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Carlo Rovelli offers vast, complex ideas beyond most of our imagining — “quanta,” “grains of space,” “time and the heat of black holes” — and condenses them into spare, beautiful words that render them newly explicable and moving. He is the scientist behind the global bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, and for him, all of reality is interaction — an everyday truth as scientific as it is philosophical and political. This physicist’s way of seeing the world helps make sense of what he calls “the huge wave of happenings” that is the human self.
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What a week! We've had our hands full — writing grant reports, hosting an evening of storytelling with Selected Shorts, editing interviews and essays — and next week Krista will be in Seattle for Citizen University's national conference. It's sold out, but they'll be streaming her conversations on Facebook Live, starting with Annette Gordon-Reed and Titus Kaphar on March 24th. We'll post it on our page, too. Watch with us at 4:30pm Pacific? We're also offering free study guides for Becoming Wise.— adaptable for personal introspection or for gathering together a group of people over six weeks or six months!
What Our Columnists Are Thinking
A Time to Breathe, A Time to Push
When times are darkest, we need not despair but look to those "bright and bold lights," people who serve as beacons of hope. Omid draws our attention to a young Sikh woman, Valarie Kaur, who is helping him look forward:
“I close my eyes and I see the darkness of my grandfather’s cell. And I can feel the spirit of ever rising optimism (in the Sikh tradition ‘Chardi Kala’) within him. So the mother in me asks, ‘What if? What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if this is our country’s great transition?”
Be sure and watch her speech featured at the top of Omid's post. It's quite powerful.
The Grandness of Uncentering Ourselves
Responding to a poem by Robinson Jeffers, Parker reflects on transforming our awe into a sense of stewardship:
"For all my love of the human tribe, I find strange solace in the fact that, in the end, the rocks and weeds and insects will outlast us all. Mother Nature will triumph! But how grand it would be if — with that awareness — we could “uncenter” ourselves as Jeffers challenges us to do. How grand it would be if we could put the largeness of life itself, not our egos, at the center of our attention, care, and active concern."
The Danger of Slipping Into a Restless Helplessness
Courtney is giving voice to an exhaustion welling up in some Americans right now. Hers is a voice of concern over what's happening, and she's exhausted. And yet, despite the overwhelming uncertainty, she offers three lessons on persisting and persevering: passing the baton, gathering with others, and taking the long view.
What We're Reading and Listening To
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Children, Teens, and Suicide Loss
This guide addresses a topic not discussed nearly enough: the young people who are left behind after suicide. The language is accessible and well-written, its tone direct and kind, and it's really well-designed with informative questions and suggestions for healing. Please share far and wide.
Disengagement from organized religion is on the rise across almost all demographic lines. But when it comes to healing political and social tensions, Peter Beinart wonders if secularism could be more deleterious than even the void it's filling. (h/t to Casper ter Kuile, our On Being fellow)
Off The Mat: The Darkest Secret Of Athletes That’s Greater Than Gold
Helen Maroulis is the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. She's tenacious, tough, and unrelenting. But, in this piece, she puts on full display her greatest asset: vulnerability.
"We live in an illusion that champions are fearless, and that any admission to the contrary is defined as weakness. While we need to believe that the extraordinary can happen and glimpses of God exist in our heroes — and believe me, we do — my fear … my deepest fear … is when another seven-year-old girl steps off the mat because feeling afraid isn’t welcomed. Or because hurt isn’t allowed. Advances of young girls in our nation and the sport of wrestling itself cannot afford to see fewer pink socks.
Our Guest Editor of the Week
There’s a stigma that only tough girls wrestle. There’s a stigma that only fearless people win. Yet here I stand in front of you. In front of our country. In front of the world − distinguished by my gold − and by the overwhelming feeling that all of my fears and all of my anxieties in that moment rolled down my body with every tiny bead of sweat, one by one."
The Sweet Confinement of Your Aloneness
Asking radical questions of one's own community can be a challenging exercise, and one that can make a person feel isolated and alone. In the face of this reality, we sometimes need to look to someplace else to find depth and consolation. Shireen found it in the voice of a poet on our podcast:
"Though I know the world is carried by others who raise the torch of a question mark, others few and far who share our passion, it is still largely a very singular path. That is the most difficult thing about being a Muslim reformer — the vast loneliness of it.
From the On Being Archives
When I heard David Whyte’s powerful line on darkness and being truly alive, there was a promise that I wasn’t quite alone in this sweet confinement. Here was this deeply grounded man, oak born of spirit and earth whose voice anchored me in the stillness and peace of a truth I felt so alone in living out."
Getting Revenge and Forgiveness
Krista's conversation with Michael McCullough, director of the Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory at the University of Miami, originally aired in 2008. This interview just might embolden the forgiveness intuition in yourself, as well as calm the revenge instinct too!
"If you’ve been harmed by somebody, you don’t have any choice but to try to forgive it on your own, because the person’s gone, the person’s dead, the person will have nothing to do with you. There’s just no bridge there. But in lots and lots of cases, forgiveness is just a conversation away.
Thank you for all the generous criticisms and lovely affirmations. We welcome your feedback at any time. You can reach me at email@example.com or via Twitter. My handle is @trentgilliss.
There are so many people if you ask them about the hurt that they remember from junior high or high school, what you often find is there was never any conversation back with that person who harmed them. And so the conclusion I’ve come to is in many, many cases if you want forgiveness, if you want to forgive or if you want to be forgiven, you need to go out there and get it for yourself. And the way you go out and get it for yourself is by trying to have the kind of conversation with the person you hurt that you want to have."
May the wind always be at your back.