Something Understood

Episodes

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20030316

Whitbread prize winning poet Professor Douglas Dunn wonders why we remember some poems and dramatic moments rather than others.

20030413

Mark Tully explores the tension between contemplation and action in the spiritual life.

He talks to Philip Roderick of the Quiet Garden Trust and of Contemplatives In Action.

19970622

Are manners outmoded? Do children suffer if they are not taught good manners and acceptable etiquette? Peter Hobday quizzes columnist Drusilla Beyfus

19970706

Touch is the most undervalued of all our senses, yet it is arguably the most important and useful as we orient ourselves in the world.

Peter Hobday explores the nature of touch with the help of Peter White, the BBC's disability affairs correspondent.

19970727

Denis Tuohy looks at how we derive strength from the simple comforts of life, from food and friendship to music and faith.

19970810

Mark Tully celebrates 50 years of Indian independence and tries to identify the true spirit of India.

Why does India exert such a powerful hold on her visitors, and what, despite her problems, does she still have to teach the West?

19991121

A special edition of the programme to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child.

The UN's special representative for children and armed conflict, Ugandan Olara Otunnu, chooses words and music spanning cultures and continents, including Andrew Motion's visit to Anne Frank's Huis, and an early performance by Yehudi Menuhin

20020630
20020901
20020902
2003021620030222

Crime writer and lawyer Frances Fyfield considers why some paintings affect her profoundly while others leave her stone cold.

20030928

Mark Tully explores the notion of attention.

Why do most of the world's faiths emphasise the need to live attentively, and why do so many people find this so difficult today?

20040307

Famine BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge reflects on what he calls 'the Spirit of famine'.

As he looks back over more than twenty years of reporting disastrous famines, and back, further, to historical accounts, he encounters in every place the spirit of both despair and desolation, and of dignity, resourcefulness and revival.

20040328

Forgiveness Crime writer Alexander Mccall Smith has had much to do with forgiveness.

As a lawyer he has been involved in cases where he thinks victims might have been better off forgiving than seeking recourse from the law.

As someone who has lived in Africa he has seen their way of doing things which is often to find a harmonious solution which all parties can live with rather than pursing rights.

And as a detective writer he explores the complexities of forgiveness through his 'Number 1 Detective agency' and the forgiving woman at the heart of it, Mma Ramotswe.

Here he reflects on the complexities of forgiveness in his fiction and in real life.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20040418

Bone Of My Bones: Mark Tully considers the sacred and symbolic meanings we give to bones and the historical and forensic information they yield.

20040425

The Promised One In Something Understood this week Mark Tully considers the archetypal figure of 'The Promised One'.

Such figures appear in many faith traditions but also in myth, story and real life.

The saviour, the rescuer, the leader or guru - why do we continue to dream of the one who will transform our lives and fortunes? [Rpt of today 6.05am]

The saviour, the rescuer, the leader or guru - why do we continue to dream of the one who will transform our lives and fortunes?

20040523

Image and Identity: Mark Tully explores the relationship between image and integrity.

Is our external image a superficial construction, or an authentic expression of identity?

20040530

The Good Seed on the Land: Michelene Wandor talks to writer, farmer and sculptor Meir Weiss.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20040606

Mary Contini juggles a directorship at Edinburgh food emporium Valvona and Crolla with being a mother.

How and why?

20040711

Composer Nigel Osborne has witnessed the power of music to transform lives in his work with children caught up in wars.

20040815

Behind Bars

In Something Understood this week Mike Woodridge explores the experience of imprisonment.

From actual, physical incarceration to mental and emotional imprisonment, what does it feel like to be imprisoned: what hurts, what helps, what crushes and what gives hope?

20040912

Towering Babel

In Something Understood this week Mark Tully explores the meaning, or meaninglessness, of jargon, clichť and babble.

How do words become emptied of meaning and how do new expressions arise.

Is it still true, as Eric Bentley wrote in the early 1950's that instead of language we have jargon, instead of principles, slogans, and instead of genuine ideas, bright Ideas?

20040926

Remembrance of Love

Fergal Keane explores through music and literature the memories we all carry within us of love.

20041024

The writer and broadcaster Michelene Wandor gets to grips with the practical and spiritual aspects of Doing It Yourself.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20041107

Desert Places

The desert is a metaphor for despair, depression, emptiness.

But it is also seen as spiritual place, where one can be closer to God.

Mark Tully explores those remote places that can be just around the corner, or even inside ourselves.

20041128

Fergal Keane considers the tortured path that can lead people to a place of self-loathing and asks whether this might on occasion be a creative force.

20041205

Poet Professor Douglas Dunn teaches creative writing at St Andrew's University.

He wonders if imagination can be taught, and wishes he could get to his own shed at the bottom of his overgrown garden to write.

20050220

Take My Advice: Mark Tully reflects on the nature of advice - the needs and desires of those who seek it, and the wisdom and motives of those who give it.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20050320

On the Road Again

Fergal Keane considers the compulsion some people have to travel, and wonders if it's the journey that's important or if there has to be a goal at the end of the road.

20050508

Mark Tully explores what the French philosopher Jacques Derrida called the return of the religious.

In conversation with Alister McGrath, author of The Twilight of Atheism, he considers the argument that science and secularism have not, after all, eliminated the sacred.

