Friday, February 29, 2008

Simon Cohen, Interview #9

Real People, Real Lives, Real Spirituality...

Name: Simon Cohen
Where you live: London, UK
What you do as a vocation or avocation? Managing Director, global tolerance

Your two favorite books: Paradise Lost by John Milton, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Your two favorite cd's: Supa Funky (Acid Jazz Soul and Old Skool Fun) - My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra - Frank Sinatra
Why you are interested in spirituality? Spirituality is at the heart of love. I am interested in spirituality because I love love.
Your favorite quote: "True happiness lies in not having what you want, but wanting what you have" (author unknown)

Your favorite web sites: (of course!),,

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Patience
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected? At home with people I love, have quick-fired conversation and a glass of wine

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mohit. K. Misra: Interview #8

Name: Mohit K. Misra
Where you live: Pune, India

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Write poetry, spirituality

Your two favorite books: The Book of Mirdad: The Strange Story of a Monastery which was once called the Ark by Mikhail Naimy and The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse

Why you are interested in spirituality? Got enlightened while sailing in the Merchant Navy

Your favorite quote: "The only way you can conquer me is though love and there Iam gladly conquered" -Krishna
Your hero? Guru Nanak, all the saints
A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? All knowledge
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"everywhere

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lucia, Interview #7

Name: Lucia

Where you live: the third world village of rural South Carolina

What you do as a vocation or avocation? I was a professor, distinguished professor actually, of comparative literature, poetics and creative writing for 34 years at a major midwestern university. I am still a writer, though more a sometime writer now than the obsessive writer I was.

Your two favorite books: I think I have at least 22 favorites. Maybe 42 or 102. One of my current favorites is Assia Djebar's Fantasia: An Algerian Calvacade. One of my perennial favorites is Sir Philip Sydney's sonnet sequence, Astrophel and Stella.

Your two favorite cd's: Again, multiple favs. Classical current favorite: Faure's Requiem. Soundtrack: The Mission. Dance (tango): Carlos Gardenal (oooolllld recording), who invented what is now known as tango music.

Why you are interested in spirituality? I am interested in everything regarding the body-mind continuum (entity?), in all things cognitive, particularly in hunches and insights and epiphanies and dreams; and I am interested in all things literary and artistic and in various ways to think about these things, about the forms of human conception/poetics. The spiritual may be such a form, a poetics of insight.

Your favorite quote: Rilke: "Warte." (Wait)

Your favorite web sites: don't have favorites.

Your hero? Either nobody or too many to list one. Perhaps my father, because he was so terrible in so many ways but aged well, after much tragedy and pain, and always had such joie de vivre, even at 91 with everything in the world wrong with him and in such terrible pain, and such love. He taught me a great deal about love, as I did him. Definitely my cousin, an 86 year old child polio victim, who was at Roosevelt's Little White House at Warm Srpings, who was also my high school English teacher, who has endured more suffering with more joy and practical wisdom than anyone I have ever met. Also my high school math teacher for my four years of math.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Well, I would like to learn one. But if I said what it was--could articulate what it was-- I wanted to learn, then I would not trust that I ever learned it. I do not think we are wise enough to project what we need to learn. If we can project that, we have probably either already learned it, or have already unconsciously decided not to. My spiritual lessons have all come at GREAT cost, great loss, great pain, and I would never ask for that willingly in order to learn anything at all.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Anywhere and nowhere. Often in books or writing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kymberly Harris, Interview #6

Name: Kymberly Harris
Where you live: Bloomington, Illinois, USA
What do you do as a vocation or avocation:
Actor, Playwright, Director, Producer/ Artistic Director, Fresh Bread Productions and Theatrescool

Your two favorite books:
Anything by A. M. Homes
Confederacy of Dunces by Jonathon Kennedy Toole
Your two favorite cd's:
Lifeline by Ben Harper
When the Fiona Apple
Why are you interested in spirituality?
I am "interested in spirituality" in the way I am interested in breathing, I live by the creed that spirituality is all I am, all that is important and all that there is of importance to me in the world. While each task requires practicality, intellectuality, rationality, my primary motivation is and always has been the unspoken spaces in between each interaction. I try to listen to my intuition, which is sensed from an invisible, inexplicable source. It is these spaces in between that bring people together, that I try to listen to most often. That is the spiritual realm to me. And while I am an urban person, I believe that the spiritual walks hand in hand with nature.
Your favorite web sites:
Your favorite quote(s):
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” --Nelson Mandella

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.... You have to keep open and aware directly to the urge that motivates you. Keep the channel open."--Martha Graham
A spiritual lesson you'd like to learn:
The lesson I would like to learn is to be able to go to the place inside every day, to find access to this most wise place within in my everyday talks, and to let go of my ego more and more. While I think a healthy ego serves, it can also get in the way of a peaceful state of mind when one is trying to please others too much, or cares too much what one's perception of an external voice, rather than an internal voice, has to say.
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
I went on a spiritual retreat to an all woman monastery in Nauvoo, Illinois, and spent a week alone, reading, writing, and communing with nature, sitting near the water, walking. This was mentally, spiritually, and physically altering to me, which told me loud and clear that I need these moments alone to really go within. I felt very interested in Manhattan as well, there are so many people there, and so many suffering, that it served for me as the great equalizer.
See Kymberly's work in the award winning film Making the Man

