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David Whyte — The Conversational Nature of Reality | On Being
"“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.”

David Whyte is a poet and philosopher who believes in the power of a “beautiful question” amidst the drama of work as well as the drama of life — amidst the ways the two overlap, whether we want them to or not. He shared a deep friendship with the late Irish philosopher John O’Donohue. They were, David Whyte says, like “two bookends.” More recently, he’s written about the consolation, nourishment, and underlying meaning of everyday words."

[via Jack Cheng, who quotes Whyte:
http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2401e4db39bd66a5fbc59aa5f&id=af82d17ec8&e=26ec7d6332

"“The ability to ask beautiful questions, often in very unbeautiful moments, is one of the great disciplines of a human life.”

He continues, “A beautiful question starts to shape your identity as much by asking it as it does by having it answered. And you don’t have to do anything about it, you just have to keep asking, and before you know it, you will find yourself actually shaping a different life, meeting different people, finding conversations that are leading you in those directions that you wouldn’t even have seen before.”"]
questions  questionasking  davidwhyte  2016  johno'donohue  aloneness  learning  small  humanism  identity  askingquestions  onbeing 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Kindness | Academy of American Poets
"Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive."

[via: ““This was a poem that was given to me. I was simple the secretary for the poem. I wrote it down.” —#NaomiShihabNye”
https://twitter.com/onbeing/status/707290833469333504 ]
kindness  poems  naomishihabnye  1995  poetry  onbeing 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Perils of "Stranger Danger" | On Being
"One of the first lessons many of us learn as children is “Don’t talk to strangers.” Not “don’t get into a car with strangers” or “don’t let strangers into your house,” but “don’t talk to strangers.”

As a parent of two young children, I’m sure I’ve said it myself without giving much thought to what I was actually asking of them. Do I really want them to heed that advice? Taken literally, not talking to a stranger means not saying “Hello” or “Happy Holidays.” It means not making eye contact or smiling, body language that could lead to a conversation. It’s the kind of advice that has led us to a place where two people standing in an elevator less than three feet apart will look everywhere but at each other.

We like to say it takes a village, but we’re scared to death of the villagers. And so we erect boundaries around our children and get incensed if people cross them. Scold someone else’s child at your own peril, and keep your unsolicited parenting advice to yourself. The message to our fellow citizens is clear: hands off my child."



"Years ago, a friend of mine took a trip to the Caribbean island of Barbados. She had just boarded a packed city bus when she felt a tugging on her purse. Her fight response kicked into gear; clearly, she was being robbed. She tugged back hard, then saw that the “thief” was a woman in the seat right next to her. On the buses in Barbados, apparently, it is not uncommon for those seated to hold the bags of the people standing, thus relieving their load.

Of course, sometimes you really are being robbed, and some people actually are scary — though it’s worth mentioning that most crimes involving children are committed not by strangers but by people known to the family, and violent crime has plunged in the last few decades.

Teaching kids how to be careful and to exercise intuition when dealing with strangers is essential. But hanging a "no trespassing" sign around their necks only increases our, and their, sense of fear and isolation. Distance is not always safety. Indeed, the opposite might well be true. Americans are lonelier and more depressed than ever before. For the better part of a decade, suicide rates among young people have been steadily increasing. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to cherish every scrap of authentic human connection that comes our way.

So this year I resolve to be a little less cautious instead of more. Rather than bemoan my lack of a village, as I often do, I will take a long, hard look at the boundaries that I put up, and what those boundaries signal to the world. The rewards of letting people in — like watching a perfect stranger enchant my little one with Spanish nursery rhymes or serenade her in Punjabi — are too good to miss."
stangers  strangerdanger  parenting  2016  rikhasharmarani  caution  fear  children  isolation  society  anxiety  onbeing 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Transcript: Pico Iyer — The Art of Stillness | On Being
"MS. TIPPETT: I'm Krista Tippett and this is On Being. Today exploring the “art of stillness” with essayist, novelist, and travel writer Pico Iyer. He began his career as a journalist with Time magazine. He’s now based in a modest, quiet, nearly-technology free home in Japan. He’s written many books and is still often to be found in the pages of publications like The New York Times and Harpers. But he also retreats many times each year to a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur, California. He’s one of our most eloquent translators of 21st Century people’s rediscovery of inner life.

