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The On Being Project

Reckoning and Understanding in the Face of Suffering

The acquittal of police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting of Philando Castile is reverberating through our local community of Minneapolis-St. Paul. It’s a painful and difficult reckoning that’s at hand. Suffering looms large.

A woman holds up a tapestry that says “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol building on June 16, 2017 in St Paul, Minnesota. Protests erupted in Minnesota after Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on all counts in the shooting death of Philando Castile. (Photo by Stephen Maturen / Getty Images )

In addition to our columnists, I’ve been turning to other sources for understanding. I offer up these three for your pondering:

Nautilus | Why Your Brain Hates Other People
Our brains are hard-wired to see the world in terms of us versus them, but the neuroscientist (and mensch) Robert Sapolsky shares some useful guidelines on moving beyond our impulses and making “these dichotomies evaporate.”

HuffPost | Racial Violence On The Anniversary Of The Charleston Massacre
Historian Keisha N. Blain traces the persistent problem of racial violence in the U.S. today and how “we are still living in the shadow of Charleston” one year later.

The Atlantic | The Many Ways to Map the Brain
A fascinating read on mapping the brain through portraiture.

Joe Carter sings in the studios at Minnesota Public Radio. (Photo by Judy Stone-Nunneley / On Being)

Joe Carter | The Legacy of the African-American Spiritual
I also found myself, somewhat unexpectedly, returning to a decade-old interview from our archives. Listening to the late Joe Carter sing and discuss the history of African-American spirituals has been a great comfort — and a reminder of the troubled legacy and great resilience of our country.

A Word from Our Columnists

(Illustration by Vin Ganapathy / Flickr / Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)

Courtney Martin | Reclaiming This Nation Starts With Reclaiming Our Attention

“Obsessing over tweets doesn’t count as civic duty. It’s rubbernecking, not awareness building, and it’s making us feel more disconnected than ever before. Reclaiming this nation starts with reclaiming our attention, our daily media practices, our everyday conversations.”

People tell me time and again that they don’t want to be held captive the news cycles, especially since so much of the media is fixated on President Trump’s tweets. But everyone acknowledges it’s difficult. Courtney writes a refreshing take on how to redirect our attention to what really matters.

(Photo by Gustavo Gomes / Flickr / © All Rights Reserved)

Omid Safi | The Spirituality of the Ordinary Is Luminous
We get so caught up in celebrating the extraordinary, but what about finding awe in the quiet majesty of the daily grind? Omid’s column reminds us that all that glitters is not gold:

“Awe is such a quintessentially marvelous quality of living an enchanted life. Awe, like love, is not even an emotion. It is, above all, a way of being in the world.”

The Civil Conversations Project

(Photo by Christine Tremoulet / Flickr / Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)

David Smith | For the Future of Our Nation, Have Coffee with Someone Who Causes You Outrage

“My newfound intention is to sit in coffee shops, classrooms, and church pews with people whose views make me want to shout, then curb my anger and talk to them.”

A young Evangelical Christian sets a resolution for himself, and for us: to engage deeply and humbly with those on the other side, not with the goal of being right, but to recognize the desire for good that we all share.

While writing this issue of Letter from Loring Park, an attorney (who is also a registered nurse) wrote in to On Being‘s Civil Conversations Project with this observation:

“I have noticed an increase and more of an acceptance of negative destructive conversations. I just want to build on functional, healthy, and interesting conversations. I want to get better, when on a personal level, I am around people who make assumptions and gossip — want to improve how I handle (which is not to handle it). Also, when folks have different opinions than I have as a compassionate Democrat, I want to be able to engage in these conversations in a healthy manner.”

She is asking the essential questions: Who are we to one another? How do I do better? You can reach me at [email protected] or via Twitter at @trentgilliss. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Public Theology Reimagined

(Photo by Ben White / Unsplash / Public Domain Dedication (CC0))

Jordan Denari Duffner | As a Catholic Christian the Qur’an Teaches Me to Acknowledge Creation
Out of the blue, a young Catholic scholar reached out and sent me this lovely reflection for the closing days of Ramadan. And I’m glad Jordan did. She reminds us that we can look to many sources outside one’s own religious canon to find meaning and pay attention to the world before us:

“On walks, I get buried in my Twitter feed. On runs, I get preoccupied with podcasts or phone calls, and miss the lessons God has woven into creation. I distract myself … So, I need the questions that God poses to humanity throughout the Qur’an, asking us why we are often blind to his signs.”

May the wind always be at your back,

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