tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 5, 2013 1:00am-1:30am EST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. nenight a conversation with an lamott. her book deals frankly with how to find answers to life's most ethical westerns. she does so with insight and with humor. we are glad you have joined us. a conversation with the always wonderful anne lamott emmy up right now. -- coming up right now. ♪
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: they are the big questions that confront all of us. how to find meaning in chaos, how to start over in the face of devastating loss. how to cope with suffering. lamott began writing "stitiches" following the newtown connecticut shootings.
good to have you on this program. >> give me your state of mind after those shootings. stunned, i was speechless. i felt i did not understand how we would go on from there because what i teach my children , they are loved and chosen and safe. i would say who is wearing a black suit with a lewd tie with white stripes? ok, you are loved and chosen. you are safe. how can you tell children after -- that after 20 of their fears have been slaughtered by someone who have -- has one of the 3 million guns in this country. i thought it would show up and tell them i am 59 and the light still shines in the darkness and not once has the darkness extinguished that.
i have a four-year-old grandson periods goals are supposed to be sanctuaries i was grief struck. i always told my students to write but they would like to come up upon. i would like to come up upon someone making some sort of sense or casting a little bit of light on this. >> i will come back to the shooting itself and the guns and other issues you have raised in that one answer. let me start with this age-old question because you have insights that make me think. what do you say to young people, what do you say to yourself in answer to that age-old question about why good things, why bad things happen to good people? >> this is a violent place and we are a violent species. cain is still killing abel. we saw that at lax. i do not think god caused the
shooting. i do not think god caused the swami. i loved what mr. roger said. he said his mom always said after tragedies, look to the helpers has the helpers after crisis, you will see the love of god. i do not know if we can understand the question except god does not cause the stuff. he comes in and pushes back his sleeves and says we have some healing to do here. tavis: it is hard to ugbir ignoe that issue. what is your take on this notion of the explosion of guns and our society? >> it is madness.
it is apocalyptically crazy to me. it is one thing to say to the children today's afternoon town that there is meaning, there is love, there is resurrection, there is repair, and we always hold onto hope. what do we say one year later w hen not one piece of legislation has changed to make it harder for people with mental disorders to get guns? because of the nra and the tea party, and the force and the pressure of the right, the far right, not one lot has changed -- law has changed. i asked a priest friend, is there meaning here? and he said not yet. with this gun thing i feel like what is the meaning? powerfuls a very, very thing and people do not want to lose their seats once they have them and they will do and say anything to keep people voting
for them. it breaks my heart. i am a bleeding heart [inaudible] and i do not think the founding fathers meant that private people should very easily be able to get semiautomatics. there has been a small misunderstanding i think. out andkeeps coming convincing everybody that we are trying to take way their rights. barack obama is trying to steal their rights. i do not know. these changes towards peace go so slowly. tavis: that meaning can go a lot of different ways. there is political meeting -- meaning and social meaning and spiritual meaning. talked me about the spiritual meaning. what is the take away for those about -- who believe in that sort of thing? >> the take away is that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. what would jesus do, what would the disciples do, they show up
and they are heartbroken and get everybody water and sit with them and they say more will be revealed and they say this is a very small piece of eternity. i wrote in the book, i felt that god does not show anyone away. the shooter was a child of god. he did not make himself mentally ill. he was born with certain predispositions and this country, especially since reagan was governor of california has given as little as possible for mental health and for the people and cannotry poor get the decent medication and treatment they need. grows up, obviously very damaged. his mother has these semi- automatics, the whole thing going on. i do not think god says to that
shooter, i am done with you. i am showing you away. you are welcome in but you made a mess of things. you broke some hearts, he destroyed some lives, and you're going to have to do some amends before your welcome here. because i believe that this is forgiveness. earth iseve that forgiveness school. the take away is that this is not my strong suit, navy your mother is good at this, but i am not great at it. it takes a while and that is why i'm here. i remember i was here on your show once not too long after that slaughter in the amish community. it was the ugliest, most insane thing. they did not throw the wife away. they said we need you. we need you for the fullness of our own healing and your healing. you are welcome here. that is what jesus says. you are welcome here. jesus says, you know what, me too. i get it. this is a violent species. come on in, sit down, and the amish nightmare went from being this tiny little community of terror and the slaughter of innocents to being a huge and
internal story of forgiveness and radical love. what radical love could do. resurrection. even in the non-spiritual sense. rebirth, new life. the pattern is death, resurrection, new life. jesus does not say we are going to have a little bit of resurrection, probably monday after lunch. close, sticktay together, feed the hungry, get each other water, trust me. tavis: i believe like you do in this notion of radical love. in my own life, certainly of late. i have been challenged to learn this lesson over and over again that the greatest form, the greatest act of love is forgiveness. and so it might be the greatest act of love come of the most significant act of love to forgive, but it is the most -- to your point -- the most difficult thing to do and i fear we are living in a world where forgiving people is becoming more and more difficult to do.