20050605

BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge explores the meaning of solidarity.

From the current fashion for coloured wrist bands, to the grass-roots activism which led to the collapse of Soviet Bloc communism, what circumstances give rise to such powerful expressions of human solidarity?

20050619

Mark Tully considers newly emerging ways of understanding and envisioning God.

As many of the old images and metaphors for God cease to carry convincing meaning, what new images are arising from the experience of individuals and the explorations of theologians?

20050807

Mark Tully considers the dignity that can be revealed in suffering, most recently witnessed in Pope John Paul II's last weeks.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20050828

The Happiest Days of your Life: As a new academic year begins, Roshan Doug reflects on the lasting influence of school life.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20050911

Weeping and Tears: 'Jesus wept' is the shortest verse in the Bible.

Mark Tully considers what happens when we cry: bitter tears, crocodile tears, tears of joy.

20050925

Kabbalah

Mark Tully explores the ancient, but also very contemporary, mystical Jewish Kabbalah tradition.

He consults Z'ev Ben Shimon Halevi, a renowned authority on the mysteries of Kabbalah, to explore its origins, principles and contemporary appeal.

20051016

Fergal Keane considers what the idea of 'village life' has come to mean in an age where it's no longer defined just by geography and rural associations, but by a sense of community, personal and spiritual identity.

With readings from the works of Edward Thomas, Patrick Kavanagh and Gillian Darley, and music by George Butterworth, Kate Rusby and Baaba Maal.

20051106

Mike Wooldridge reflects on the rich imagery of footprints.

How does something as mundane as a footprint come to carry such a weight of mystery and romance?

20051113

In conversation with retired Lieutenant General Satish Nambiar from the Indian Army, Mark Tully considers the borderline between fear and cowardice.

20051120

Mark Tully explores the experience of meditation and use of mantras.

What are the techniques and benefits of meditation, and why is there an enduring suspicion of the practice?

20051127

BBC World Affairs Correspondence Mike Wooldridge considers the miracle of human survival in extraordinary circumstances.

What conditions and traits ensure that some people survive where others, in the same circumstances, succumb?

20051204

Mark Tully talks to writer David Tacey about how best to read the spiritual signs of our times.

Where are the genuinely prophetic voices to be heard, and what are they saying?

20060122

Mark Tully explores the relationship between spirit and form.

20060212

Mike Wooldridge considers the idea that history is made in The Secret Lives of Individuals.

Is it true that individuals, acting out of private motivations, beliefs and convictions, affect the course of history more profoundly than governments, armies and public campaigns?

20060226

For the beginning of Lent, Mark Tully explores the meaning of feasting and fasting, and the relationship between them in the spiritual life.

In all cultures and all religions to feast is to celebrate and to fast is to purify, bringing mind and body into balance.

Why do these ancient traditions retain their relevance and appeal in a changing world?

20060402

Mike Wooldridge considers his life-long fascination with border places, from the parochial to the exotic, from the romantic to the treacherous.

In his work as an International Affairs Correspondent, he is constantly crossing borders and finds them to be places of risk, challenge and danger - but also allure, aspiration and sanctuary.

20060416

For Easter Day, Mark Tully considers whether the concept of 'enthusiasm' should be rehabilitated.

Literally meaning 'God-possessed', it was enthusiasm that carried the early disciples forward after Easter; and it is passionate enthusiasm that drives most artistic, social and scientific achievement.

Yet enthusiasm is a quality that has always given rise to ambivalence, cynicism and suspicion, with many spiritual writers wanting to distinguish enthusiasm from genuine inspiration.

20060604

Mark Tully considers mysticism for a new millennium.

The theologian Karl Rahner said that the Christian of the future, if he exists at all, will be a mystic.

What did he mean?

Is mysticism today the same or different than in the past, and is the contemporary pre-occupation with mysticism a cause, or an effect, of the so-called spirituality revolution?

20060917

Growing Old Wisely: As autumn approaches, Dr Tina Beattie considers the challenges and opportunities of ageing; especially in a culture that values youth and beauty.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20061001

Musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson makes a guest appearance to present a programme that considers the 'atmospherics' that accompany our lives.

Starting from John Peel's stated preference for vinyl recordings, because 'vinyl, like life, has surface noise', Tom dives beneath the surface to a place on the brink of silence where meditation, recollection and prayer are more readily possible.

With readings from James Agee, Mother Teresa and Max Reich; poetry by Ts Eliot and Jorie Graham; and music by Brian Eno, Samuel Barber, Morton Feldman and Tom himself.

20061008

Mark Tully considers how hope and transformation can come from loss and grief.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20061015

Ocean Deep: Rabbi Julia Neuberger explores the spiritual and practical elements of the ever-changing sea.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

20070107

Mark Tully talks to the Abbot of Worth, Father Christopher Jamison, about the hunger for sanctuary amid the challenges and business of modern life.

What help do the ancient monastic orders have to offer, and how can that help be accessed?

20070121

Mark Tully talks to an old friend, policeman and poet Keki N Daruwalla, about gifts and conditions necessary to develop wide-ranging talents and interests, and why it's important both for the individual and for society to resist the lure of over-specialisation.

20070204

Mark Tully talks to Hindu scholar Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad about the strengths and weaknesses of India's historical approach to its religious and cultural pluralism.