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Keith Grogg, Interview #5

Your Name: Keith Grogg

Where you live: Wilmington, NC

What you do as a vocation or avocation?: Presbyterian Minister

Your two favorite books:
At the moment I like all but one page of The World Without Us by Alan Weisman–it’s surprisingly hopeful; there are some solutions available to us, and it strengthens my faith in humankind to know that people are applying skill, reason, and imagination to working on solutions to the problems we as a species have caused and are causing. There are also natural responses that, if we would just let up a little bit, would immeasurably help us as we scramble to try to save ourselves. On that note, Bill Bryson’s book A Short History of Nearly Everything is another one—Bryson never mentions God, faith or religion, and still managed to spark the most powerful, disciplined theological thinking I had done for ages. In fact, if this question were framed as my desert island selections, I would have to take the Bible (New Revised Standard Version), and then any one of Bill Bryson’s travel books. If you’re stuck, alone, on a desert island, bleeding from bite wounds, with no food, and malaria setting in, you might as well have something that is absolutely 100% rock-solid guaranteed to make you laugh.

Your two favorite CD’s:
I believe Mali to be the wellspring of the most beautiful music ever recorded, on the most profoundly beautiful instrument, the kora (add one of those to my Christmas wish list, please). So for now I’ll pick anything by Toumani Diabate as one of my two (but not a collaboration with some Westerner—it’s most beautiful in its purest form). But this is a problem when you have The Who, the Kingston Trio, Sam Cooke, Balkan folk music, and Respighi’s Pines of Rome on your must-have list, along with about 40 others. I suppose at any given time my two favorite CD’s are an unfinished, unreleased, bootleg disc by the Midnight Stations and—blindfolding myself and pointing to my CD shelves—Living in the Past by Jethro Tull.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I follow Schleiermacher in the conviction that, if you strip away all the stuff of religion (much of which I value deeply; I loathe the idea of abandoning religion in favor of something that’s loosely called “faith” or “spirituality”), at the core of every one of us—I’m sorry to be so presumptuous—there is a tiny kernel, a kind of interior knowledge: as Schleiermacher called it, the “feeling of absolute dependence.” I believe we ignore this, as all kinds of religious fundamentalists do, including the currently trendy atheists, at our peril. I believe that Jesus Christ came to clarify for us that God is the source of all life, and that no one’s life is meant to be, in Hobbes’s terms, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short (although I think I dated her once). I am interested in spirituality because it nurtures all that is best in the human being—namely, a recognition of truth and beauty—and urges him or her to live and die trying to make sure that everyone has access to abundant life.

Your favorite quote:
“If you deal with this material you can’t put God on. I thought I could spread light and I could enlighten my world and those around me and I thought I could, but I was unable to. This is a landscape in which men far stronger than you, far braver, nobler, kinder, more generous, men of extremely high achievements have burnt to a crisp on this road. Once you start dealing with sacred material you’re gonna get creamed” (Leonard Cohen). It would take me a week and a half to formulate that statement—which speaks so eloquently for me—and he tosses it off in an interview, the jerk. But also, Tom Wolfe has a marvelous quote that he gave Rolling Stone a few years ago, which you can see at That one speaks loudly and clearly for me, except that I have emphatically not lost my faith, while he claims to have lost his.

Your favorite web sites:
Pardon me for appearing just to be giving a couple of plugs, but the truth is, The Spiritual Book Club site is tremendous, and of course some of my favorite people in the world have a home at and looks really good, and I’ve found a nice little trove at the website of The Presbyterian Church in Morristown, NJ. I don’t know anyone there, but they have a great site; go to “Other Resources,” click on “Reflections,” and there are some of the great little inspirations and some that I hadn’t seen before

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
I don’t even know what I don’t know. Keep talking, God, and let me keep listening.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually “connected?”
In northern central Indiana, in an almost preternaturally serene rural community, there is a farmhouse in which my Dad, his brothers, and many of our adopted ancestors were born. But if not there, drop me into any English town or village with a church and a pub, and in one place or another, I’m fully plugged in.

Kathleen, Interview #4

Real People, Real Lives, Real Spirituality...
Name: Kathleen
Where you live: Midwest, USA
What you do as a vocation or avocation? I write poetry and work in a secondhand bookshop.
Your two favorite books: The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck and whatever I am reading at the moment, which is, lately Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (and re-reading Housekeeping, also by Robinson).
Your two favorite cd's: Courage by Paula Cole and My Life by Iris DeMent
Why you are interested in spirituality? I am interested in living an authentic life, and I have to be in touch with my spirituality in order to do so. As a poet, I am immersed in the tangible, concrete, sensory world but in a way that fully acknowledges and honors what is ineffable and paradoxical about life, its sacred mystery.
Your favorite quote: "Nothing can help me but that beauty." --Jelahuddin Rumi (I think there are variations on that translation.)
Your favorite web sites: (online writing community) and, well, for endless help, Google!
A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? How to maintain the patience and peace and quiet joy that have come in midlife, with the choice to stay rooted in the authentic life. I feel more like I did as a child! And I like that.
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" New Covenant Community is my worship community, a progressive Christian church. I feel connected to women and spirituality at the annual NCC Women's Retreat. And in 2007 I visited the desert for the first time, in Tucson, AZ, and felt spiritually connected there!--to that beauty, and that desolation, and the glorious life within it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nan, Interview #3

Real People, Real Lives, Real Spirituality...

