Learn a New Word; Parker Palmer Reminds Us That Work Doesn’t Define You; Yoga Mom and Child; The Ethics of Lockpicking?

Monday, March 31, 2014 - 10:14 am

Learn a New Word; Parker Palmer Reminds Us That Work Doesn’t Define You; Yoga Mom and Child; The Ethics of Lockpicking?

Hello! If you missed the most recent edition of my weekly On Being newsletter, here’s the blog version to catch you up. A passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson taught us a new word, Parker Palmer and Lynn Ungar reminded us that work doesn’t define you, a sweet mother/daughter yoga team made us smile, a lockpicker got us thinking about ethics, and so much more. If you’d like to receive it in your email inbox, sign up here.

“Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment.”
~Jennifer Michael Hecht
from “Hope for Our Future Selves”

Actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith performs with cellist Joshua Roman on stage at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago.

I learned a new word today: sempiternal. Thank you Ralph Waldo Emerson! A worthy photoquote pairing on living with abandon.

Has the word grace fallen out of favor? After seeing Anna Deavere Smith’s production, “Conversations on Grace,” author Betty M. Bayer offers some insights on how she’s thinking through this question:

“Starting our own conversations about grace may serve to loosen the hardening boundaries between those who call themselves religious and those who call themselves spiritual-but-not-religious (or “None”), redirecting fruitless conversations about values and voting blocs (or political theater) to the art of dwelling here together, in the polis, with grace.”

Sunrise at Camas Prairie Centennial Park and Red Sky. (Charles Knowles / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).)

Looking for a bit of precious? This project of a mother and her four-year-old daughter in various yoga poses will do it for you.

Work can be all-too-consuming. And, we can let it begin to define our sense of self. Parker Palmer, bless his heart, provides that clarion call — with the help of a Lynn Ungar poem:

“I take my work seriously, and I’m sure you do, too. But at age 75, I’m trying to learn (or re-learn) that, in the end, what matters most is not my ability to ‘produce’ but my ability to love…”

And, this week, as Krista returned from what I hear was a brilliant event in Baltimore with WYPR, I was off to Kalamazoo, Michigan at the invitation of The Fetzer Institute and The International Institute for Sustained Dialogue. I’m emboldened to do more with our own Civil Conversations Project after convening with so many energetic, good-hearted folks trying to cultivate more engaged civic spaces. I’m left with questions though: How do we scale this? How can we make this accessible to the many people who aren’t trained facilitators?

Schuyler Towne. Colchester, VT, 2013. (Christina Paige / VQR)

Blatant promotion here. If you haven’t downloaded our free mobile app, you still can. Available for iPhone and Android!

The art installation at DTW pulses with energy. (Trent Gilliss)

There are all types of social contracts we agree to as individuals living in society. I had no idea until I read this incredible interview with a lockpicker in Virginia Quarterly Review that the locks on our front doors were part of that agreement:

“The reason we bother even having locks on our houses is because, a long time ago, we near-​collectively, as a society, both here and in Europe, made an unconscious decision that we were going to treat locks as a social construct more than a mechanical one.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu holds his gift of dried mango while speaking with Krista Tippett. (Trent Gilliss)

If you’re ever in Detroit’s airport, do yourself a favor and make your way to Concourse C. This art tunnel always puts a bounce in my step!

In case you missed it (or need to hear it again), I’ll leave you with these wise words from Desmond Tutu:

“There’s no question about the reality of evil, of injustice, of suffering, but at the center of this existence is a heart beating with love. That you and I and all of us are incredible. I mean, we really are remarkable things. That we are, as a matter of fact, made for goodness.”

And, please, continue submitting your essays and commentaries, photos, and videos. Reading and publishing your many perspectives is an absolute privilege.

I remain open to your suggestions and critiques and kind words. Say hello at tgilliss@onbeing.org, or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.

Share Post


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.

Share Your Reflection