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The On Being Project

To Possess and To Pass On: Reflections on Father’s Day and Creative Imagination

What’s given must not be possessed. It must be passed on. I offer up each featured article in this week’s Letter from Loring Park with a spirit of reciprocity, and begin by sharing this photo above of a black bear hanging out by my cabin in the woods of northern Minnesota. To witness these creatures close-up is a breathtaking experience. Likewise, to read the following essays by Kalia and Parker on the extraordinary impact of their fathers instills a sense of hope too.

Two Reflections for This Father’s Day

(Painting by Pang Zong Vang / © All Rights Reserved)

Kao Kalia Yang | My Father Is Not a Powerful Man: Lessons from My Refugee Father

“I told my father that I had not chosen this life, that I wanted something better for myself. My father’s response to me was, ‘Life is going to teach you how strong the human heart is, not of its fragility.’ His perspective has protected me all of my life.”

Like most children, we believe our fathers are all-powerful, all-knowing. They are superhuman. Kalia did too. Through her journey as a young Hmong girl fleeing the mountains of Laos and growing up in America, she learns it’s her father’s poverty and powerlessness that has equipped her with three guiding lessons in life: you can be poor and raise a loving family, your vulnerability is your grace, and you do not have to be powerful to live a powerful story.

(Photo courtesy of Parker J. Palmer / © All Rights Reserved)

Parker Palmer | A Left-Wing Son Celebrates His Republican Dad
Our friend from Madison, Wisconsin writes this loving tribute to his late father, an Eisenhower Republican who rarely said a harsh word, encouraged thrift, and modeled generosity of spirit in public and in private:

“Once upon a time, long ago and far away, there were citizen-leaders of a different stripe. Someday, I pray, they will make a comeback. In the meantime, I’m grateful beyond words to have been raised by one of the best.”

Recommended Reads from the Outside
Ello | Meet Artist Sunjae Lee
Take delight in Seoul-based, Boston-born artist and his traditional Asian brush watercolors. Clean brushstrokes and quiet lines — and an informative interview on how music, martial arts, and science “intermingle.”

The New York Times | Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years. Now They Want in the Game.
Laurie Goodstein’s story lead the front page last Sunday. A remarkable nod to a new and growing movement of faith leaders who are getting more involved in politics and fighting for a “moral center” in America.

A Word from Our Columnists

(Photo by Jewel Samad / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Courtney Martin | In Praise of Play and Idle Time

“Without the socialization or skills to fill our hours with play, there is a danger we will fill it with trouble or, less dramatic but still dangerous, fill it with, well, filler. We ostensibly go to sleep. Instead, when we play, we are awake — open to the full range of life’s pleasure and surprise.”

The global design company IDEO finds that one of the keys to reversing recidivism rates is “positive play.” Not only is it a necessary component of personal growth and a marker of health for children and adults alike, it’s an indispensable part of being human! (Hot tip: listen to our podcast with Stuart Brown on play, spirit, and building character.)

(Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Omid Safi | Our Traditions Are Gems Covered in Centuries of Junk
Religious traditions are not perfect. But, Omid reminds us, it is our responsibility to buff out the hatred and greed, and polish them in order to shine:

“Here’s the challenge we find ourselves in. All of us have to drink from waters that run deep. And we have to also engage and purify the very fountains that we are drinking from. Let us dedicate ourselves to cleansing these ancient fountains.”

And I’d also like to pass on some exciting news! We’ll be deepening our relationship and support of our two current On Being Fellows, Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile, and their work with How We Gather. In this next phase, we’ll be hosting cross-generational gatherings at our Loring Park space in Minneapolis, supporting the Alt*Div learning lab for moral and spiritual leadership, and launching a new cohort of ten On Being Fellows to further strengthen the connective tissue among emerging community leaders who are socially isolated and spiritually unsupported.

Thank you for all the helpful words and critical feedback. It helps us make better radio and smarter newsletters! You can reach me at [email protected] or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back,

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