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The On Being Project

Belonging to One Another and Taking Back Stolen Time

As you might notice in this week’s Letter from Loring Park, several themes emerge: belonging to one another — whether a partner, a friend, or a stranger — that goes beyond the limitations of language and individuality, and taking back the time that’s being stolen from us — at work and at home. I welcome the chance to hear from you about how these ideas resonate within your own lives. Contact me at [email protected] or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

A Word from Our Columnists

(Wei Han Chen / Flickr / Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)

Sharon Salzberg | The Gut-Wrenching Process of Befriending Ourselves
Lovingkindness is a rigorous and sometimes painful transformation of mind and spirit, Sharon writes. And it’s the first step to cultivating a sense of connection to those around us:

“There’s a meta-level of fear each of us feels in the process of ‘getting real’ with ourselves about what connection actually looks like in our lives. Are we ready for vulnerability? Do we feel willing to see our flaws come up as we become vulnerable around others, and experience them do the same? Are we willing to be open to the idea that others can see our vulnerability, just as we see theirs? Asking these questions — and being willing to answer them with inevitable uncertainty — is part of the process of befriending ourselves.”

(Jack Levinson / Flickr / Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)

Omid Safi | The Trouble with Tolerance
The inadequacy of the word “tolerance” has come up in many of Krista’s interviews over the years (hot tip: Matt Kibbe and Heather McGhee discuss this term with Krista). Omid yearns for new language to help us embody a more loving embrace of our diversity by looking into the word’s etymology:

‘Tolerance’ has a yucky origin. It comes from medieval toxicology and pharmacology. It essentially has to do with how much foreign and poisonous substance a body can ‘tolerate’ before it dies. When we apply this paradigm to a nation, what we are talking about is ultimately that some people get to be the body, the host, and the rest are not even guests, they are parasites. Viruses. Invading, disease-inducing agents of disease.”

(Andrew Fogg / Flickr / Attribution-ShareAlike)

Parker Palmer | It’s a Hard Time To Be a Human

“It’s hard to credit that our little lives, words, and actions can make a difference, but they do.”

So true, Parker. So true.

(Kevin Frayer / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Courtney Martin | Whatever You Do, Stay on the Same Team
There are some weeks when the world is too much. Circumstances seem to conspire against you, as Courtney experienced this week. Paradigms get upended. But, when they do, Courtney argues, lean on your mate.

What We’re Reading and Watching This Week
Wired | The Crisis of Attention Theft
A difficult read on how advertisements steal our attention without our consent: at the gas station, while riding an elevator, or even in restrooms. But, the author wonders, if freedom of thought is a constitutional value, is it being overrun regularly and eroding our democracy?

60 Minutes | What Is “Brainhacking”? Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care
If nothing else, this report should awaken you to the fact that technology companies are competing for your attention by triggering your brain to make you want more. And, in the process, your cortisol levels are skyrocketing. A must watch.

New York Times | You’re Too Busy. You Need a ‘Shultz Hour.’
The psychologist Amos Tversky once said, “You waste years by not being able to waste hours.” David Leonhardt’s op-ed is a call for creating an hour of laziness in your schedule each week — a time when you do absolutely nothing, including listening to music. Simply disengage, and let your mind reclaim itself.

Public Theology Reimagined

(Adam Pretty / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Ian Caldwell | The Good Thief
If you’ve ever dedicated yourself to one activity so completely — whether it be a sport or an instrument or an entrepreneurial endeavor — and fell short and dropped out, Caldwell’s magnificent storytelling may draw out some painful memories and moments of pure joy. Nothing can ever really fill that void. But, after he quit swimming competitively in college, literature — Greek epics and the Gospel of Matthew included — became sources of solace and excitement. And, by way of his two sons, he reenters the pool again after many years away.

“These days I swim side by side with my boys, separated only by a lane rope. When the old feeling returns, that the pool is infinite and the lap endless, I peer through the murk of the next lane and I wait for a glimpse of them.”

Many thanks to Andrew Blauner and the author for letting us reprint this essay from The Good Book, which is now in paperback. It’s excellent.

Our Featured Guest Contributor of the Week

Felina Danalis | The Fresh Air and Sunshine of Resurrection

“Last year, after a protracted journey with breast cancer, the woman who had once been my abuser and had left me at a home for abandoned children died.”

This is how Felina begins her essay. But she doesn’t stop there; she finds a way to engage her mother in “reciprocal forgiveness” and reconnect with her Greek Orthodox tradition. Readers responded to her tender moment and provided a gift, as Felina noted in the comments: “Being witnessed — virtually and in person — is one of the most sacred acts we can share with one another.”

May the wind always be at your back.

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