Wandering Like Gandalf: Intro to the Podcast

In my premiere episode, I describe my hopes for the show, its purposes and goals, my philosophy of public discourse, where the show's name comes from, and give a brief rundown on myself.

Ep. 1 Wandering Like Gandalf
Steve: [00:00:00] Intro (with music): Peace, love, and understanding.
Hello, pod people, and welcome to the debut episode of the Peace, Love, and Understanding podcast. I'll be your host. My name is Steve Dehner and I'm going to start us off by asking and answering two questions: first, why this podcast, and second, who the heck am I?
First of all, I believe that everybody should have a voice. It's what I love about the democratization of the internet and how people have access to it. This is something some people complain about because not everybody's voice is adding value or benefit to the public discourse. But I do believe that everybody should have a voice, that is, the freedom to speak.
Everybody should have a place at the [00:01:00] table when we are talking about matters of importance and there are different kinds of matters of importance. For some people, it's the episode of their favorite sitcom or it's Monday night football. For me, it's a broad range of things that doesn't necessarily include last night sitcom episode, and it doesn't include what happened on Monday night football, but it's other things. And I think that people who share those interests will somehow, I hope, find their way here. So if everybody should have a place to the table, let's just say that I pulled out my chair and I'm having a seat. That's what I'm doing here.
And I hope to include other voices here, too. People who I can have a constructive conversation with. Enlightening conversations, not all that interested in debates, not all that interested in arguing, not even particularly interested in necessarily changing people's minds. I think that that happens when people [00:02:00] are predisposed to it, but it's certainly outside of my control. If I were to persuade somebody to adopt my point of view, well, I'm fine with that. It's not ultimately my aim. I would say that it has more to do with an interest in talking about things that are important, important to me. And I think that I would not necessarily be saying things that are always different from what other people have said, but I might say them differently, and I might have a different take on things and that in and of itself, , could be worthwhile. We need to work harder at speaking in a way that is constructive. And I think we need to work a lot harder at listening to each other. And so I have zero interest in creating a space for acrimony, hatefulness, and tearing each other down that has a lot to do with the name of my podcast, peace, Love, and Understanding.
By the way, [00:03:00] the name of the podcast comes from the name of one of my favorite songs, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding." It was written by Nick Lowe and it was recorded by his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974. It was more famously covered by Elvis Costello in 1978 and released as a single and then was included on Elvis Costello and the Attractions' 1979 album, "Armed Forces."
And that is how I came to know the song. I did not hear the Brilnsey Schwarz version until quite a few years later. The song's been covered by a lot of groups. One of those versions is Nick Lowe recording with Los Straightjackets, a backup band that he travels with, and that I've heard him perform with. And they are kind of a neo-surf-rock band that are a lot of fun. And it was covered by Curtis [00:04:00] Stigers on the Bodyguard soundtrack, which became one of the biggest selling movie soundtracks of all time. I love the song. It's one of my favorites and it is the inspiration for the name of this podcast. Here is where I wanted to play a clip from the Brinsley Schwarz version, 1974, and the Elvis Costello version, 1978. And of course I can't do either of those owing to our very appropriate copyright protections. I wish that it was okay to just play 20 seconds of it, or 15 seconds of it -- each one -- but I can't. So all I can do is urge you to find a recording of that song. You may get a kick out of watching Elvis Costello's music video version of it on YouTube.
I think if you're one of those people [00:05:00] who goes online or to the internet to hear fighting, the humiliating defeat of an ideological foe or tearing somebody down, bullying, things like that, well, this probably isn't the podcast for you, and that's perfectly fine, but everybody's invited everybody's welcome.
Now that doesn't mean that we're gonna agree on everything. We'll have disagreements. But I'd like us to find a way to do it in a way that is respectful and not so devoted or dedicated to humiliating another person or insulting them. I have viewpoints and I haven't experiences that are worthwhile, not necessarily because of who I am, but just because I pulled up a seat at the table and why shouldn't I? And, you know, we are somewhat scattered, some of us, especially these last two years. I'm referring to the pandemic. That's for the, uh, archeologist digging up this [00:06:00] recording who may not know where it fits into the geological record. The pandemic. It's been a difficult last couple of years, and the years before that, in our social, cultural, political environment. It's been difficult and a lot of people have felt isolated. A lot of people, because of their experiences of being alienated or hurt or angered, may feel alone.
