The main point of this entire entry: podcasts are the bomb and you cannot convince me otherwise. A couple of months ago, I forfeited my Spotify premium subscription for multiple reasons (mostly financial). I loathe listening to badly made advertisements, so my Spotify streaming has probably been reduced to 25% of its full capacity. In its place is a gaping void of background noise.
I love silence. the quiet lets me think. I wish I could live in a quiet world, but because of multiple circumstances I live in a city filled with white noise. The cars irk me when I take my morning commute. There's construction. People talk very loud. Elevators are the worst. So, I got back into podcasts.
Over the summer, I found out that Spotify lets you download podcasts without cajoling you to get premium subscription–great! The better part is how surprisingly extensive their podcast list is. I should note that this is not a Spotify advertisement. I'm just genuinely impressed by their podcast section.
There is something to say about listening to people talk in a society that's very keen on broadcasting yourself into the world (like what I'm doing right now with this blog entry). The art of listening to people and finding middle ground is something that needs some boosting. It's so easy to be angry in 120 characters, but to substantiate that anger takes a little more effort and a lot more eloquence. I think podcasts (even ones that are geared towards controversy like The Angry Asian Man) do that very well. These stories back up the front of anger with real conversation and context. I think it's so important to understand where a lot of anger in society is coming from.
Tangentially, podcasts are also a gateway of re-framing world views. Three podcasts that really help me grow as a person this past month are the following (get ready for rambling):
(1) Lea Thau's Strangers is a journalistic podcast. It's heavy on interviews, and getting people to talk about what they've done and not done in the name of some bigger idea. The podcast touches on a lot of themes bordering "existentialism." One episode can be about love, and the other about race, or faith. Ultimately, it's about how we connect with strangers and how those strangers become part of our journey as human beings. The real question is: how can I not enjoy this? and why did it take me so long to find it?
(2) The Gathering Place Valley's Practical Theology deals with modern questions I have had about Christianity, and deals with it quite well. I've had questions on divorce and feminism (just to name a few things) and think this is a great resource for people who do think about these things and want answers that make sense. (A side note: I think the most interesting thing in some pockets of any religious community is this unwillingness to talk about concerns and doubts.) The podcast assumes an intelligent audience, and is in the moderate side of the spectrum. I enjoy how it convicts me of my prejudices, and how it challenges me to become a more compassionate and reasonable Christian.
(3) Welcome to Night Vale is a cult favorite: anyone into podcasts must have heard of this at one point. It's set in this fantastic community with weather reports, and local announcements, and news. I don't use fantastic as a grand adjective. It's fantasy. That's it's genre. But it melds fantasy with a very real structure we have which is radio. I think this mix is why its take on socio-political commentary seems so casual, as if we were just talking about what we had for breakfast. The format is used so well that it comes across as effortless. It very much meets every hype I've encountered about it–it's dry, witty, fantastic humor really cuts through a dull day.
All this to say: podcasts are bomb. As much as I crave silence, I can't get that with my current set up. So, this is the next best thing.