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Image courtesy of UCLA

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Dear friends,

I have been part of many committees and organizations that have worried about who is in the room, and who is not in the room. In Belfast, there may be deep concern that a particular experience attracts much more British-identifying people rather than Irish-identifying people. Such concerns are present in many environments across the globe: in many religious circles, there’s the perennial conversation about “How do we get young people to join us?” In other groups, there’s anxiety about economic class, or gender representation. There’s increasing awareness — I hope — about how majority white structures have participated in establishing a status quo of racial discrimination; some groups are desperate to have more BIPOC people participate, others critique this desire saying that something more fundamental to the power structures of the group needs analysis. 

Such initiatives to make gatherings — of colleagues, volunteers, congregants, politicians — more representative of the diversities and intersectionalities of human experience are important, and our On Being offerings this week all approach this topic through questions of accessibility. 

This week, we are re-airing Krista’s 2010 conversation with the renowned educator Mike Rose. Mike died this summer, leaving behind a lifetime of work that concerned itself with education and accessibility. He’d grown up in a family of Italian migrants. His father became chronically ill, and his mother worked as a waitress for 35 years. Mike had struggled at school himself, but a senior year teacher ignited a fire for reading and learning in him.

Mike Rose concerns himself with the worrisome binary between book learning and practical experience, what’s become codified into categories of “hand-minded” and “abstract-minded.” Such binaries that demean physical work are age-old — the Greeks, for instance, looked down upon physical labor — and today, such attitudes perpetuate systems of exclusion along racial and economic lines. Mike’s book The Mind at Work was a careful study of people at their places of work, troubling the binary thinking that divides intellectual from physical labor. He interviewed his mother and, impressed by her brilliance, reflects on how waitressing displays complex memory work, social interaction, perpetual scanning of the workflow, multiple and simultaneous attention points, and a capacity to prioritize and cluster tasks for efficiency and wellbeing. 

Listening to Mike Rose’s voice in light of his death this summer is a reminder of his lifelong passion for accessibility in education. Notably, it wasn’t just about getting in the door, but about being supported once inside. He praises educators whose office doors were open to him at Loyola University where he’d entered as a struggling probationary student, people who were the “embodiment of knowledge in a relationship” for him, who combined their high expectations of him with the support he needed. These were people who helped cultivate the life of the mind for him, and he is insistent that the life of the mind awakens in all educational experiences, not just those deemed elite. 

Education, for him, is an ethical enterprise, concerned with civic and political realities about equity and participation alongside the usual economic considerations of “will I get a job from this education?” He offers critique to testing that only supports those who are already succeeding and praises some recent changes in the vocational educational sector that are addressing systemic discriminations. This conversation is an honoring of what it means to live a meaningful life, what gratitude means, and how generosity and attention can change a life. 

Monday’s Poetry Unbound episode was Jason Allen-Paisant’s poem “Right Now I’m Standing,” a poem that observes the ecology of a woodland — the growth, decay, the life from decay. The poem considers, too, whose ground such enjoyment and leisure is. A Jamaican poet now living in England, Jason writes in this poem about how he’s confronted with suspicious looks from those who do not see woodland rambles as being something a Black person should do. Access, in this poem, is something that’s been weaponized, and is now being challenged. Tishani Doshi’s sci-fi informed poem “Species” imagines a future where much of what we know today of agriculture, forestry, and wildlife is but a memory. This witty and clever poem fantasizes about a future of diminishment, and uses this fiction to offer insight about today: “We should have learned / from the grass, humble in its abundance, offering food and shelter / wherever it spread.” 

Friends, in all the ways you are participating in your community this week: places that make your involvement easy, or places that put barriers in front of you, we wish for renewed imaginations of power and participation, where community can flourish, and where structures of power are creative and meaningful. 

 

Beir bua, 

Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound

 


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News From the Wisdom App Adventure


The Simple Act of Writing Things Down

This is the third of an occasional FAQ segment from Krista.

Q: “I have been exploring and using On Being Wisdom. I like that it pulls together many of the conversations I have enjoyed/lived. One of my failings is that I cannot seem to persevere on journaling. I sense that it is important yet…” 

We do recommend a simple practice of journaling as a natural companion and anchor to the course experience. If journaling is something you struggle with, or are unfamiliar with, I’ll suggest that you just skip ahead in Hope Is a Muscle to the session with Naomi Shihab Nye – “Rising to Your Best Self” – and see if this can jumpstart or restart your own “simple practice of writing things down.” That, after all, is a demystified definition of journaling. Naomi has pointers on how to begin or structure this practice – three words a day might suffice. And she’s wise about what writing things down works in us. I’ve always thought of journaling as one way to get into conversation with myself and to figure out what is going on inside me. There’s a mystery to this. There’s a power in putting words around something you’ve never put words around before. But it’s also true that you can write something down that you did not know you knew. In herself and her students, Naomi has seen – and I love this language – that writing things down helps us get into a kind of “gracious community” with the many selves that reside, both creatively and uncomfortably, within each of us.

Just as importantly: if you have trouble persisting with journaling, please don’t consider it a failure or be hard on yourself – or conclude that you should give up. We’re treating journaling as a spiritual practice, and so must offer ourselves the same kindness that Sharon Salzberg recommends for meditating: the practice is not in never getting lost in the first place, it is in returning again and again; “healing is in the return.” The act of journaling follows that pattern in my life, though it has been defining and redemptive in fits and starts across many years. There is a natural resistance in each of us, often – the strangeness of the human condition! – to what we most long for and need. Yet when I open my journal again, even after an absence of months or years – I have a sense of homecoming. And it helps. It always, always helps.

I hope these thoughts are helpful – or at least en-couraging – for you.

You can sample three sessions for free from the first course — Hope Is a Muscle — by downloading from the app store on your phone. Become an invested member to access the full content from this and future courses. You can do so directly in the app or through the On Being website, where you can also learn more about our Fair Pricing.

Read Krista’s note about why this project and why now.


This Week at The On Being Project


Our Latest Episode


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On Being with Krista Tippett
Mike Rose
The Deepest Meanings of Intelligence and Vocation

The late educator Mike Rose on what’s possible when the mind comes to life — and when civic life integrates skill and knowledge with human connection.

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Spotify
Our Website

 

Poetry Unbound

Monday
Jason Allen-Paisant 
Right Now I’m Standing

Among trees, a poet considers who has been allowed — and who forbidden — to be in a forest. He urges his readers to claim their leisure among trees.

Friday
Tishani Doshi
Species

From the future, this poem views the past of today — a past that should have learned more from grass than profit, more from generosity than dominance.

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Spotify
Our Website


Event


Reading Rilke: Four Writers’ Journey With Rilke

Sunday, October 10, 2021
3pm CDT / 4pm EDT
Free Online Event

Join Pádraig Ó Tuama and American poet Laura Reece Hogan together with Australian writer Stephanie Dowrick for a conversation about Rilke’s poems, hosted by the award-winning Rilke translator, scholar, and poet Mark S. Burrows. Each will read and talk about poems that have influenced their lives and work, probing what Rilke called “words ripening in the silences.”


In Case You Missed It


Then. Now. Now Then? A Conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye & Pádraig Ó Tuama

Renowned poets Naomi Shihab-Nye & Pádraig Ó Tuama came together on October 3rd to reflect on where we find ourselves as a people and a planet. Hosted by Compassionate San Antonio, and available to view here.

 

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