And so if I'm talking about, for example, what it means to be standing outside in the church parking lot, wondering what in the heck is happening in there, feeling like maybe you took some crazy pills, I'm here to say: you're not alone. And so that may be a reason for you to come and listen and leave feedback or questions.
So if nothing else, I am speaking in case you need a voice that speaks for you, and you may not, but [00:07:00] in case you need that, I'm here for you. And I'm just going to be as straightforward as I can about my point of view and my convictions. And again, I think that there may be nothing special about what I have to say, but it also may be something that has not yet been said, and it just needs to travel through the airwaves a bit.
So I'm going to do that. I don't think I need to make an excuse or apology for adding my voice to the public square. I don't think anybody really does. That doesn't mean, I think everything that is said or thought is of equal value, but each and every person is of value, and has a right to speak.
And when they bring their genuine selves to actual sharing -- that's what communication means: actual sharing, actual communication -- good things can happen. People can understand each other better. They can see perspectives or viewpoints that they haven't really been exposed to before, have a better understanding of them. [00:08:00] You know, as long as we stay away from each other and limit people or viewpoints that we're not familiar with to being characterized by their opponents and their enemies, we're not really seeing each other.
And we're probably not listening to each other at all. I think that's unfortunate. I'm not saying that we all need to stand in a circle and sing "Kumbaya." What I'm saying is that we all should stand in a circle and sing something by van Morrison. That's what I'm saying. No, I mean, we're ,everyone, "Everyone" -- that's a great song, wouldn't it be great to sing that? -- all of us are in a cultural moment here in the US where people feel that they're not being heard or seen. And it's actually true, especially when we are mischaracterized or we fail to listen, or we're [00:09:00] not really hearing what other people are saying.
I can give you a concrete example of that. I will. Concrete example of that would be on matters of race. This has become so hard to talk about in our society right now. And part of the reason is people not wanting to listen to people they disagree with. When I hear white people saying that they don't want to hear about race problems, because they want to imagine that they live in a society that's moved past that in some magical way. And that, frankly, requires you to stuff cotton into your ears and not see other people and hear about their experiences. Right now, currently in our society there are not good -- they're bad, bad -- bad things are happening, really bad things are happening. And when I shut my eyes and ears to that, what I'm really saying is, "You don't matter. I don't care about what you [00:10:00] have to say. I don't care about what you're living with, because see, I have this black friend over here who tells me everything's fine, or the commentator on the news who's telling me everything's fine."
But you need to listen. If you're going to live in a society and say that you care about other people, and what's going on, maybe you don't. But if you do, you gotta at least care about what's happening to other people. You gotta at least care, that you possibly don't care. At that point, I don't care as much about your argument as much as I care about your not caring. So that is something that we will come back to. But for today, I'm using it as an example of how I think coming together and communicating and thinking about things in a better way is helpful, including how we interact with people that we don't agree with.
So, that's just an example of how I'd like to approach things and how I think about things. Is it better? You decide.
While discussing [00:11:00] communication, I need a cop to the fact that I haven't always been a peaceful communicator and sometimes I'm still not. So there's that. I mean, I have been snarky to people online, I've been argumentative, I've tried to slam dunk people and shut them down. I've done all that. I've done all the crappy stuff myself. So I'm not trying to present myself as the "Peace love and understanding guy." I'm just the "Peace love and understanding podcaster guy," which means that when I say I'm not interested in a verbal blood sport, what I'm am interested in is not just avoiding unpleasantness. It's rather to make a safe place for people who want to listen and speak without having to contend with abuse, verbal abuse, or insults, or humiliation or things like that. That's all my interest in it is. And I say things that tick people off, and I think people should feel [00:12:00] free to let me know that, but that doesn't mean that I want to get in protracted debates or arguments. I mean, I would rather converse with people. I'd rather listen, to speak, to be heard, and hear other people. That's what we should try to do, I think. And am I the poster boy for that? Some of you have seen some of my Facebook comments, may know otherwise. So I just want you to know that: I know. Yep. That's me. Same guy..
