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The On Being Project

Image By Jose Fraser
Pema on Powering Down; Omid Joins On Being; Parker Proffers Poetry; Courtney Says Do Not Ask; A Physicist in Fargo

Pema on Powering Down; Omid Joins On Being; Parker Proffers Poetry; Courtney Says Do Not Ask; A Physicist in Fargo

The vividness of the day draws upon the newfound friendships of tomorrow.

In a world of many distractions, Pema Chödrön tells Bill Moyers it may be our own cravings that may be most deleterious to our well-being. An enlightening six minutes with the Buddhist sage on quieting our racing minds and powering down:

“The best spiritual instruction is when you wake up in the morning and say, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen today.’ And then carry that kind of curiosity through your life.”

(Gerben van Heijningen / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).)

I’m pleased to introduce you to On Being‘s newest columnist, Omid Safi. His weekly column will appear each Monday morning on our website. For his inaugural column, the professor and Muslim scholar invokes the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “some are guilty, but all are responsible.” He hearkens back to the prophetic tradition and asks what it means to be morally responsible in a world of ISIS and American empire:

“When you spend your life condemning, there is little time to offer something constructive.”

(Ray Bilcliff / Flickr (CC BY 2.0).)

And, on Wednesday this week, Parker Palmer summoned the words of the marvelous poet W.S. Merwin, who calls us to our mystical connections with the people in front and behind us:

This hour along the valley this light at the end
of summer lengthening as it begins to go
this whisper in the tawny grass this feather floating
in the air this house of half a life or so…

(Jason Ross / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). / )

“How many times have I met a friend’s desperation with what I thought was a truly generous statement? ‘If there is anything I can do, let me know. I’m here for you.'”

There is a place beyond exhaustion, when asking ‘What can I do to help?’ is inadequate, almost burdensome. In “Bone Tired and Ready to Be Bossed Around,” Courtney Martin traces how we can practice the art of generosity by reaching beyond the ease of asking and towards the grit of doing.

I’ll leave you with this humorous story. Krista often teases me about how North Dakota will come up in any conversation I’m part of. (Yes, I’m proud of my roots!) So, of course I’m going to share this great story from Scientific American about Brian Schmidt, an astrophysicist who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for co-discovering dark energy:

“When I won this, my grandma, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, wanted to see it. I was coming around so I decided I’d bring my Nobel Prize. You would think that carrying around a Nobel Prize would be uneventful, and it was uneventful, until I tried to leave Fargo with it, and went through the X-ray machine. I could see they were puzzled. It was in my laptop bag. It’s made of gold, so it absorbs all the X-rays—it’s completely black. And they had never seen anything completely black.

They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’

I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’

They said, ‘What’s in the box?’

I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.

So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’

I said, ‘gold.’

And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’

‘The King of Sweden.’

‘Why did he give this to you?’

‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was
accelerating.’

At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?'”

Cracks me up.

I received some extremely helpful feedback from several readers last week. Thank you. Keep it coming. Reach out to me at [email protected] and on Twitter at @trentgilliss.
May the wind be at your back.

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