Hey there! If you missed the most recent edition of my weekly On Being newsletter, here’s the blog version of what you might have missed. Catch up right here with Parker Palmer’s advice on the writing life, Sarah Blanton’s “thin places” in Tennessee, a Nigerian novelist’s superb TED Talk on the danger of a single narrative, the cosmic microwaves of the universe’s origins, and so much more. If you’d like to receive it in your email inbox, sign up here.
“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. 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.” ~Desmond Tutu from “A God of Surprises”
I dare not bury the lead since it’s such great news! Parker Palmer is on board. The Quaker elder’s thoughtful vignettes contemplating life, work, and the motion of the world — all paired with a poem and a picture — will grace our site each Wednesday morning. We launch his weekly column with a poetic reminder that trusting the writing process itself will help you dig into your bafflement (and out of a snowy Spring):
“For me, writing is a miraculous process. It’s as miraculous as Spring itself, when buds arise from frozen ground and greenery leafs out from wood that’s hard and unyielding. For 50 years I’ve been writing almost daily. I’m driven not by expertise but by my own bafflement about many things — some of them ‘in here’ and some of them ‘out there.’ Every time I write, I’m surprised by what I discover about myself and/or the world. So I no longer wait until I have a clear idea to start putting words on the page. If I did, I’d never write a word!”
Read on. You’ll be glad you did.
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I am entirely grateful to people who see the world from fresh vantage points. In this guest contribution, Sarah Blanton (a professor of medicine at Emory University by day) offers this brilliant photo essay contemplating the Celtic concept of “thin places,” spaces where the veil between visible and invisible worlds are lifted, and the transforming presence of beauty — all from a quiet lake nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee:
“Being in the presence of a deep, quiet body of water gently surrounded by this wise mountain range pulls me out of the shallow fray of my frantic life to rest in a centered awareness. It is a threshold — a true ‘thin place’.”
Keep on submitting your essays and commentaries, photos and videos. On Being is a space that gives voice to all the curiosity and wonder of the many incredible voices that need to be heard. It’s your platform for being heard.
The width of the observable universe: 92 billion light-years across. As NASA illustrates, the initial moments of our universe’s existence were more dynamic than most anyone could’ve imagined. Gravity played its part. Amazing. Or, as Krista tweeted:
“In the beginning(s), such beauty.”
An excellent TED Talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who speaks so eloquently about the danger of a single narrative. Our lives, our cultures, she says, are composed of many overlapping stories. If we don’t allow for the multiplicity of voices and narratives of a land and a people, then we risk something greater: understanding others, and ourselves.
What a gorgeous piece of music to wake up to: “Gayane’s Adagio” by the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. He’s better known for his frenetic “Sabre Dance”
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