The On Being Project

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Omid’s 9 Points to Ponder on the Paris Shootings. Remembering John O’Donohue + Merton. The Embodied Act of Burial. Courtney on Social Silence.
Letter from Loring Park

Omid’s 9 Points to Ponder on the Paris Shootings. Remembering John O’Donohue + Merton. The Embodied Act of Burial. Courtney on Social Silence.

What can I say? This week was a somber one. The tragedy of the Paris shootings has cast a pall on the start of 2015. But, out of this flows hope, and a mandate to fill in the gaps, if you will, with a fuller narrative…

“As a person of faith, times like these try my soul. Times like these are precisely when we need to turn to our faith. We turn inward, not because the answers are easy, but because not turning inward is unthinkable in moments of crisis. So let us begin, not with the cartoons at the center of the shootings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, but with the human beings. Let it always be about the human beings.”

I phoned Omid on Wednesday. As an editor, I had called ready to talk business, to ask what he’d write for his Thursday column; I forgot about the human. I forgot about the man whose phone was ringing non-stop, whose email was barraged with requests from news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal asking him to speak on behalf of Muslims.
Omid’s voice was ladened with sadness. His heart was heavy. So we talked, just talked. I listened. And out of this flowed an idea. Giving us 9 points to ponder on the Paris shootings and Charlie Hebdo, Omid invites us to step forward and consider the broader context of what’s at stake and how to process this horrific news.
As someone who has been trying to encourage civil, respectful dialogue that engages difference over these past years, I’d like to make a request: read Omid’s column and then share with three people and discuss.

A man prays during a protest against war in New York City in April, 2011. (Jorge Quinteros / (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).)

As I tweeted out yesterday, Krista’s conversation with Reza Aslan on Islam’s reformation feels even more timely and relevant than two months ago (when we first podcast the episode). I’m sitting with this idea right now:

“That process of reformation, the passing of institutional authority into individual hands, has been, taking place in Islam for a century. Really, since the twilight of the colonial era. … We just look at the Muslim world. We see violence, and we don’t realize that that violence is a direct result of the reformation, not proof that one is needed.”


Thomas Merton at a picnic at Gethsemane in 1967 (The John Jacob Niles Photographic Collection)

Last Sunday marked the seventh anniversary of the late Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue’s death. He insisted on beauty as a human calling and a defining aspect of God. In one of his last interviews before his death in 2008, Krista sat down with him for a captivating interview in which he articulated a Celtic imagination about how the material and the spiritual, the visible and the invisible worlds intertwine in human experience. If you haven’t heard it, you are in for an experience; if you have, you are in for an experience!


(Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).)

Speaking of sages of our age, there are few more influential writers than the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. His writings continue to inspire, mentor, and impact new generations of readers. In this personal essay, “A Friendship, A Love, A Rescue,” Parker Palmer reveals how Merton’s words have been a companion and illumined his path over the past 40 years.

“Imparting hope to others has nothing to do with exhorting or cheering them on. It has everything to do with relationships that honor the soul, encourage the heart, inspire the mind, quicken the step, and heal the wounds we suffer along the way.”

Read and share, my friends.

(Lee Stonehouse / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).)

Have our funeral rituals disengaged us from the embodied act of physically burying the dead? Douglas Danoff submitted this guest essay, “Only Air and Light Remained,” on our own discomfort about death — and how we need to find better ways to reconnect with the lives we lost:

“Our rituals of death let us off the hook. I pinned myself back on.”

This article generated some moving responses on our Facebook page. So worth the time. And, please note, Douglas’ post was an unsolicited submission. I read every one that comes across my desk. Write a commentary, share some of your reporting or a photo essay. Submit your work via a web form or send your work to me directly. My email address is [email protected]. My Twitter handle: @trentgilliss.

A couple reads together under a bridge in Paris, France. (Nastya Shershneva / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).)

“One of my favorite things to do is sit in silence with another human being in the same room.”

So often it’s the quiet moments with someone that cements and deepens a relationship. I can think of no better way to send you off into this week than with Courtney’s column. It’s more than an acknowledgement, it’s a love letter to the pleasure and magic of shared silence that joins us together.
May the wind be at your back.

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