You also wanna know what the podcast is about, naturally. Well, I'm here to tell you, first of all, that I'm breaking the first two rules of Pod Club. The first rule of course, is: don't talk about Pod Club. The second rule of Pod Club is that you have to have a very narrow focus as your topic for your podcast, [00:13:00] hitting a very narrow, specific, clearly defined demographic for advertising. And, you can't really veer from that. So it's gotta be something like, you know, Kalamazoo nightlife, or celebrity divorce trials, or something like that. And you can't veer from that, you have to define that, and otherwise your podcast is gonna fail. Well, here I am breaking the second rule of Pod Club because I have a lot of different things I want to talk about.
I am interested in too many different things, to limit myself in that way, and sorry, I'm gonna get kicked outta Pod Club., I know it. History, art, spirituality, theology, books, movies, music, probably politics. It's not gonna be in news of the day sort of podcast, but we probably will talk about some current events, some things [00:14:00] going on. Without question, we will.
I have a lot of interests, a lot of things I want to talk about. And I think people are interested in a lot of different things, but, you know, we'll see, we'll just see how that goes. This is the first episode, and I wasn't gonna say really very much about myself until maybe later, but let's just give you a little bit of a rundown.
I expect that right now on this first episode, most of the people listening know me, but in case you don't, a little bit about myself. I grew up in the great Pacific Northwest. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, until I finished eighth grade. I went to high school in Missoula, Montana. I lived in Seattle for about a year.
At the age of 18, I hitchhiked with some friends around the country for a couple months. I landed in Oklahoma and it was there that I underwent a spiritual rebirth. I became a Christian. At that time I was working in a street mission that was also a [00:15:00] commune, and working with street folks for a couple of years.
I met my wife during that time and we got married. We lived in Oklahoma City for about another year. Then we moved back to Oregon in 1985. So I've been back in Oregon since then, and I love Oregon. It's my home. What can I say? Love it very much here.
So the cat's out of the bank, there I'm a Christian. What brand? Generic. That is: same award-winning formula, but cheaper than the name brand. Which offers a spectacular savings to you. I have a little bit of seminary under my belt, but not a degree. I've got a bachelor's degree in communications. Right now, I think based on my current beliefs, I would probably get [00:16:00] kicked out of most churches. Well, not, not actually kicked out. Most would not consider me very well aligned with them, though. I don't think the liberals will have me. I don't think the conservatives will have me. I don't think the Catholics will claim me -- I know ,I'm sure, the Catholics won't claim me. I think the Council of Trent is still in effect. But I probably would not be claimed by a lot of Protestant churches, either, or Orthodox churches for that matter. And the reason for that is that I hold minority positions on a number of convictions that I have about the faith that are not, I would say, they are -- can I say they're not mainstream? They're not fringey. I'm not saying they're fringey, but they are minority. I, I'm in the minority on a number of opinions. And in those churches where they make you [00:17:00] sign on the dotted line, "I believe the following," I couldn't do that probably in a lot of churches right now. So the church that I was in attendance at for 24 years, something like that, closed its doors about four and a half years ago.
And I have not been in regular attendance at a church since then. So I am... wandering in the wilderness? Not really. I'm kind of wandering like... like... Gandalf -- like, "Not all who wander are lost." Right? But I am out there, and maybe in more ways than one. And that's, I guess, something to know about me from the outset. Those little kinks of mine will become evident, I think, as we proceed.
[00:18:00] I bet you're dying to know, too. I bet it really peaked your curiosity now, huh? Yeah. Those minority beliefs that I have, those minority convictions, are what some people would consider heretical, or other people would consider them not, but they would consider them error. Like, "Dude, You're not a heretic, but you are. Dead .Wrong.
And it should go without saying that I don't think my beliefs are either heresy or error, although I'm willing to grant that anything I believe could be error, could be wrong, but I wouldn't say heresy. That's such a, such an unfriendly, un-Christmasy word. And I don't think the way [00:19:00] most people use it is according to its actual meaning... future discussion.
So, my friends, my beloved audience, this is the end of episode one: Peace, Love, and Understanding. What's so funny about that?
Outro (with music): Peace, love, and understanding.
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Wandering Like Gandalf: Intro to the Podcast
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