studied physics and representatives who understand ecology.”
‘I wondered if you realized how long is your past, and how much more there is in your future. I remembered a Peanuts cartoon that my family likes. Lucy is saying to Charlie Brown, “On the oceans of the world are many ships, and some of them carry passengers. One of the things the passengers like to do is to sit on the deck and watch the water. Some of the passengers like to face forward, so they can see where they are going, and some like to face backwards, to see where they have been.” And then Lucy asks Charlie, “On the ship of life, which way are you going to place your chair: to see where you are going or to see where you have been?” And Charlie Brown replies, “I can’t seem to get my chair unfolded.’
‘And now, you must turn your chairs to face the future. You are concerned tonight with more than the fate of atoms. You need jobs, admissions to graduate schools, research support; you want a healthy planet, space, choices. Individually, you will be called by many names: spouse, partner, teacher, professor, writer, representative, president, CEO, doctor, judge, regent. Some will be called scientists. For those of you who teach science, I hope that you will welcome, as students, those who do NOT intend to be scientists, as well as those who DO. We need senators who have studied physics and representatives who understand ecology.’
That’s a question the civil rights icon Ruby Sales learned to ask during the days of that movement. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now, but it gets at human dynamics that we are living and reckoning with. At a convening of 20 theologians seeking to reimagine the public good of theology for this century, Ruby Sales unsettles some of what we think we know about the force of religion in civil rights history, and names a “spiritual crisis of white America” as a calling of this time.
When Tiffany Shlain thinks of her favorite quote from naturalist John Muir, she thinks of the internet: “When you tug at a single thing in the universe, you find it’s attached to everything else.” As a filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards — the “Oscars of the internet” — she is committed to reframing technology as an expression of the best of what humanity is capable, with all the complexity that entails. With her young family, she has helped popularize the practice of the “tech shabbat” — 24 unplugged hours each week. Her perspective on our technology-enhanced lives is ultimately a purposeful and enriching one: the internet is our global brain, towards which we can apply all the wisdom we are gaining about the brains in our heads and the character in our lives.
‘Tiffany is the founder of the Webby Awards and a co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. She has directed and co-written 28 films, some with accompanying books, including “The Science of Character,” “Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks,” and the feature-length documentary Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology.’
(Listed by NPR as one of the best commencement speeches ever.)
UC Berkeley’s 2010 Commencement speech calls for Moxie. Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany Shlain is an acclaimed filmmaker, artist, founder of The Webby Awards, co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and a Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute.
‘I hope that we can learn to see that dignity that’s in all of us, that divinity that comes when we organize together, when we meet each other face-to-face, and even sometimes through a chat room — how to tell those stories. How to hold up those moments where we find our agency and our ability to make a change. That’s what I’m looking for. And that’s what I hope, more than anything, to contribute.
Could the growing number of non-religious young people be a force for the renewal of spiritual traditions? How might the internet of the future look utterly different from the internet of now? And what did the Occupy movement really tap into, and what has it become below the radar? With Nathan Schneider, we explore the wisdom of a millennial generation public intellectual on the emerging fabric of human identity.’
is a scholar-in-residence of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is the author of God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. He is a regular columnist for Vice magazine and America, the national Catholic weekly. He is currently co-editing a book on democratic business models for online platforms.
“Let death be what takes us, not a lack of imagination.” As a palliative care physician, Dr. B.J. Miller brings a design sensibility to the matter of living until we die. And he’s largely redesigned his sense of own physical presence after an accident at college left him without both of his legs and part of one arm. He offers a transformative reframing on our imperfect bodies, the ways we move through the world, and all that we don’t control.”
“Social media is a notoriously difficult place to express any of the hard, nuanced stuff in life…”
On Being with Courtney E. Martin
“I think it’s about the way that we so often shroud the creation of things — books, businesses, babies — in mystery. We go public when the website looks perfect, when the book has its endorsements and its authoritative author photo, when the baby has arrived, safe and sound and wrinkly. But that’s not life. That’s respectability.”
“There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.”
‘In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time: how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the “road closed” sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown.”
“Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.” But, Parker J. Palmer wonders, how do we turn the power of suffering toward new life? It depends on our willingness to exercise our hearts so that when suffering strikes, they are suppler and more able to break open to new life.