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A love poem with a playful title that sounds like an ad from a travel agent unfolds into a poem about choosing to stay at home. Imtiaz Dharker’s husband died in the years between this poem’s setting and its publishing. The poem, too, moves from long lines across the page into shorter and shorter lines. In sensuality, locality, intimacy, and simplicity, this poem is all about the man she loved, and moves from noise to focus: “You Are / Here” its final lines assert.

The life of a sugar worker is the center of this poem: a worker whose body and person bear the imprint of that industry, with its demands and smoke and exhaustion. The worker in question is the poet’s father, and No’u Revilla brings us into a consideration of how he takes pride in work that depleted him, how he needed to find ways to recover from work that exhausted him, how in his body he carries the story of Hawai’i and its indigenous people.

We’re in a time as thick with uncertainty as with possibility. Many of us are still, and again, exhausted — and yet opening, fitfully, to what we’ve learned and have been called to at this moment in the life of the world. Toward nourishing that, the second offering in our new series, The Future of Hope, with social creative Darnell Moore in conversation with filmmaker dream hampton. The influence they wield spans hip-hop to Netflix to the Oscars; from the Movement for Black Lives to Surviving R. Kelly.

It is an honor to enter this tender, intimate conversation between two dear friends. In them we experience a muscular hope in justice oriented toward redemption — and calling out in a spirit of “calling in.”

In a slight change to the normal format, host Pádraig Ó Tuama speaks with the poet Jake Skeets who reads his poem “Daybreak,” a poem combining Diné language with English, a poem rich with observation: of land, of growth, of memory, of place. Land is not just a tool to use for food, nor is it a blank space for human projection. In this poem, Jake Skeets reflects on an ethical engagement with land: an engagement that sees land as itself, not just for its uses.

In a fantastical poem about the future, Tishani Doshi explores the present. She imagines a future where agriculture, forestry, and cultivation are things of the past, distant memories learned by humans existing on other planets, or on intergalactic spaceships. That distant future is reflecting on how it should have learned from the grass, abundant, generous, sustainable. This poem of dystopian magic-realism is more real than magic, offering advice on thriving, while noting the knife-edge of self-destruction so familiar to human behavior.

“I grew up a witness,” Mike Rose wrote, “to the intelligence of the waitress in motion, the reflective welder, the strategy of the guy on the assembly line. This then is something I know: the thought it takes to do physical work.” Mike Rose died in August, yet the particular way he saw the world resonates more than ever before as our debates about the future of school and work only intensify. He argued with care and eloquence that we risk too narrow a view of the way the physical, the human, and the cognitive blend in all kinds of learning and in all kinds of labor. Mike Rose’s intelligence would enlarge our civic imagination on big subjects at the heart of who we are — schooling, social class, and the deepest meaning of vocation.

In a poem considering trees, Jason Allen-Paisant opens up many associations with trees: in a woodland, there’s a dead tree, from which new forms of life are finding sustenance. He, a Black man in the woods, is aware of people looking suspiciously at him. The poem reflects on how trees were used for building the ships of enslavers, who considered countries and people their property. In light of this, he shares a nature poem about all the things that nature holds.

In a short poem recalling a childhood response to grief, Jacob Shores-Argüello brings us into the fantasy world of a child: leaving an ill adult in a hospital bed, he and his cousin take to the mountains, turn magically into bears, and begin tearing holes in the earth for rest while the world continues below. Are they escaping? Or playing with rage? This extraordinary poem is a thing of wonder and survival.

Priya Parker has become the voice of what it means to gather in this world we inhabit now. She is helping remake the “how” of coming together — and more importantly, the “why.” Long before the pandemic, she points out, we had fallen into rote forms for staff meetings, birthday parties, conferences, shared meals. Virtual or physical, this time of regathering offers a threshold we can decide to cross with imagination, purpose, and joy. This is a conversation with so much to walk away from and put immediately into practice.

In a poem of four stanzas, Margaret Atwood traces bread from its growth in bone-nurtured soil, to the warm ovens of baking, to the table, to the mouth of one person, then the hands of someone breaking bread for many. From the cow-dung in the earth to the salt of the hands of the person kneading the bread, this poem is like a meditation on the material reality of what nurtures the body and what nurtures the soul, and is a secular examination of what breaking bread might mean.

One of the great challenges of life is to learn to be alone peaceably, at home in oneself. The pandemic forced many of us inside both physically and emotionally, even if we were not home on our own. We’ve been forced to work out the difference between loneliness and solitude. With teachers across the ages, and drawing on his life from monasticism to marriage, Buddhist writer and scholar Stephen Batchelor teaches how to approach solitude as a graceful and life-giving practice.

An irreverent conversation about hope between journalist Wajahat Ali and theologian Kate Bowler. They speak to this moment we’re in through the friendship they found on the edge of life and death that is cancer — Wajahat through his young daughter; and Kate with a stage 4 diagnosis at the age of 35 that she’s chronicled in a beloved memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved). Their conversation is rich with practical wisdom for facing uncertainty and mortality, losses we did not foresee, and new beginnings we would not have chosen.

This is the first in a new series, The Future of Hope — a beautiful array of voices, former guests on this show, having the conversations they want to be hearing in this time.

Suzanne Simard is the forest ecologist who has proven, beyond doubt, that trees communicate with each other — that a forest is a single organism wired for wisdom and care. Simard found that the processes that make for a high-functioning forest mirror the maps of the human brain that we’re also just now drawing. All of this turns out to be catching up with intelligence long held in aboriginal science. She calls the mature hub trees in a forest “Mother Trees” — parenting, eldering, in a mode of mutuality and reciprocity, modeling what we also know to be true of genuinely flourishing human ecosystems.

This past year has held layers of loss and grief and rupture as well as tectonic shifts of opening and learning and possibility. We walk into a world trying to open up, fitfully, that we must in many ways remake. At On Being, we’re feeling called to walk alongside others listening, asking and leading. So in the year ahead we are going to be bringing a stunning array of voices having the conversations they want to be hearing now. 

We’re calling this series The Future of Hope: Wajahat Ali with Kate Bowler; Darnell Moore with dream hampton; Pico Iyer with Elizabeth Gilbert; Ai-jen Poo with Tarana Burke; plus David Treuer, Claudia Rankine, Brother Guy Consolmagno, Katherine May, and many more.

We’ll begin on Sept. 16. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, or wherever you listen.

We are digging into the archives to celebrate some of the conversations listeners have loved the most and that have shaped this project. Béla Fleck is one of the greatest living banjo players. He’s followed what many experience as this quintessential American roots instrument back to its roots in Africa, and he’s taken it where no banjo has gone before. Abigail Washburn is a celebrated banjo player and singer, both in English and Chinese. These two are partners in music and in life — recovering something ancient and deeply American all at once, bringing both beauty and refreshment to what they play and how they live.

The wonderful writer Luis Alberto Urrea says that a deep truth of our time is that “we miss each other.” He is singularly wise about the deep meaning and the problem of borders. The Mexican-American border, as he likes to say, ran straight through his parents’ Mexican-American marriage and divorce. His works of fiction and non-fiction confuse every dehumanizing caricature of Mexicans — and of U.S. border guards. The possibility of our time, as he lives and witnesses with his writing, is to evolve the old melting pot to the 21st-century richness of “us” — with all the mess and necessary humor required.

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