What can we learn from India's example of allowing space for many different religions and cultures to flourish?

20070218

Just before the start of Lent, Mark Tully asks 'are human beings basically good, or basically bad'? Taoism and Hinduism suggest we're basically good, but traditionally Christianity and Confucianism have said we're basically bad.

As traditional Christian teaching on original sin is being increasingly challenged, where does the truth lie?

20070311

Fruits of Failure

Mark Tully considers our current obsession with success at all costs and suggests there can be a genuine value in experiences of failure.

Is it true, as the columnist Jane Shilling has written, that a lack of modest failure is a grim preparation for life outside the walls of an educational institution?

20070408

Enduring

Life is sometimes described as an endurance test.

Mark Tully considers the qualities that help people survive its tribulations.

20070422

Lost and Found

Mark Tully considers the experience of losing and finding.

From the lost sheep and coins of scripture to Marlene Dietrich's earring, lost for over 70 years and found in a Blackpool pleasure park, why do we mind losing things so much?

20070527

Waiting in Emptiness

Mark Tully asks why emptiness is regarded as such a high ideal in the spiritual teachings of most of the world's great faiths when it is normally associated with feelings of hopelessness and despair.

20070624

Sent to Spy

Mark Tully explores the psychology of spying.

From the dark days of Cold War espionage to the reality of CCTV cameras on every corner, how are we affected by constant surveillance?

20070708

Mark Tully considers the spiritual dimensions of exercise and sport.

20070715

Little Angels Here Below

Writer and performer Judith French considers the ways of children and angels.

20070722

Good People, Be Civil

Mark Tully asks if it is true, as the Chief Rabbi has recently argued, that we have lost the culture of civility.

How can society survive without such virtues as courtesy, restraint and respect for others, and can those virtues be recovered once lost?

20070729

Madeleine Bunting explores our complex and contradictory relationship with the wild.

20070930

Mark Tully considers claims by scientists and climate change campaigners that we could be on the brink of a Sixth Extinction.

After five naturally occurring disasters in the life of the planet, do we now face a catastrophic and man-made sixth?

20071007

The Dance of Life

Felicity Finch reflects on childhood ballet lessons, adult salsa classes and observations of dance-like movement in everyday life through the writings of Isadora Duncan, Rudolph Laban, Gunter Grass and Gabrielle Roth.

She talks to retired priest Colin MacLean, who considers dance a form of prayer and intends to devote the rest of his life to dancing.

20071014

Mark Tully considers what theologian Paul Tillich called the 'lost dimension of depth' in contemporary life.

What is lost when we're consumed by trivia, and how can this loss be recovered?

20071021

Mark Tully considers why we all need second chances, why we should always be prepared to give them to others, and how one second opportunity can turn a whole life around.

20071028

Katy Radford considers how some people find the resources to survive trauma and escape being victims.

She talks to her own mother Inge about living with the knowledge that she, unlike many of her immediate family, escaped the Nazis.

Irish poet Paul Muldoon talks about the experiences of his country.

With readings from works by Benjamin Zephaniah, Bruce Chatwin and Cathy Stanton and music including Over the Rainbow sung by Israel Kamakawiwo Ole.

20071118

The New Freedom

Mark Tully discovers how networking can empower all of us to bring about change in the world.

20071125

Mark Tully explores the notion of a Cantus Firmus, the musical term translated by former Dean of Westminster Michael Mayne as the enduring melody of a life.

20080113

The Library of Secrets

American writer and broadcaster Dmae Roberts reflects on the enduring allure of secret places, the things one might keep there and the tension that can exist between the secret and the private.

With music by Philip Glass, Victoria Bergsman and Curtis Stigers and readings from works by Sylvia Plath, Lise See and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

20080120

The Good, the Bad and the Dirty

Mark Tully meditates on the realities, ironies and contradictions of our relationship with dirt.

Are our attitudes to dirt innate or culturally determined, and what is gained and what is lost when the battle against dirt is won?

20080323

In a special edition for Easter Day, Mark Tully talks to Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Laureate.

He talks about about the experiences, practices and convictions which have underpinned his vision and given him the strength to work undeterred to bring that vision into being.

20080406

Adjoa Andoh considers how the act of befriending someone in need can change lives.

20080608

Mike Wooldridge reflects on the intensity of the first hour or so after dawn: the hopes and fears, the opportunities and delights, the prayers and rituals of early morning across the globe.

20080831

Mike Wooldridge explores some of the complex and ultimately unanswerable questions about the nature of human perception in conversation with Raymond Tallis, Professor of Medicine, philosopher, poet and novelist.

To what extent do we all see things in the same way? Is it possible to see through another's eyes or to know what another person sees when we look at the same object, scene or action?

20080914

A Sense of Home

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion revisits Stisted, the village where he spent the first nineteen years of his life, and considers the complex feelings associated with a sense of home.

20080928

Freely Given

Mark Tully explores the notion of a gift culture.

How does a gift culture differ from a commodity culture and what are the intrinsic benefits of such a way of living? And is it true, as Lewis Hyde argues in The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World, that art is always gift, not commodity?

20081005

Tomorrow

Classicist Llewellyn Morgan explores how different attitudes towards tomorrow reflect the way in which we deal with our fear of the unknown.