even when you talk about people who have mental illnesses. mikek at the media, it -- colleagues in the media. when we discover that he, mostly disorder.d a mental crazed gunman. you see the headlines. there is no empathy, understanding, no attempt to understand what drove this person to do it and if you are not going to attempt to understand, even if there is a mental illness, you silly cannot get their forgiveness. i found in our world that forgiveness is becoming more difficult for us to do. >> definitely i think it is the hardest work we are called upon to try and i cannot do it myself. tents,a difficult, overactive mind to my and i am scared and i have been bullied and i have a four-year-old boy and of it 24 euros i am not going to heal my difficult mind that was raised by a culture that says, these
e., white men with money are infinitely more valuable and a woman is about eight and a little boy 12. i have needed intervention. i have needed to cry out in the name of god, i am a mess. i cannot forgive. you go from clenched and judgmental. i have to look in america. if i have a problem, i have to look in the mirror. i do not mean to make this into a political discussion because it is about our humanity and the human condition. since bush and cheney, there has been -- the far right has worshiped such a tribal god, and they have said that almost everybody but them is doomed and not welcome. not part of the great shalom, not part of one family. jesus says we are one family. some days are going to be harder than others.
it has been this tribal god where you felt like the far right and definitely the tea party are looking through the bible for more and more people to hate. that they can all agree on. so what we do is we stand up, we do what you do. you fight back. people, george bush and ted cruz get to say the same thing but we get to stand up and we say that is a lie. but we have been braced on is divine love. love is so much bigger than our prejudice and bigotry. love is a much bigger than our ignorance. -- so much bigger than our ignorance. that is what "stitiches" is a lot about. this earth has never been a good match for me. shy, skinny child with kinky hair and these huge eyes, i was too sensitive. people would say like the culture tells you. do not be like that. or you have to have a thicker skin. you could not go to the five -- five and dime in the 1950s and
by thicker skin. what you needed was the right teacher. you needed a teacher who could says, melike jesus too. have a very not thick skin and i cry every day. tavis: what is driving our contestation of somebody's humanity? that is what homophobia is, that is what ageism is. what is driving our contestation of somebody else's humanity? >> terror. evil are terrified. one of the reasons i felt like it was on my hard to write this people are terrified. one of the reasons i felt like it was on my hard to write this book. are terrified and what they do is they clench in the get small. and in their smallness, they dehumanize anyone who is not
exactly like them. casts outrfect love fear and you see these things like george wallace, probably the most famous example of going from the ultimate ignorance and bigotry to egging -- begging forgiveness. i was wrong. take me back. and so it is fear, and it is this culture. as a woman we have had a different set of challenges. as a woman i was told to stay very small and to be a person helpinglue came from men feel a lot better about themselves and helping my father. i am older than you but our fathers in the 1950s and early 1960s were veterans. they had been in world war ii and korea. they had this terror. they had seen the end of the world. like newtown. my dad -- for my daddy was open out. they did not grow up in a culture where people said you have a ton of healing to do and we will be there for you. it is not matter if you have
money because the society is based on taking care of the poor and those in need. they said stifle it. you want to be a man, be a man. be a man about it. so we were raised by people who had this tremendous amount of rage and terror internalized and that is what people like the kkk or the tea party which i think very similar do because they externalize it. it is awful to have that terror and self-loathing, that you find some gay guys, you find some black people, you find some girls, whatever it is and you put it on them. they're going to carry it in their backpack for you. i'm not going to change the way people think about me. i can say i am not going to carry that in my backpack. i am getting help. tavis: i'm trying to understand how, and your book is about meaning and hope. how is it that people find your way to hope in a world where
hopelessness seems to win out? hopelessness. hopare struggling to find do you find hope in a world.e where where hopelessness seems to be gone? who could teachers see me. contrary to what mr. schwarzenegger said that -- gets and nurses are the best seats in heaven. that is why i am so nice to them. i want to go to the dessert table and i want to go -- said their with the teachers. my first grade teacher did come to reading i did and i want to tell you that she used to not go out teresa so she could stay
inside and read. i was scared because i was a very bullied child. i was very different. every step of the way i have these public school teachers and they could get it. they got me, they got it. and me too. do you have a minute, read this poem. you read this poem and come back and we will talk about it. for me it has been teachers every step of the way. if you're lucky you find your way into a spiritual community and you start to find the great teachers of all the ages who said the same thing. there is only love. you are made of love. there is only one thing that everything is made of. it is energy. is made of divine intelligence. everyone is made of energy. energy, so you find teachers who say stuff and you can hear it. you go that is right.