MS. TIPPETT: You know, one interesting thing you've said about living in Japan, in fact, is that it's made you aware of time in a new way. Now, and again, I want to go back because, isn't a true — so in your 20s you left your very successful, exciting life in New York, and you — I think you left to live for a year in a temple in Kyoto, but you didn't end up staying for a year. Is that right?

MR. IYER: Exactly right. [laughs] I stayed for a week, by which time I found a temple in Kyoto is very different from what I’d imagined in midtown Manhattan. But I did move then to a single room on the back streets of Kyoto without even a toilet or a telephone or a bed.

MS. TIPPETT: Oh, OK. All right then. You're absolved. [laughs] But you have written that — so tell me what you learned about time, and perhaps this is still true, because you spent most of your life in Japan. I’m so intrigued because I think time is just such a fascinating concept, and it has all this resonance both in science and in mysticism and — anyway. So…

MR. IYER: Yes. And I think we all know that sensation. We have more and more time saving devices but less and less time, it seems to us.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MR. IYER: And I think when I was a boy, the sense of luxury had to do with a lot of space, maybe having a big house or a huge car. Now I think luxury has to do with having a lot of time. The ultimate luxury now might be just a blank space in the calendar.

MS. TIPPETT: So true. So true.

MR. IYER: And interestingly enough, that's what we crave, I think, so many of us. So when I moved from New York City to rural Japan — so after my year in Kyoto, I essentially moved to a two-room apartment, which is where I still live with my wife and, formally, our two kids. And we don't have a car or a bicycle or a T.V. I can understand it's very simple, but it feels very luxurious.

And one reason is that when I wake up, it seems as if the whole day stretches in front of me like an enormous meadow, which is never a sensation I had when I was in go-go New York City. And I can spend five hours at my desk. And then I can take a walk. And then I can spend one hour reading a book that where, as I read, I can feel myself, I’d say, getting deeper and more attentive and more nuance. It’s like a wonderful conversation. Then I have a chance to take another walk around the neighborhood, and take care of my emails and keep my bosses at bay, and then go and play ping pong, and then spend the evening with my wife. And it seems as if the day has a thousand hours, and that's exactly what I tend not to experience or feel when I'm, for example, today in Los Angeles and moving from place to place. And I suppose it's a trade off. So I gave up financial security, and I gave up the excitements of the big city. But I thought it was worth it in order to have two things, freedom and time. And the biggest luxury I enjoy when I'm in Japan is, as soon as I arrive there, I take off my watch, and I feel I never need to put it on again. And I can soon begin to tell the time by how the light is slanting off our walls at sunrise and when the darkness falls, and I suppose back to a more essential human life.

MS. TIPPETT: And that's about the life you've crafted rather than something in Japanese culture, right?

MR. IYER: It is, but of course, when I left New York City, I could have gone anywhere. And as a writer, I'm lucky. I could do my job anywhere. And I think one reason I went to Japan — it goes back to what you were asking about the institutes of higher skepticism — is that my education had taught me quite well to talk, but I don't think it had taught me to listen. And my schools had taught me quite well to sort of push myself forward in the world, but it never taught me to erase myself. And the virtues of when I got to Japan, finding that I was essentially an illiterate. I can't read — I can't — to this day, I can't read or write Japanese. And I'm at the mercy of things around me. I can't have the illusion that I'm on top of things. Japan was a place that I had a huge amount to learn from, and I'm still learning it."
picoiyer  stillness  japan  time  pace  2015  kristatippett  place  nyc  attention  meditation  california  kyoto  onbeing 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Fr. Greg Boyle — The Calling of Delight: Gangs, Service, and Kinship | On Being
"A Jesuit priest famous for his gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, Fr. Greg Boyle makes winsome connections between service and delight, and compassion and awe. He heads Homeboy Industries, which employs former gang members in a constellation of businesses. This is not work of helping, he says, but of finding kinship. The point of Christian service, as he lives it, is about “our common calling to delight in one another.”"

