Kumbaya Resurrection; Church on a Rocky Mountain High; Mary Oliver Prompts a Question; Are You Caftan-Ready; Loon-y Tunes; Breath and the Retreat
Each week I write a weekly column trying to capture and replay a tiny bit of the incredible conversations and efforts taking place behind the scenes at On Being. Sometimes it’s a listener’s response on our Facebook page or a gorgeous photo on Instagram, but it’s often intriguing. If you’d like to receive my column in your email inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!
“Kumbaya. ‘Come by here my Lord. Somebody’s missing Lord. Come by here.'”
There moments from behind the glass that stop us dead in our tracks. These are times when a wise voice creates a new opportunity to hear something differently, to challenge a conceit, to place us in a position of profundity. Dr. Vincent Harding did this; he tells the story of Kumbaya. I’ll never reference this word in the pejorative again.
As I was driving through the back roads of Colorado, this devastatingly unexpected sight appeared. Long’s Peak is the backdrop. The caretaker — a rough, craggy older man from Iowa and as good as they come — spent 20 minutes with me, sharing stories and memories about how it came into being. This used to be a boys camp built by an Italian priest in the 1930s; now it’s a retreat center. Pope John Paul II visited and hiked here in 1993. Last autumn, flash floods wiped out everything in the valley, but the church held firm. Long may it stand.
In last week’s newsletter, I asked for some advice on what you’d like to see us improve. One reader, Howard Maple, responded with this pithy quotation from the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne:
“You can’t make anything authentic by asking people what they want because they don’t know what they want. That’s what they’re looking at you for.”
I appreciate Mr. Maple’s honesty and reminder to trust one’s creative instincts while paying attention. The onus is on us.
“Every wisdom tradition I know urges us to cultivate active awareness of our mortality — because keeping that simple reality before our eyes enhances our appreciation of life, even when things get tough. It also increases the odds that we will come to some new resolve about how we want to live.”
In Parker Palmer’s weekly Wednesday vignette, he offers a Mary Oliver poem and asks us to ponder a simple question: “How, then, shall I live?” It’s rhetorical I realize, but how might you answer if pressed?
Postcard from Minnesota: The loons of Lake Washburn say good night. Listen.
Diane Winston sent me an essay from a young journalist she’s been teaching at USC. Melissah Yang shares this lovely reflection on the power of the human encounter — and how a joyous monk in Pune, India taught her the art of mastering the hong and the sau:
“I wasn’t alone in my inability to breathe like a monk. The meditation made me realize that real breathing is actually very difficult to master. So easily do we take for granted our body’s respiratory system that keeps us moving — and living.”
I’ve had the joy of accepting two Webby Awards and delivering the five-word acceptance speech. So this year I sent our associate producer Mariah Helgeson to accept on our behalf. Here’s the five words she chose, courtesy of one of our readers.
We have 20 spots open for today’s event (May 29th). RSVP and join us in our new space.
Lest we take ourselves too seriously, a bit of humor for this weekend. Veronique Hyland writes a clever piece, which is really a commentary, for New York Magazine on how to get your body caftan-ready for summer. I’m pursuing this trend with vigor. *grin*
May the wind always be at your back.