Can Human Beings Truly Transform?

Can Human Beings Truly Transform?

It was such a delightful surprise to open up The New York Times Book Review and see a full page dedicated to a former podcast guest, Layli Long Soldier, and her first book of poetry, WHEREAS. It’s a spacious and thoughtful review, and it builds on some of the ideas we pursued back in March. You can add our conversation with Layli to your personal playlist using our brand-spankin’ new discovery app, as well as find a crafted list of kindred conversations, including an interview with Sitting Bull’s great grandson, an African-American scholar on the emerging field of “public history,” and an oldie but a goodie with a musician, a theologian, and a translator on patterns of prayer.

Public Theology Reimagined

(NASA / Public Domain Dedication (CC0))

Kate Marvel | We Should Never Have Called It Earth
We asked a NASA climate scientist to write for our ongoing initiative connecting messy human reality with grand religious ideas. To our delight, she agreed and wrote this splendid commentary about how she wrestles with the story of the ocean’s “long slog to equilibrium,” the ease of modern life, and the whispers that continue after we’re gone. In particular, I love this exquisite sentence of hers:

“Before we existed, and after we are gone, the ocean will continue to whisper to the atmosphere.”

Our Weekly Columnists Respond

People gather around the communal dining table.

(Foam / Flickr / Attribution-ShareAlike)

Courtney Martin | I’m Suspicious of Efficiency, and I’m Addicted To It
Obsessed with efficiency, our Friday columnist finds herself in a strange and unexpected place: to get wiser about when efficiency is a good thing and when it saps us of the slow and messy connections that help us learn, grow, and thrive:

“We live in a world that emphasizes efficiency too broadly. We wield it wherever we go — a mindless weapon that we swing around in even the most delicate and organic of situations.”

Vincent Harding

Omid Safi | His Voicemails Were a Kind of Afterlife
Omid’s iPhone died this week… and he didn’t have it backed up. But it wasn’t his photos he was most worried about recovering; rather, it was the precious voice of his beloved mentor, Vincent Harding. But there’s a deep lesson in this, too — on ensuring that our memories are stored in a more enduring place: in the hearts of those who love us.

“How often I have come back to these voicemails over the last three years. I sobbed when he died, and I cherished his words, his voice. They would comfort me. They were my link to a world of justice and love, wisdom and beauty that seemed so urgently needed and yet so far away…Somehow the voicemails were a kind of afterlife. They kept a heart connection not just to his teachings but to something of him. They lingered, even after his death. And they are gone.”

(Ricardo Gomez Angel / Unsplash / Public Domain Dedication (CC0))

Parker Palmer | We Rise Again in Lines of Promised Land
With a loving ode to the land of his ancestors, Parker on the earth from which we all come and to which we all return:

“The rolling Iowa countryside, with its gentle risings and fallings, is alive with feeling for me. Several generations of people I loved — people who gave me life — lived and died on this land.”

Words from the Greater Sphere
Tricycle Magazine | Why Grief Is a Series of Contractions and Expansions
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, a professor and researcher at Arizona State University (and a Zen priest!), on the necessity of “disentegration” so that “reintegration follows.”

Columbia Journalism Review | Joining the Chorus
I wish Albert Camus and Reinhold Niebuhr would’ve corresponded; I can only imagine the richness of such exchanges. A sweeping piece on Camus’ ideas about journalism, justice, and moral development.

The Washington Post | One Surprising Way Money Can Buy Happiness, According to Scientists
I’m a DIYer. Like me, very few people spend their money on hiring services that could save them time. Yet, research shows that people who pay someone to complete time-saving tasks are more satisfied with life.

KALW | A New Way of Thinking About Evolution and Spirituality — Developed Behind Bars
Read or listen to this exploration of Gary Shepherd, a convict serving a life sentence in Arizona, who calls himself a “spiritual scavenger” finding a sense of purpose in many ways.

Vote for Our SXSW Panel?

Can Human Beings Truly Transform?
This is the name of a session Steve Semelsberger of SYPartners is putting together for SXSW. He’s graciously invited On Being to participate in the panel, and part of the discernment process includes community voting. Would you click on the link and “Vote Up” this panel?

May the wind always be at your back,

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is the co-founder 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.

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  • Louis Schmier

    Most of what we feel towards ourselves and others, most of what we think about ourselves and others, is taught to us and learned. Can we transform? Yes. As Zeno is purported to have said, the most essential part of learning is to unlearn our errant thoughts and feelings. So, transforming is as much about unlearning as it is about learning.