[On SoundCloud:
edited https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/greg-boyle-the-calling-of-delight-gangs-service-and-kinship
unedited https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/unedited-greg-boyle-with-krista-tippett ]
gregboyle  losangeles  homeboyindustry  interviews  2015  thewhy  compassion  service  religion  humanism  christianity  jesuits  kinship  kristatippett  scars  wounds  delight  burnout  salvation  mentoring  courage  mutualsupport  mutualaid  love  kindness  being  life  living  onbeing 
april 2015 by robertogreco
You’re Not Any Cooler than Jesus or Muhammad | On Being
"“What are you going to do when you grow up?” A torment we pose to children.

“What are you going to do after graduation?” The torment we impose on the most vulnerable of young adults. This insufferable question is one that is posed to my students, and most young people in this country over, and over, and over again.

20- and 21-year olds are confronted with it constantly. “What are you going to do with that major?” “Yeah, but how is that going to help you in the real world?”

I am amused by it, because it assumes that they (and we) are in fact going to grow up. I see a lot of people who have never grown up around me. It is not that they are child-like. They are just… un-grown-up.

Education used to be different. Before education was about acquiring a set of skills, before it was preparation for a job, it was a meditation on the meaning of life and death.

Before education was about being pre-medicine, pre-law, pre-business, it was about becoming human. Education was about becoming. It was a meditation on death, on mortality, and on life. More than that, it was a meditation on living. Living well. Living beautifully.

Education was a meditation on what it means to be human, on knowledge of the self, and our connection to the human community and the natural cosmos.

Now, we expect 21-year olds to figure out their place in this world when most of us supposed adults have no clue where we fit in. We expect them to bring their educational journey to a zenith. We expect them to be applying for jobs, graduate and professional schools, and internships. Many of them are dealing with figuring out the most important romantic relationships they have had in their lives. And we expect them to sort out all of these important decisions at the same time.

How many of us supposed grownups have sorted these things out? And how many of us have negotiated these decisions gracefully and simultaneously? How many of us know who and what we are? Who among us knows the worth of our own soul?

So what do we have to say to the 21-year-old college students, and to the still-not-grown up? Here are a few words of compassion: Relax, my dear. Breathe deeply. You are loved.

The career is what you do in life. But the key question is who you are as a human being.

It doesn’t matter to me who you work for in your life. I wanna know what gives meaning to your living. It doesn’t matter to me where you live. I wanna know what you are living for. It doesn’t matter to me what school you went to. I wanna know what values you are living by, how you are serving the ones who have loved you, and how you are treating the most vulnerable people in your community.

I want you to be generous with yourselves.

I remind my students that Jesus didn’t become Christ till he was 30. And then I tell them: “You ain’t any cooler than Jesus.”

I show them that Siddhārtha Gautama was 35 when he became awakened as The Buddha. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more enlightened then the Buddha.”

I tell them that Muhammad didn’t become the Prophet till he was 40. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more luminous than Muhammad.”

If it took these luminous souls till 30, 35, 40 to sort out what they were going to do with their lives, what makes you think you’re gonna figure it all out by 21? Or 25? For that matter, if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and you still feel like you’ve got some ripening to do, be patient and kind with your own self.

Be patient.
Be generous.
Take it slow…

It’s not about getting “there.”
It’s about the path you are on
And the company you have on the path.

You have immense power and beauty
There is a light within you
That shines bright.

The only way for you to abandon that power
Is to think you have none.

The only way you can hide your light under a bushel
Is to occupy yourself with decisions that are the task of a lifetime.

Breathe,
My friends,
Be kind to one another
And to your own selves
Hold each others’ hands
And let’s walk together
Never alone
No, never alone.

There is a light within you."
omidsafi  2015  education  religion  purpose  onbeing  life  meaningoflife  morality  death  living  well-being 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Mary Oliver — Listening to the World | On Being
"Often quoted, but rarely interviewed, Mary Oliver is one of our greatest and most beloved poets. At 79, she honors us with an intimate conversation on the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing."



"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place in the family of things."

[Spoken: https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/wild-geese-by-mary-oliver ]
maryoliver  onbeing  wisdom  poetry  2015  poems  writing  place  religion  rumi  spirituality  life  living  howwewrite  discipline  creativity  language  process  staugustine  attention  reporting  empathy  fieldguides  clarity  death  god  belief  cancer  kindness  goodness  nature  prayer  loneliness  imagination  geese  animals  slow  posthumanism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Disease of Being Busy | On Being
"In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch."

