On the most recent hurricane evacuation to the Gulf Coast (Barry wasn’t much of a threat, but it was a great excuse to slip away on an unplanned mini-vacation), I asked my thirty-something daughter what she wanted to listen to on the radio.
“NPR or a podcast,” she replied.
Her preferences, she explained, had to do with a desire to listen to intelligent, respectful, thoughtful reporting and conversation. A rarity in this era of digital rants, hyperbole and onscreen shouting. Could we just tune in to some good old-fashioned polite adult conversation?
Those were exactly my thoughts when author (and shaman) Brett Will Taylor invited me to co-host a new podcast called Everyday Wonder. It debuts tomorrow (August 7), and each 20-minute episode will look at topics large and small centered around things we often overlook. What is the wonder of that forgotten object unearthed in your kitchen drawer? Is there wonder in silence? Or even in excessive summer heat? We all find ourselves in ruts in life, but can we find a kind of wonder in that process?
In a world where everyone has an opinion (a loud one), we try not to. We just want to turn down the volume, so we can turn up the discourse.
The world may not need another podcast. According to a recent story in The New York Times, “…there are now upward of 700,000 podcasts, according to the podcast production and hosting service Blubrry, with between 2,000 and 3,000 new shows launching each month.” Ours will be one of the new ones, with hosting by Blubrry.
But Brett Will and I feel that we have something to say, and the ability to say it. We both are veteran storytellers, adept at traditional and new media, and we both feel that so many conversations these days take the divisive approach — us versus them. Where are all the great conversations that we once had around the Sunday dinner table? Why do we only start unpacking thoughtful rejoinders at cocktail parties?
Everyday Wonder is conceived as an outlet for the kind of conversations we want to have but never find time for, for respectful discourse about things that really matter.
And a podcast offers the right medium for these kinds of conversations. It’s portable, schedule-able, long enough to say something, short enough to pay attention. And I love the way that podcasts are spreading a net across multiple disciplines and demographics. My 87-year-old mother texted me the other day: How do I get podcasts on my radio? Do I need Apple Carplay? My various daughters plug into podcasts on the subway in New York, during a run in Audubon Park, in the carpool line. They download and line them up, like tasty snacks to be pulled off the digital shelf and savored in moments of leisure or mental demand. Podcasts fold perfectly into the modern need to multitask.
Our own podcast was long in conception. As Brett Will likes to say, birth rises from death. And the seeds of Everyday Wonder were sown after the death a few years ago of our friend Sharon Litwin, co-founder of ViaNolaVie. Over many glasses of wine, Brett Will and I grieved and talked and shared stories of Sharon’s invincible spirit and ability to bring people together.
We dug deeper into those conversations, and soon we found ourselves talking about life’s incongruities and meaning, about moments of perfection and imperfection, about what things matter, and what things don’t but should. Brett Will is a devotee of thinkers like Rumi and Mary Oliver and Joseph Campbell (as is my husband, Stewart), and peppers his paragraphs with quotes about myth and heroes and mystery. As a reporter, I tend to ask probing questions, trying to get at the meat of a thought or concept.
And a curious thing happened. We noticed that diners at adjoining tables were dropping their own conversations to listen to ours. That waiters were hovering, tuning in to our talk. There seemed to be a thirst for this kind of considered discourse. So Everyday Wonder was born.
The name embraces the idea that the world is indeed a wonderful place, but all too often we don’t acknowledge the fact. We don’t stop to embrace the moment or to find meaning in the mundane. I abhor shallowness and have no desire to craft a carpe-diem-esque, stop-and-smell-the-roses broadcast. Rather, Everyday Wonder is meant to explore topics that interest, entertain, and inspire us to take a few minutes to have a conversation from the heart. To stop and think.
Podcast guests will include people we find entertaining or witty or funny or who have a particular point of view. A permanent guest is the city of New Orleans, because she’s creative and stubborn and quirky and wryly cynical – all traits you want in a good cocktail party or dinner table guest.
In my four decades in journalism, I’ve seen vast changes in the industry. I began in an era of printing presses and noisy teletype machines, when you used a paper map to find an address and a library and clipping files to do research. Now news is delivered digitally, across an array of devices large and small, and the ease of accumulating information often waters down its worthiness.
More importantly, the way we cover news has changed. As a young reporter, I was told to go out and find the story – if there was a story – and tell it objectively. Now every outlet has a bias or a viewpoint and facts are bendable. I recently read that artificial intelligence may be the next new wave in delivering news.
I’m gratified and fortunate to have lived through so many iterations of news gathering. Who knew that, as a grandmother, I’d be starting a podcast? But as we move forward technologically, we can’t abandon the old-fashioned ethics of our industry. Honest conversation is a good starting point.
So I hope you will join Brett Will and me on Everyday Wonder. We invite your suggestions and feedback with the contact information below.
And no, Mom, you don’t need Apple Carplay to tune in.
Everyday Wonder is broadcast weekly. Send feedback, ideas and comments to Brett Will Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more about the Everyday Wonder podcast, click here.