Did I Fail the Writer? Dickinson’s Possibility and Poesy; Parker on the Impossible; A Meditation on Death and Rebirth in India; Surreal Photos from Iran

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 3:50 am

Did I Fail the Writer? Dickinson’s Possibility and Poesy; Parker on the Impossible; A Meditation on Death and Rebirth in India; Surreal Photos from Iran

What can the East Antarctic teach about the emptiness within us? That’s a question I hadn’t even pondered until the writer Jason C. Anthony sent us this lyrical essay and photos of his years spent on this landscape:

“The emptiness is not coated with a single silence. Instead, it is littered with silences, the invisible rags of soundlessness that are blown about by the rough perpetual wind. When the wind stops, absences unfold over the desert snows. When I find myself wrapped up in one, I note that the continent’s blue lid has shut for a while, that things are hesitated, muffled.”

(Jason Anthony.)

The essay itself was over 4,000 words long. I decided to make it into a four-part series: Part I: Arrival, Part II: Absence, Part III: Navigation, and Part IV: Impermanence.

I published it over the course of four days but it didn’t get the attention I was hoping it would. I have to wonder if I made a mistake. Perhaps I should’ve published it as a single, long read instead. What do you think? Give me some advice on this one. My email is tgilliss@onbeing.org; my Twitter handle is @trentgilliss.

By the way, this is just another example of how On Being is a platform for your voices. We’re continually searching for guest contributions: photo essays, commentaries, videos with a personal narrative… you name it.

I happened upon this image while wandering about Tumblr one day. I had to repost, but with Emily Dickinson’s full poem attached. Profound as ever. Jill Beyer from Minneapolis responded on our Facebook page with similar glee:

I love this poem. I recite it whenever situations feel like they’re caving in. Prose is absolute. I dwell in possibility…

More beauty here. Check out these incredible photos from Iranian photographer Hossein Zare. Surreal and majestic, and out of this world.

Our first live event in our new space is sold out, but we’ll be live video streaming it for The Civil Conversations Project. Join us for some rich discussion about science and religion.


With Pope John Paul II’s canonization into sainthood on Sunday, I rifled through our archives to listen to a retrospective we produced in 2005, right after his death. We spoke with some amazing people about his religious legacy and the contradictory impact he made on the Church. Well worth a listen.

(Atul Loke / Panos Pictures for CNN.)

Moni Basu has written this magical narrative about the process of dying in India. Her writing is thoroughly engaging and wonderfully informative. She weaves in a personal narrative that few reporters know how to do so well:

“I’d thought about losing my parents throughout the week as I listened to Shukla talk about dying. Human relationships, he told me, mean little at the end of one’s life. Part of gaining moksha and joining God, he said, is to let go of all earthly desires, including the attachments we have to loved ones.

The concept is difficult for me to grasp, and even more so as I watch Upadhyay and his brothers. The oldest lights a fire inside his father’s mouth for the last time, then the workers on the ghat set the entire pyre alight. It can take four or more hours for the flames to consume the body of an adult man.

I’d never thought much about rebirth or the possibility of moksha when my own father died. But I do now.”

My only beef is the title, “Hotel Death,” which I’m certain the writer had nothing to do with since it doesn’t even come close to evoking the depth of this article. Despite that, an absolute must-read for us Westerners.

Brooklyn residents receive free food as part of a Bowery Mission outreach program. The Christian ministry says it has seen a spike in need since food stamps to low-income families were reduced in November with cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (John Moore / Getty Images.)

This week’s vignette from Parker Palmer focuses on moving forward with the impossible. It contains a wonderful story about a question that vexed him, and, the profound answer returned:

“What you need to understand is this — just because something’s impossible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it!”

(Stefan Klopp / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).)

How about this lovely photo paired with a dose of Dr. Seuss to take you into this Saturday:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

We’ve got ice-out now in Minnesota. I’m heading up north to prime the well and welcome the loons home.

May the wind always be at your back.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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