With readings from Derek Mahon, Simonides and Graham Swift, and music by Vaughan Williams, Townes Van Zandt and Richard Strauss

20081012

Family Ties

Mark Tully reflects on how family relationships and responsibilities shift between the generations.

From becoming a parent to losing your parents, how do we experience these changes and what helps ensure that we manage them well?

20081019

Tradition and Reform

Mark Tully considers how tensions between traditionalists and reformers are played out in all the main faith traditions.

He talks to Rabbi Miriam Berger about a new, gender-inclusive, Jewish prayer book and hears how she hopes that the new prayers will allow people to reconsider their concept of God.

20081026

Because of the Fire

Jane Ray reflects on moments and chance encounters which can prove to be life changing, such as the fire at the Royal Marsden Hospital last year that brought together three of her own friends.

With readings from Ezra Pound, Thomas Hardy and Carol Ann Duffy and music by Debussy, REM and Tandie Klaasen.

20081102

Together Alone

The Scottish poet Kenneth Steven reflects on how solitude refreshes the human spirit.

20081109

That Hurts!

Madeleine Bunting explores the complex experience and language of pain.

She considers whether the experience of pain gives us a common language and means of connecting with others, or rather isolate us.

And, if it is impossible to measure pain, either physical or emotional, how do we decide whose pain is most deserving of attention?

20081116

Fullness of Life

Mark Tully talks to Abbot Christopher Jamison of Worth Abbey about his new book on happiness.

They discuss what wisdom the monastic tradition brings to the quest for happiness and fulfilment and what practical guidance it can offer.

20100905

Mark Tully talks to Anthony Seldon, about the loss of trust in public and private life.

Mark Tully talks to the Master of Wellington College, Anthony Seldon, about the loss of trust in public (and private) life.

Are we really less trusting than previous generations? What effect does this have on us as individuals and as a society?

And how a sense of trust can be restored?

Producer: Eley McAinsh

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

20101010

Mark Tully looks at the art of parables and fables.

This week's programme celebrates the effectiveness of fables and asks why they are still considered such powerful teaching tools.

Most of the major faiths use stories to illustrate morals, philosophy or ideas.

Mark asks why is this perceived as such a good way of making religious or ethical points and how stories have become such a staple of great preaching for thousands of years.

He looks for the type of the great fable or parable and finds some teaching stories that have a lasting effect on the way we behave and why.

The programme draws on readings from The Bible, the Panchatantra and the novelists Javier Marios, George Orwell and Rabih Alahmeddine as well as poetry by Whitman and Herbert.

Music includes works by Mahler, Alfven and the Soweto String Quartet.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

20101024

Writer Vesna Goldsworthy asks how emigres and exiles find a voice in a foreign country.

In this week's Something Understood, Serbian writer Vesna Goldsworthy asks how emigres and exiles find their voices in a foreign country.

Vesna left her home in what was then Yugoslavia in the late 80s, following love to a rainy London.

She has lived in England ever since, but it took her many years to feel truly at home in the English language.

As a poet, she felt her dislocation from Eastern Europe to the UK meant she had lost her internal voice.

20101031

Mike Wooldridge explores the decision of the conscientious objector.

What drives the decision not to take up arms, often taken in the face of punishment, hostility and broken relationships?

He asks Oscar Wallis, a Quaker who refused to bear arms in the Second World War, and Charles Yeats, the first Anglican to refuse the call-up to the South African Defence Force, why they did what they did, and if they would do the same today?

Presented by Mike Wooldridge

Producer: Eley McAinsh

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

20110306

Mark Tully considers Abraham's legacy for Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Mark Tully considers Abraham's legacy for Judaism, Islam and Christianity with the help of composer, Steve Reich and video artist, Beryl Korot.

Using excerpts from their composition, 'The Cave', Reich and Korot explore what Abraham means to modern day Israelis, Palestinians and Americans, and search for some kind of meaning that can cross political and religious divisions.

Choosing readings and music from the three traditions Mark Tully explores what is common to their tellings of the Abraham story and what is unique.

He asks whether there can be any relevance in the story for us, in our everyday lives and whether the trust and unquestioning faith that Abraham shows is always a good thing.

And finally, he considers whether Abraham really can unite people of different faiths, or, in the end, only stand as a symbol of difference.

Presented by: Mark Tully

Produced by: Adam Fowler

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

20110327

'Trains are made for meditation' - Mark Tully celebrates the beauty of rail travel.

'Trains are made for meditation', John Betjeman wrote, celebrating slow travel back in 1940.

He was only one of many poets, writers and musicians who have found inspiration in rail travel.

Hypnotised by the rhythm of the train, they find a freedom to think and to dream, inspired by the unfolding landscape outside.

Mark Tully chooses the best train poetry and music and talks to the Chaplain of St Pancras Station, Jonathan Barker, about his work on the station.

With music by Glenn Miller, Anton Dvorak, Villa Lobos and Baron Samedi.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

20110403

Julie Shapiro reflects on the value of old-fashioned letter-writing.

American festival director and broadcaster Julie Shapiro began a long correspondence with her great aunt Lill following the death of Lill's husband fifteen years ago.

It lasted til Lill's own death seven years later.

These letters, read by Irma Kurtz, form the central part of a programme that examines the rituals, intimacies and sustaining qualities of old-fashioned letter-writing.