[via: http://plsj.tumblr.com/post/110573566543/how-is-the-state-of-your-heart-today ]
islam  being  doing  omidsafi  busyness  2015  ratrace  slow  well-being  idleness  onbeing 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — The Inner Life of Rebellion | On Being
"The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. Journalist and entrepreneur Courtney Martin and Quaker wise man Parker Palmer come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change."

[Also here: https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/parker-palmer-and-courtney-martin-the-inner-life-of-rebellion

and in clips

“Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — Learning in Public”
https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/parker-palmer-and-courtney

“Courtney Martin — A New Relationship with Rebellion”
https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/courtney-martin-a-new

“Parker Palmer — Holding the Paradox of Chutzpah and Humility”
https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/parker-palmer-holding-the-paradox-of-chutzpah-and-humility ]
parkerpalmer  courtneymartin  comfort  persistence  rebellion  rebels  humility  burnout  discomfort  2015  depression  sustainability  resilience  mentalhealth  socialchange  savingtheworld  generations  agesegregation  intergenerational  interconnectedness  activism  reflection  service  idealism  privilege  success  efficiency  emotions  learning  howwelearn  piaget  listening  pause  ethics  busyness  resistance  soul  identity  maryoliver  attentiveness  attention  quakers  clinicaldepression  learninginpublic  living  love  flipflopping  mindchanging  malcolmx  victoriasafford  hope  jeanpiaget  onbeing  mindchanges  interconnected  interconnectivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Only Air and Light Remained | On Being
"Two days later, there it was: the giant maw, like a barely calmed volcano — a dark hole, mouth of loamy outcropping. Two large shovels stood vertical, spiked into the mound of earth beside the grave. The family lined up in pairs to take a turn at scooping up a bit of soil and tossing it down the pit, atop the coffin. Some of my older relatives needed assistance.

I was the last to go. My hands immediately registered the heft of the shovel’s thick handle and leaden pan. I pitched all my weight forward to dig in. The shush of blade sliding through soil was punctuated by the tick and rattle of blade hitting pebble and rock. I dropped my shovelful onto the coffin, and it landed with a thump.

I immediately plunged in again. Thump. And again. Thump. And again and again and again and...

One of my aunts called out to me, "It's okay, Doug. Put the shovel down," as if I had lost my senses and taken up a weapon or stepped out onto a window ledge. Maybe I had. I must have made quite a sight, in my charcoal-gray suit and dark-brown derby shoes, driving and shifting furiously, heaving the soil and heaving with sobs.

I continued without breaking rhythm, arms churning, tears streaming down my face. Through my blurred vision, I could make out the two gravediggers stand up bone-straight but hold their discreet distance. This job was mine to do; he was my grandfather. I would not leave it to strangers to complete this portion of his burial.

Funereal rites define themselves largely as a string of successive handoffs and hidings. We enlist undertakers to maneuver our dead and stash the bodies out of view — under sheets, in cloistered preparation rooms, often in shut caskets. Through our proxies, we hinder the flesh’s decay with formaldehyde and methanol, and disguise the skin’s discoloration with dye and thick makeup. Then we have clerics direct our obsequies, whose language will tend to dissemble through euphemism or obscure through foreignness. We conclude with gravediggers (now grave fillers) effecting the ultimate concealment.

Our rituals of death let us off the hook. I pinned myself back on.

Asking others to finalize my grandfather’s interment felt to me like a disavowal of the man Papa had been. By packing him even more tightly within his already sealed coffin, I engaged in an act of closing that levered an odd sort of opening; I acknowledged what we most want to deny.

My act didn’t discomfit my aunt — and many of my other relatives, I learned later — simply because of its refusal to collude in what Knausgaard describes as our “collective act of repression.” It discomfited because of its recognition of the corporeal, as opposed to the conceptual, aspect of death. It is death’s physical side that makes us the most deeply uncomfortable.

Eventually, a cousin of mine — never one to appear outdone — joined me with the second shovel. And soon the mound was gone. Only air and light remained."

[via: https://twitter.com/jonerichall/status/552638605688975362 ]
2015  death  douglasdanoff  burial  funerals  rites  handoffs  hidings  concealment  avoidance  onbeing 
january 2015 by robertogreco

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