Here is a confession; I am not always a great listener.
But, I’m working on it.
Podcasts are becoming (or already are) the way millennials listen to the radio. Particularly, dialogue driven radio. A good podcast is a gateway into any area of the human experience through a well presented story.
About a year ago I started subscribing to the This American Life podcast and everything around me turned into a story worth listening to. Soon, even the most insignificant details of my day and everyone I interacted with were prefaced with an internalized Ira Glass voiceover.
Act One: Mr. Lee Makes the Coffee.
Fact: A good podcast will become not only something you are addicted to, but something that stays with you. It is a listening experience.
Making dinner? Podcast. Saturday breakfast? Podcast. Drawing in a sketchbook? Podcast. Unwinding after a day of work? Podcast. In the car? Podcast. Listening to podcasts has become a way to learn. Instead of simply hearing a report about something, a good podcast can bring that something to life.
Science, the human experience, philosophy, current events; with a podcast everything becomes a story or at the very least a really good conversation to sit in on. If you feel like you are listening to the wrong things, give one of these podcasts a shot:
I cannot say it any other way. Radiolab is life altering. It is turn off the phone and listen in the dark good. Radiolab, at its core, is obsessed with curiosity. It takes equal parts science, philosophy and the human experience and it mixes them to produce these wonderful, for lack of a better phrase, journeys of thought.
It is as if hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich know every question you could possibly have before you ask it. Radiolab is a show that makes everything in the world feel connected. Suddenly subjects you never found interesting before are not even subjects anymore. They are a part of life that’s been staring you right in the face all along.
Does that make sense?
Radiolab is for any time of day or night, as long as you are not distracted.
2. This American Life
This American Life has been around for a long time.
This week in fact, it is closing in on its 500th episode, so why not give it a go starting with a “best of”? Ira Glass has been at the helm of This American Life since its inception and he continues to bring a collection of unique stories each week … with a theme. The show is simply about being human. Sometimes it is simple, other times it is heavy, but it always works with a magnifying glass.
Living in our busy, populated world today we are given so many big pictures about who and what people are. Conservatives, Liberals, Christians, atheists, hipsters, feminists, whatever; the list is never-ending when it comes to human classification.
This American Life is an antidote. Each week you will hear one person and one story at a time. It is not black or white. It is simply what it means to be human. Try it out on a Sunday morning with coffee.
3. The TED Radio Hour
TED Talks are great. Now imagine a podcast that chooses a theme and then collects relevant TED Talks. Now imagine a man named Guy Raz sitting down with each TED speaker to talk about their talk.
That’s all there is to it.
The TED Radio Hour, like the TED Talks it features is all about innovation, inspiration and new ideas. It is a great show to search the archive for something that grabs you and then sit back and listen to it. While podcasts such as Radiolab and This American Life are running narratives on a theme, The TED Radio Hour is more of a showcase type program that relies on the conversation to explore the talks more fully. It is a good one to throw into the mix after work or while doing laundry.
It’s also good material to beef up your knowledge of contemporary thinkers to name-drop.
4. The Moth Radio Hour
The Moth Radio Hour is the newest edition to my rotation of regular podcasts. The radio show is a spotlight for storytellers. While This American Life works to develop a few stories on a theme, this show is the bare bones.
It is a person telling a story. They cover all sorts of subject matter, genres and lengths. The show is intriguing in the way it provides an unfiltered microphone through which we hear various tales of what it means to be living as a contemporary human.
The Moth was a project started by poet and novelist George Dawes Green as a way to bring the feeling of hot-nights in Georgia spent telling stories with his friends to his new home in New York City. Today, The Moth collects and curates their stories from live readings throughout the country in addition to their weekly gatherings throughout New York City.
The Moth relies on the premise that anyone can tell a story and everyone has a story. Whoever can tell it the best is up for being featured on the show.
Perhaps it is best paired with a cold beer on a Friday or Saturday night spent in.
5. On Being
I’ll say it up front; this show might not be for everyone as it can be a bit crunchy at times. But, I stand by it all the same. Host Krista Tippett brings on one guest each week for an interview. The guests range from philosophers, to writers, to theologians, to scientist, to scholars, to innovators, basically anyone with a project to show for themselves. The direction the show takes is to present a simple interview with the week’s guest about what they have discovered about the world we live in based on their work.
The show features voices from all over the scientific, societal and spiritual spectrum and it presents itself as a dialogue that seeks out the “basic questions of meaning that pertain to the entire human experience.”
It might be a bit out there, but the show does introduce a variety of voices that can bring clarity and perspective when it comes to areas and people that we may think of as the other. One morning before work throw it on, you’ll probably hear from someone you love, someone you hate and someone you think you know more than.
But, it will at least make you think.