Julie also draws on 'wise words' to correspondents by Lewis Carroll, read by Jonathan Keeble, and 'audio postcards' from the author Rick Moody and the founder of analogue magazine The Radio Post, Simon Roche, and sets the entire programme to a soundtrack by the Canadian pianist Gonzales - a favourite choice of music to accompany letter-writing.

'Yours Truly' is at once a celebration of an art which technology is in danger of drowning out, a monument to a dearly beloved relative and a 'call to pens'.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

20110710

Mark Tully asks just how far we should go in support of our principles.

In 'A Matter of Principle', Mark Tully discusses just how far we should go to stand up for what we believe in.

Principles are usually, by definition, worth fighting for.

They are high-minded, honourable things and when people stand up for their principles, real, positive changes are often made.

Yet the risk of fighting for a principle can also be very great and can sometimes cause extraordinary pain without achieving anything at all.

In the company of Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of 'Liberty', Mark Tully examines this paradox and asks whether some principles should be more absolute than others.

The subject is illustrated with readings from the works of T.

E Lawrence, W.H.

Auden, Jackie Kay and Claude McKay and with music from Bob Marley, Joan Baez and Mikis Theodorakis.

The readers are Alistair McGowan and Adjoa Andoh.

Producer: Frank Stirling

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

20120812

Most of us like a practical joke, but can it do us good while it's making us laugh? In the week of the Festival of Janasthami, celebrating the birth of Krishna, the Hindu Deity known amongst other things for his practical jokes, Mark Tully discusses the spirituality of the Prankster.

Like it or not, practical jokes and pranks play an intrinsic and important part of life. And our reactions to them can be revealing. A joke played and taken in good part can be an affirmation of friendship. Many initiation rites have pranks at their core. Some religious teachers have used them to make a memorable point.

Yet a delicate balance has to be struck. There must be countless examples of pranks tipping over into cruelty, or friendships being ruined by a misplaced trick. At the same time we can delight in being the butt of an inventive prank and we certainly love to see them played on others.

With the help of Professor Dacher Keltner a psychologist from University College, Berkeley and with music from Dudley Moore, Haydn and the musical "Matilda", Mark Tully investigates the cultural importance of joke playing.

The readers are Helen Ryan and Kenneth Cranham.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Mark Tully asks whether the best practical jokes can serve a social or religious purpose.

20130407

John McCarthy explores the significance of the Pieta in art and life. With Antony Gormley.

John McCarthy explores the significance of the Pietà in art and life. With Antony Gormley

John McCarthy discusses the significance of the Pietà in art and in life with sculptor Antony Gormley, and the act of carrying others in times of adversity.

Gormley's love of Pietàs begins with Michelangelo's work of the same name which can be seen in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. But his real affection is for Michelangelo's last sculpture: The Rondanini Pieta, where the relationship between the figures of Mary and Christ is much more ambiguous.

Also in the programme, Paul and Ruth describe the way in which they've carried their daughter Maddie for many years due to her multiple disabilities. She's now a teenager and they regard the carrying of her as an on going act of their love for her.

The programme includes music by Vivaldi, Prophets of the Fall, Sarah McLachlan, The Hollies and Morten Lauridsen. And writing by Elizabeth Jennings, Tess Gallagher and Sebastian Faulks.

Produced by Rosie Boulton

Presented by John McCarthy

A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.

20150222

'Be yourself', we're told. But what does that really mean? What is this thing called self?

The poet and radio producer Pejkl Malinovski reflects on a question that has intrigued poets for centuries. 'I is someone else', Rimbaud said. 'I contain multitudes', said Whitman.

Modern neuroscience contests the idea that we are somehow born with a soul and millions of Buddhists have been living happily without one for thousands of years.

Perhaps a lot of our frustrations in this self-centred era come from the idea that we must control, build and advance our egos, when really we might be a lot better off giving up some control.

Pejk's meditation embraces writings by Gertrude Stein, Fernando Pessoa and Sharon Salzberg.

Producer Alan Hall.

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

20150426

Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland of theatre company Rashdash reflect on ideas of friendship

"The friendships of women have been not merely unsung but mocked, belittled and falsely interpreted." (Vera Brittain in Testament of Friendship, 1940)

Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland, who form the theatre company Rashdash, reflect on the nature of their strong friendship. They've been the best of friends and close artistic collaborators since meeting at university and explore how their experience relates to that of other women, including 19th Century social reformers and feminists Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton.

They also draw on the writings of Vera Brittain, Winifrid Holtby and Tina Fey, as well as music from Alison Goldfrapp, Kate Bush and Amy Winehouse.

Produced by Hana Walker-Brown

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

20150503

Mark Tully wonders what society would look like if spirituality and economics were linked.

Economics is the discipline that politicians obey at all costs. Economists have become the most trusted advisers to those in power. But Mark Tully asks if the economic growth that politicians use to judge their country's state of health is undermining our spiritual well being.

What would society look like if spirituality and economics were linked, if religious organisations were more actively engaged with material concerns, or if the purpose of economic policy was not just to maximise production but to increase a sense of inner peace which spirituality can give?

