I’ve been banging on about my love for On Being since the early days of TNF. I got started on the podcast after my wife forwarded me an episode with Devendra Banhart, recorded a few months into the pandemic. Krista Tippett interviewed Banhart as they wondered about a world suddenly transformed, and shared their favourite passages from When Things Fall Apart, “a small book of great beauty” by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön.
That book. Oooof. I’ve bought multiple copies, sending them to friends who I hope will get as much out of it as I have. I’d never have come across it without this podcast, and the initial recommendation. I’ve been a loyal listener ever since. It provides sustenance for the soul. It brings clarity to thoughts rattling around inside, trying to take form, before those rough outlines are coloured in by intimate and vulnerable moments between Tippett and her guest. On how to navigate the world we live in. How to be more human. How to heal, from whatever you’ve been through. How to be kinder to ourselves, and to others. And on what it means to live more fulfilled, purposeful lives.
Discussions with poets, philosophers, artists, thinkers and doers that I’ll carry with me; conversations to crack open your mind and rejuvenate your heart. It’s hard to pick favourites. But I’ll suggest a few of mine:
Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste and The Warmth of Other Suns, on race and the stories that we create as a society.
Ocean Veoung, author and poet, on the possibilities of life.
David Whyte, poet and author, on the power of a beautiful question.
Sharon Salzberg, an author and meditation teacher, on what sustains us
John O’Donohue, the Irish poet, on beauty as a human calling.
If you’re going to start with one episode, go for that last one. It’s the closest you’ll get to giving your ears an hour-long soak in the tub. Just one quote, from dozens:
"I think this is one of the key things in parenting, and the difficulty of raising children in a very, very fast-moving culture: that, again, it’s the difficulty of creating a space where children can actually unfold and where they can be truly accompanied in their journey. Because I think young kids now in adolescence are going through huge question zones that, when we were young, we didn’t go through. And sometimes it’s very lonesome to watch how distant parents feel from them, because of their incapacity to somehow hold conversations with them that really need to happen.”
— John O’Donohue
On Being just wrapped its latest season with US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy. America’s healthcare system may be completely FUBAR, but it’s somewhat of a balm to learn there are kind, compassionate people in the upper echelons of it. Murthy, a father of small children himself, reflects on how fatherhood shaped his attitude towards care, healing, and seeing the untapped potential of the power of love.
“But I just want all of you to know, just as I want my own children to know, just as I remind myself as well, that we are all worthy of love and connection. Even in those moments where we feel that we perhaps aren’t. Even those moments where we feel like we’re the only one who might be struggling. The truth is we are not alone. There are others out there who want what we want. A world that is more connected. A world where we can actually be there for one another. A world that’s actually powered by love. And that is within our grasp. We only have to see it, to name it, and to start taking actions in our day-to-day lives to build that world and reflect those values.”
— Dr. Vivek Murthy
There’s something incredibly intimate about the podcast medium. You invite others directly into your ears, their whispers meeting your private mental spaces, and the places they can transport you, with your undivided attention the sole cost of entry: stories that transport us to new worlds, where strangers become friends, connections span across oceans, and darkness meets light.
That’s one podcast I love. This weekend, I’d love to know one of yours. What it gives you, why it matters, and why other dads might love it—bonus points for those who share a good “entry episode” to get others started.
Fancy something to listen to, but not up for a podcast? Pick your poison: Kings of the Sad Dad movement The National have released their new album, and the NME called it “their best record in a decade.” It features Taylor Swift and Sufjan Stevens; make of that what you will. Or you may prefer spending 3 hours in Madison Square Garden during LCD Soundsystem’s sold-out supposed “last show ever” back in 2011. An album I come back to every few years and am delighted anew. Someone recently told me Murphy & Co are now dad rock. It’s hurt every week since.
I've recently been enjoying How Other Dad's Dad by Hamish Blake. He's a comedic presenter here in Australia but has started a podcast interviewing other dads from his circle about how they look after their kids and finds a few gems about how we can help our kids and one another as you figure out what parenting is all about. Well worth a listen but especially the first episode with Rob Sitch which has some great gems - Kids prefer pools to beaches, they love a buffet breakfast more than anything and a few others
Poetry Unbound got me through the pandemic and kept being a companion. It brought me to On Being, to Pádraig Ó Tuama and his work, and to many, many poems and poets I adore and admire. I guess it also brought me to Substack and to infrequently sharing what I infrequently write.
My favorite episodes are Ocean Vuong's "Seventh Circle of Earth", Layli Long Soldier's "Whereas my eyes land on the shoreline", Matthew Olzmann's "Mountain Dew Commercial", and Ada Limón's "Wonder Woman".