it is like being in rocco or someone and hearing an english lynnewood radio station. you go, oh my god. that is what the women's movement was like for me at 16. women said we are going to show up now and we will start telling the truth. we are mad. are mad and we're going to stick together and tell the truth. that was the beginning of my personal resurrection story because i was not going to be this lonely, degraded, terrified person. some old guy in the south would .- with a semi automatic they have this institutionalized self-loathing against the poor, against most everybody but the very powerful, straight come a white man. so they -- if you're lucky you get to be with one person. i have two very conservative veryds right now, two
right wing friends and i adore them. i am not going to change the politics and they will not change my but i am their sister. i am their sister in god's love in their mind. if i called them right now and said i am in l.a. and i am in such a mess, they will go, i will be right there. there is no great, gentile, no man, no woman. it is the truth of our spiritual identity. but being not in alignment with it creates this terror. you want revenge. that guy yesterday -- was a yesterday who went to lax, he wanted to get a tsa guy. he wanted revenge. he put all that had been done to him. where do we start? and the and our butts truth of our spiritual identity. what we are one family, we are here to love and forgive. what --when you say where do we start, it takes me to repair. we talked about meaningfulness and hope and i want to talk
about repair. oni was rereading, i had you my radio show recently. i was rereading this last night for our conversation today. i was focused on the repair. it hit me last night that part of what is wrong with us human beings when it comes to repair is that we tend to focus on repairing or fixing the external. which you referenced earlier. we do not want to do with the internal because the internal seems to be more difficult. externally we will fix our here, we will fix and adjust our way, we can -- what we wear, the handbags we carry, the cars we drive. we work on repairing the external. the internal that is in such need of repair is so much more difficult to do that i think sometimes it gets neglected because we do not have the courage to do with what is wrong with us on the inside. does that make sense? >> the whole culture since we were born has told us that, get
the package thing together and if you cannot -- if you can get the outside, we compare our insights to other people's outsides. our insights, a lot of people had a struggle in this culture, this very white power oriented wealth culture with shame. at a very early age. i had migraines at five. i was scared to death. i was turning off like switches 17 times before i had any hope of having a safe night's sleep. i was a scared to death little child and i compared myself to everybody else's outsides and i see the pretty girls with the smooth, soft hair, and whose families had money and whose parents had each other and i thought they are doing fine. they all got the owners manual and i was sick that day that i passed it out in first grade. that was the day, and everybody doing ok. that is why the liberation movement, the women's liberation of men and civil rights and gay
liberation gave us life and hope because they're saying, i did not get the manual either. that was one of the great things. no one got the manual. we are creating that manual one day at a time and truth and still justice, we are sharing poetry. whatever the scripture is that has come through us. the repair, the thing is is culture, everything is so expendable because it is 24-7. i know your mom is just like mine. if i had had a hold of something, my mother would have laughed until she wet herself. that is a good thing. let me tell your dad. you stitch it. the man who fought in these how toe wars, they knew sew. because you had better 10,000 miles away. things wear out. we wear out. the metaphor is that we wear out.
your spirit is torn and somebody came and sat with you and they said, i got all day. our you thirsty? and thread.le it is a crummy travel kit but let me take a few stitches. we are transpired -- transformed. always buy somebody else's generosity. and so we stitch. how do you know where to start? with the torn people, with a torn country. me started. where do you start? you start where you are. that is the basis of all spiritual tradition. can you find a place that will hold a knot? you find one place that will hold and someone sits with you
while you find a place to connect it. your nephews get badly hurt. odds hillsainst all perfectly -- hills perfectly. tavis: what keeps you hopeful? is out of your her wrenching about newtown and you wrote the book and you remain hopeful. why so? rex i am load away by people's love and generosity. i do look to the helpers. i'd do see every single day people coming out of themselves to become people for others and i am blown away. i am humbled. i am so blown away by god in every aspect of creation, and in you ares and i say, showing off again, god, and i and say stay
close. "stitches" is called by anne lamott. always good to see you. thanks for coming on again. ags for joining us and as lways, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with grammy-winning singer al jarreau . that is next time. we will see you then.