Mark examines this question with the help of Joseph Prabhu who studied with some of India's greatest economists and who refuses to place the blame solely at the door of governments and policy advisors. He suggests that those who stress the importance of spirituality are also partly to blame for what he calls 'greed-based economics' because they have ignored our material needs. Maybe this, he feels, is one reason why economic thinking that ignores spirituality has such a grip on us that it seems to be the way of life.

A Unique Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 4.

20150510

Mark Tully asks what makes us laugh, when it is okay to smile and when a joke goes too far

From musical jokes and harmless limericks to the offence that can be caused by religious, sexual or racist humour, Mark Tully asks what makes us laugh, when it's OK to find something funny, and when a joke goes too far.

It's not always easy to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable humour. For many, ethnic humour is inevitably racial humour and therefore automatically forbidden. But is it always as straightforward as that? With sociologist Christie Davies, Mark discusses how different nations form their own brand of jokes, how stereotypes emerge and how some groups become targets for humour.

Gilbert and Sullivan help us to laugh at those in authority, Daphne Du Maurier makes us squirm at the cruelty of a practical joke, and Mozart's Divertimento for Two Horns and String Quartet provides the punchline.

Produced by Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

20151213

In the season of Advent, Mark Tully asks what we can learn from the stories of Christmas.

In the season of Advent, Mark Tully asks what we can learn from the stories of Christmas as we prepare for an increasingly secular holiday.

Many of those who will crowd into Churches for Midnight Mass or other services at Christmas will find it difficult to believe the gospel stories literally or to accept the traditional view of Jesus as God come down to earth. But they might well be so moved by the liturgy, the carols, their memories of Christmas past, the sense that this is one day when the world does stop that they wish they could find some meaning in the Christmas story. Mark Tully explores the idea that regarding the story as myth can give meaning to Christmas without belief in the traditional Christology.

A Unique Broadcasting Company production for BBC Radio 4.

20160522

Mark Tully wonders why deterrence often fails to deter, whether globally or personally.

Mark Tully ponders why deterrence often fails to deter, whether globally, at home, or in the Garden of Eden. He examines the different ways it is used - including to discipline children, to reduce breaches of the law, to prevent people endangering themselves or others and, perhaps most successfully, to stop the Cold War getting hot.

To consider whether persuasion might be a better option than deterrence, Mark chooses readings on the prohibition of alcohol in the United States in the 1920s, the psychological effects of the notion of sin and hell, and the mixed success of corporal and capital punishment.

While accepting that deterrence can be effective sometimes, Mark maintains that it often prevents us pursuing better options, and can be detrimental - not least for Conrad who ignores his mother's warning that "the great tall tailor always comes", armed with his "great sharp scissors", to "little boys that suck their thumbs." Conrad is undeterred. "Snip! Snap! Snip!"

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

20170409

On Palm Sunday, Mark Tully assesses one of the principle characters of Holy Week, Pontius Pilate. Was he a coward for washing his hands of the crucifixion of Jesus, or a servant of God?

Drawing from poetry by Carol Ann Duffy and J Barrie Shepherd, and music by Arvo Part and Johann Sebastian Bach, Mark considers a range of opinions about Pilate - from compassionate and remorseful, to cold hearted and callous.

He also considers the modern relevance of Pontius Pilate's decision to put the fate of Jesus in the hands of the crowd, and to bow to public opinion rather than take responsibility himself.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A 7Digital production for BBC Radio 4.

On Palm Sunday, Mark Tully assesses one of Holy Week's main characters, Pontius Pilate.

A Chain Of Voices20050213

Storyteller Hugh Lupton believes when he tells a story, the person who told it to him is standing behind him like a ghost.

A Cloud Of Unknowing20030803

Mark Tully considers the way clouds affect our lives - from mirrors of mood to harbingers of life itself.

A Fault Confessed20060319

Mark Tully explores the theme of confession in spiritual and secular life.

The practice of formal confession to a priest has declined dramatically in recent years, but some people still find relief and healing in the act of confession.

Has confession, now with a new emphasis on reconciliation, shaken off its reputation for fostering guilt and neurosis and become an effective form of therapy?

A Good Argument20150906

Arguing can have a bad press: Mark Tully discusses the benefits of a good argument.

The word 'argument' can have negative connotations. Yet argument is a mainstay of democratic life. Mark Tully talks to prominent QC Dinah Rose about the importance of legal argument and asks whether arguing is a skill that can be taught. He examines the positive side of disputing an issue, the benefits of debate and the healthy business of enjoying a good argument. Here is argument in all its guises -philosophy with Schopenhauer, politics with Nixon, science with Huxley, poetry with Carl Sandburg and musical argument from battling drums to Leonard Bernstein.

The readers are Polly Frame, Peter Marinker and Francis Cadder.

Presenter: Mark Tully

Producer: Frank Stirling at Unique

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Good Judge20090621

Mark Tully explores how we judge another person's character.

It has been estimated that up to a third of our judgments about other people's characters are wrong, yet many of us pride ourselves on being 'good judges' of character.

On what clues do we base our assessments, why are we so often mistaken and can we learn to read the clues more accurately?

A Hundred Years A Forest:20050410

Writer and story teller, Vayu Naidu, reflects on spring, fertility and the natural cycles of our changing bodies.

