As you walk through life, from time to time while moving throughout your days, you might open a book, meet someone new, find new art, or turn on the radio. In doing so you will occasionally find a voice that reflects something in your own self that you’ve been yearning to say for so long but couldn’t quite find the expression to do so. It’s a moment of complete clarity in which you feel known and understood in the world. You suddenly know your bearings and the ground you stand on just by the articulated and polished mirror that you happened to stumble across.
I once turned on my radio to NPR and found just such a voice hosting the show, On Being. That voice was none other than Krista Tippett. Her capacity to engage with humanity and her obvious ability to be as much a listener as she is a journalist and story-teller captivated me. I saw someone whose passion for understanding the nature of what it is to be human, on the very-most inner level, not only reflected my very own deep seated desires to know my fellow human but articulated it in such a way that it made those desires suddenly all the more tangible.
Understanding that we are known allows us to face who we really are or wish to be. It allows us to take something such as innermost desires and put them into an actionable tangibility or sorts, allowing us to see a clear destination to strive toward.
I started reading Krista’s book, Becoming Wise, soon after I started Project 104. I also had it on audiobook. I vividly remember driving back from a trip, listening to her speak and banging my steering wheel saying “FUCK! YES! THAT!!” In moments like that you almost don’t even know what to do with yourself and the fact that you’ve just found this amazing reflection that gives a voice to so much that you’ve been trying to say or even think. For me, I generally curse with excitement, bang on something nearby, and then breath a huge sigh of relief.
Soon after this, I got on my infrequently used Twitter and publicly asked Krista to be a part of Project 104. I did so for a number of reasons.
One, the reflection that I found for myself within what Krista strives for in her search through the human condition is not dissimilar to patters that I quickly found in doing this project. In short, we all want to be known and understood. That was immediately evident in the answers to the 104 questions. If we’re vulnerable and share ourselves, it gives others permission to as well. We then can all have a greater understanding of ourselves and of others. It doesn’t mean that we will all connect quickly to everyone’s story but no matter what your story, there is someone out there that needs to hear it.
Another reason is that Krista has a reputation and is well known. As surface as that sounds, this is significant. When a person achieves a certain level of celebrity we look at them with a different scope than we do most any other person walking around out in the world. We raise them up and can often even forget that they are just as human as we all are. There is both beauty and target in this. I believe that the influence of someone with such a social status as this, combined with their true honesty and vulnerability has an immense potential to say something profound to those that see them at that status. That something is “You’re okay.”
This isn’t because a known person being vulnerable brings them “back down." It is because a known person… someone that we tell ourselves has it all figured out… doesn’t have problems… doesn’t have stress… doesn’t lose sleep or have to worry about things like the abundance of pet hair on their clothes… …a known person being vulnerable suddenly becomes very human to everyone once again and that display raises everyone else up. That may even be a little unfair but nonetheless true.
Finding reflections in others is sometimes all we need to get through to the next chapter in our lives. No matter how strong-willed, self-loving, walk to the beat of your own drum you are… from time to time it’s nice to know that you’re not alone or sometimes just that you’re not crazy.
As far as my own experience meeting Krista, it’s difficult to put into words, but I’ll try.
Meeting the source of the voice that has not only reflected but put word to so many thoughts, feelings, and emotions around life is no doubt a monumental happening. Actually being able to sit down with Krista in conversation will be a cherished moment that I will never forget.
As amazing and life-giving as you would imagine the conversation to be, and it was, the moments spent with her that I reflect on the most were the small quiet ones.
Taking an intimate portrait is so much more to me than a reflection of a person. It’s also a reflection of myself and even more-so a reflection of the moment of connection that two people share. I take my time. While shooting, I will often lower the camera and look directly at the person sitting in front of me, framing the image to be made in my mind. I often say nothing. It’s quiet and there’s a moment in those few seconds where a still and vulnerable connection happens. It sometimes feels a little uncomfortable and awkward. It can also feel intensely open and of being known in a rare way.
I can feel the expression on my face, and my eyes meet with the eyes in front of me. That moment… when the eyes meet in the quietness of knowing one another… those are the most vivid memories of connection that I hold from taking portraits. Krista is incredibly kind, caring and thoughtful. Just as you would expect. The time she, and her amazing staff so graciously shared, as well as her words are gifts that I cannot begin to express proper gratitude for, but what I’ll think of when I think of my time in her studio will be those small quiet moments where you seem to know another person beyond language and beyond most logic. You know them on your own most inner understanding of what it is to exist as a human.
Love Aimlessly, My Friends
What gets you out of bed every day?
What gets me out of bed every day? That is a very fundamental question. I’m happy to get out of bed every day. I kind of feel like every day is an adventure, and even tough every day generally has a lot of plans in it, at least with the way that my life works now, I’m curious to see what will happen.
It’s come to that over time. Now, I’m much more present to reality and less filled with the illusion that I can or want to control things. Both of my kids are now away, just as of this year. So if you had asked me this question last year when my son was still at home, I would have literally gotten out of bed earlier than I wanted to get out of bed because I had to be up with him and that would have been the most pressing reason.
I think you go through those child-rearing years, and also just stages in a career where you’re getting out of bed to go work. Now, I’m in a more privileged place. I have things to do but I’m more getting out of bed to greet the day.
To date, what is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned?
Boy! These are hard questions. Well, I’ll just say about that question, and you probably already know this, but I think anybody’s answer to it will still vary day-to-day, even though you’re talking about the sweep of a lifetime. I think right now, my answer to that will be related to what I just said. That I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve learned to trust the Universe to hold me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that bad things will happen.
I was just reading Pema Chödrön, the Buddhist teacher on impermanence. I think that’s kind of an idea that even if you adopt it philosophically, it’s hard to internalize. Especially when you’re younger, but her point was that everything is impermanent, and it’s not just about what goes wrong but also about what goes right, and if you just relax into the fact that things are happening and evolving (everything’s always evolving), even the things that are satisfying as much as the things that make you feel wretched. So, I think that I have learned to kind of lean into that rhythm of life. Again, it doesn’t mean that everything is always great but it’s a good way to live. It’s a way of kind of befriending reality. But, it took me over 50 years to get here.
What is love?
You know, I think that’s a simple question in the sense that in my body I have a feeling of what love is. I suspect if any of us were asked that question we would know in that way. That hard part is trying to put it into words. You can’t really. The words are always going to be inadequate.
If I have to put it into words I would say that one of the great joys for me has been really expanding my sense of… not really what love is but all the ways it manifests. I have such a sense of the many different forms of love in my life. Some of them are about deep feeling and passion. Some of them are just about my orientation. They’re about practice. I do think, ultimately, that loving or being loving is action and being rather than emotion. I would say that it’s giving form to the connection and the belonging that is in fact between us. Even with strangers. Even with enemies. It’s finding ways to reach out and make that real. Visible. Tangible. Then we get bigger. Love makes us bigger.
About Krista: Krista is journalist, author, and entrepreneur. She created and hosts the public radio program and podcast On Being. In 2014, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by U.S. President Barack Obama.
56 years old
From Shawnee, Oklahoma
Lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota
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