Name : Nan

Where you live: Midwest, USA

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
Writer/public relations consultant/swim coach

Your two favorite books:

Couldn't even begin to list favorite books, so I'll go with writers I love: Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, Alice Sebold, Frederick Buechner, Marcus Borg, Roger Angell, Malcolm Gladwell, Calvin Trillin, Ian McEwan, Roger Rosenblatt. Love the poems of Jane Kenyon, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg. Recently re-read "Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck and "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and was struck by how good they are. The classics are classics for a reason.

Your two favorite cd's:
Don't really have any, but anything with Ella Fitzgerald singing or any Chopin piano music.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
At some point in our lives, we all face the big questions: why are we here? what are we to do with our lives? why is there suffering? how do I find hope? how can I make a difference in the world?

Your favorite quote:
"Is there a trilemma?" This is from my husband, who likes to look for a "third way" when solving a problem. I find this incredibly helpful -- reminds me not to look at things as "either/or" or "yes/no." Find the compromise.

A few more: "To thine own self be true." Shakespeare; "No one can me you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt
And one more, which I believe came from St. Augustine: "Those who are seeking God have already found him."

Your favorite web sites:
I only use web sites for practical things -- to do research or answer questions, so I tend to go to media, like or

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
This is ongoing: how to accept the things in life that can't be changed. . .and I suppose knowing when you can't change things -- knowing when you need to let go

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Always in nature -- even if it's just my backyard on a summer morning when the birds are chirping

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Diane Williams, Interview #2

Real People, Real Lives, Real Spirituality...

Name: Diane Williams

Where you live: The Universe

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
Founder, The Source of Synergy Foundation
Chairperson Emeritus, The NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns (NY) at the United Nations.

Your two favorite books:
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Deepak Chopra
The Miracle of Water – Masaru Emoto

Your two favorite cd's:
Andrea Bocelli – Romanza
Best of the Jackson Five

Why you are interested in spirituality?
It’s what connects us to all that is all that was and all that ever will be….

Your favorite quote:
Kahlil Gibran on Love
When love beckons to you, follow him,Though his ways are hard and steep.And when his wings enfold you yield to him,Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.He threshes you to make you naked.He sifts you to free you from your husks.He grinds you to whiteness.He kneads you until you are pliant;And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast. All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart. But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God."And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness.To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude;And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Your favorite web sites:
There are so many… so maybe I will just go with what’s familiar!

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Tibet…one can definitely find Shambhala there.
I also feel connected to Egypt & Machu Picchu but have never seen either but plan to go one day…

Ruth Everhart, Interview #1 Starting Out with A Gem....

Name: Ruth Everhart

Live: Suburbs of Washington DC

What you do as a vocation or avocation?I am a minister and a writer.

Your two favorite books:
hmmm, I'll go with a grape theme here:
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
What's Eating Gilbert Grape? by Peter Hedges

Your two favorite cd's:at the moment,
The Calling, by Mary Chapin Carpenter
The Joshua Tree, by U2

Why you are interested in spirituality?
If I don't pay attention to the movement of the Spirit in my life, it's easy to live on the surface, caught up in self-centered concerns (What will I eat? What will I wear? Who will love me?). Instead, I want to be led by the Spirit to deeper places, where my true self lives (How will I use the gifts I'm given? How will I contribute in a way that has meaning? How will I love others?). Paradoxically, walking away from self-centered concerns leads me to the self I was created to become, a journey that is difficult, always unfinished, but frequently joyful.

Your favorite quote:
So, friends, every day do something that won't compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.
from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Your favorite web sites:

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
How to be a leader that points people toward God without getting in my own way because of who I am (gender/age/personality), while still being able to embrace who I am (a woman of middle age of an outspoken yet introverted temperament). I suspect this will be a lesson in humility.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"Jerusalem -- the spots where pilgrims have gathered for centuries: the Western Wall, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Anointing Slab in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Follow on Twitter @RuthEverhart

Editor's Note: Since the start of this blog, in 2008, Ruth Everhart has become an acclaimed published author, renowned blogger, part of the Christian Century blogs network  and the RevGalBlogPals network, and has additional books which will be forthcoming. We are thrilled that she was the first in this blog line up. Here's her first book: "Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land" is a memoir about her pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine, a journey which transformed the emphasis and expression of her faith. She is working on a spiritual memoir, look for it later this year.