A Joy Forever20130113

Elizabeth Adekunle explores the idea of lasting beauty, looking beyond physical attributes

Rev Elizabeth Adekunle, chaplain of St. John's College, Cambridge, explores the idea of lasting beauty. A brief experience with modelling left her more aware of the limitations of physical beauty and surface glamour. Her work as a chaplain brings her into contact with some students who are troubled by body image.

She begins by looking at the commercial notion of beauty and refers back to Shakespeare in Sonnet 68 voicing his disapproval of beauty accessories such as wigs: "the golden tresses of the dead" and then laments the deception of what he calls "false art".

She asks what happens when physical beauty fades, and how it's possible to age gracefully. And she explores the idea of a beauty which comes not from a perfect body but from looking out of the window and inhaling the beauty in our surroundings - as expressed in Fleur Adcock's poem 'Weathering'.

Referring to St. Peter's words of wisdom "Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet sprit, which is very precious in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:3-4), Elizabeth Adekunle then goes on to look at a more satisfying sense of beauty. It is the natural world which inspired the French composer Debussy "to feel the supreme and moving beauty of the spectacle to which Nature invites her ephemeral guests this is what I call prayer".

And finally she refers to an excerpt from Keats poem 'Endymion' in which he observes, "in spite of all, some shape of beauty moves away the pall from our dark spirits." And so Rev Elizabeth Adekunle concludes that true beauty - music, nature and art - can help us out of the shallow bleak world of consumer fashion and glamour and offer us a way to draw closer to the Divine.

Producer: Kim Normanton

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

A Language That Speaks The Truth20110918

Reflections on language and truth by the late Studs Terkel.

Studs Terkel, the celebrated American broadcaster and oral historian, had, in his own words, a big mouth that regularly landed him in trouble.

But he also passionately cared about politics, social justice, art and culture - and in particular, the way we use language to articulate our ideas about ourselves.

In this special edition of Something Understood, we hear Studs speaking shortly before his death in 2008 intertwined with readings from authors he knew and admired - among them, Bertrand Russell and James Cameron - and music by those he held in highest esteem, including Mozart and Mahalia Jackson.

Produced by Eleanor McDowall and Alan Hall

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

A Mirror For The Soul20091129

Mike Wooldridge considers the Sufi tradition - its history, beliefs and practices.

Mike Wooldridge considers the Sufi tradition - its history, beliefs and practices and the mystical experience that lies at its very heart.

The readers are Janice Acquah, Nicholas Boulton and Frank Stirling.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Pearl Of Great Price20031214

Joan Bakewell considers gemstones and jewels and analyses the beauty, value and enduring symbolic power of diamonds, pearls and rubies.

A Perfect Pleasure:20060514

Mark Tully explores the double-edged nature of pleasure.

Is pleasure, as Epicurus suggested, the beginning and the end of living happily? [Rpt of today 6.05am]

A Perfect Pleasure: Mark Tully explores the double-edged nature of pleasure.

Is pleasure, as Epicurus suggested, the beginning and the end of living happily?

A Place Called Home20140216

John McCarthy reflects on how we can experience home both as a place and a state of mind.

It is the most human of instincts - to make a home. To establish a place of security and comfort that comes to express who we are and how we like to live. There is no one way of doing it and, for most, 'home' can mean many different things - not always associated with an actual place, but often connected to people such as loved ones, family and friends. A sense of home can also be connected to the intangible, built up through our own private memories and our sense of self.

Mathematician Paul Erdös claimed 'the world is my home' as he spent more than six decades living out of two old battered suitcases, chasing mathematical problems across the globe. Fellow mathematician, Ron Graham, invited Erdös to stay in his New Jersey home. He shares his recollections of this eccentric house guest for whom home was an entirely fluid concept.

Through the poems of Tony Connor, the music of PJ Harvey and The Band, John McCarthy also explores the adolescent desire to break free from the claustrophobia of the childhood home, and we hear personal accounts of clearing out those same childhood homes once our parents have died or moved on.

John visits the home of Cecil Balmond - designer, architect and engineer. Sri-Lankan born, when Cecil settled in London in the 70s, he found a wreck of a house and made it into his family's home.

Cecil reveals what it was like leaving his childhood home to re-establish a sense of home in a new country and city. And he shares the deeply personal recollection of how his understanding of home was redefined after a visit to his native Sri-Lanka coincided with the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami.

Presented by John McCarthy

Produced by Rose de Larrabeiti,

A Whistledown production for Radio 4.

A Place Within20070225

With Fergal Keane

A Poet's Inspiration:20030406

Asian Poet Laureate Roshan Doug looks at how poets find their inspiration and explores the many connections between inspiration and religious belief.

A Precious Commodity20090927

Fergal Keane discovers that silence means much more than the mere absence of noise.

Silence is something many of us crave in a world full of clamour, but, as Fergal Keane discovers, it means much more than the mere absence of noise.

The readers are Ian Masters and Liza Sadovy.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Room Of One's Own20041219

Mark Tully considers the importance of having one's own personal space - physical, mental and spiritual.

A Sense Of Failure20120930

Writer Ian Sansom reflects upon the sense of failure that can accompany human endeavour.

The author Ian Sansom reflects on why it is that some of the most successful people are haunted by a sense of failure and considers his own experience as a writer - a profession that thrives on failure with literature 'emerging magnificently from error and untruths'.

With reference to the writings of Paul Auster, William James and Wallace Stevens, and music by Leos Janacek, Warren Zevon and the Waterboys,

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

A Short Madness20100822

Fergal Keane reflects on the destructive and constructive power of anger.

Fergal Keane reflects on the value of anger.

Is it a force for energy? The inspiration of great art and literature? Or the cause of destructive behaviour?

With readings from Liza Sadovy and Joseph Kloska.

Producer: Ronnie Davis

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Spirit Of Adventure20110904

Mark Tully examines the dangers and benefits of having an adventurous spirit.

When we are children we love adventure stories.

As we get older some of us worry about doing anything risky.

Others crave taking bigger risks - explorers, climbers, war correspondents, sportsmen and women - many get addicted to the heightened reality of the adrenaline rush.

Is there a mean line to be struck? What motivates adventurers?

Mark Tully asks what the spiritual benefits of adventuring might be with the help of Ranulph Fiennes, Thor Heyerdahl and Lewis Carroll.

Music is provided by Danny Elfman, John Adams, Elgar and Sibelius.

The readers are Adjoa Andoh and Alistair McGowan.

Producer: Frank Stirling

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Spiritual Society20111120

Mark Tully discusses spirituality as a positive force in a contemporary global society.

Mark Tully explores what we mean by 'spirituality' and with the help of Professor Ursula King, author of The Search for Spirituality, he considers whether a spiritual life can transcend the purely individualistic and become a force for social good.

In 'A Spiritual Society' Mark draws on music by Gustav Holst, Carlos Santana and Neil Young, and readings by Dorothy L.

Sayers, Denise Levertov and David Scott.

The readers are Samantha Bond and Jack Shepherd.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Sympathy In Choice20100530

Mark Tully asks what triggers our sympathy.

Mark Tully asks what triggers our sympathy, especially for someone we've previously ignored or despised.

What happens when our heart is turned, in a moment, from indifference to compassion?

Producer: Eley McAinsh

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Taste For The Big Apple20110911

Ten years since 9/11, Irma Kurtz shares her memories of living in New York City.

On this tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre, the veteran writer and broadcaster Irma Kurtz shares her memories of living in New York City in "A Taste For The Big Apple".

These include sleeping under newspapers in Washington Square Park and frequenting the famous 'White Horse Tavern' on Hudson Street where Dylan Thomas drank, James Baldwin worked behind the bar and the Beat poets dropped in.

Her final memories on the programme concern the events of 9/11.

On that day she was staying with her mother in New Jersey, idly watching the television when in front of their eyes the towers shook and crumbled, billows of smoke unrolled against the sky and they saw the silhouette of a man falling from the top of the towers.

A terrible silence ensued as the traffic in the surrounding streets stopped.

When public transport was reinstated she caught the train to Manhattan and found streets full of smoke and dust and poignant messages pinned on public walls: "Have you any information, please...?" Then she saw a man selling t-shirts printed "I survived 9/11" and youths breakdancing in Herald Square and thought that despite the worst that could be thrown at it, New York was still alive and kicking.

The programme includes writing by Allen Ginsberg, Dorothy Parker, Harvey Shapiro and Damon Runyon.

The readers are Kim Cattrall and Peter Marinker and the producer is Ronni Davis.

Producer: Ronni Davis

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

A Very Special Relationship20050417

Michelene Wandor draws on her own experience to consider the role of grandparents.

A Very Special Relationship: Michelene Wandor draws on her own experience to consider the role of grandparents.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

A Walk In The Woods20160228

Rikke Houd takes a walk in the forest - a place to get lost and a place to find oneself.

Our relationship to the forest is ancient and complex. Woodland offers protection but also harbours some of our deepest fears.

Danish radio producer Rikke Houd takes a walk in the forest, in the company of writers including Henry David Thoreau, Pablo Neruda, Dinah Hawken and the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, and discovers a place where we can both lose and find ourselves.

With music by Jussi Björling, the Polish composer and dendrophiliac Krzysztof Penderecki and the Swedish musician Victoria Bergsman, who performs as Taken By Trees.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

A Wing And A Prayer20160214

John McCarthy explores the sacred and profane place of birds in people's daily lives.

John McCarthy explores the sacred and profane place of birds in our daily lives.

He considers the many spiritual meanings birds have for humans. From doves as biblical heralds of the Holy Spirit to ravens in the Qur'an, birds are at the iconic heart of almost all world religions. But how did they get there? Is it their ability to fly which grips us? Or the apparent purity and beauty of (many) of their songs and calls?

Along the way, John explores the parallels between listening to Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending, hearing a dawn chorus in Kielder Forest and seeking a personal pathway to the divine. He also recalls a bird-inspired moment of hope during his time in captivity in Lebanon - a memory triggered by the music of the singer, Fairouz.

John meets keen birdwatcher and author, Stephen Moss who tells how his love of birds helped him through divorce and bereavement, and reveals the true meanings of birdsong, which prove to be both paradoxical and far more profane than sacred.

The programme includes poetry from John Clare, prose from Gerald Durrell, and music from Canteloube, Respighi and Chris Watson.

The readers are Madeleine Bowyer and Peter Marinker.

Producer: Matt Taylor

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

A Winter Solstice20141221

On the shortest day of the year, Mark Tully presents a celebration of the winter solstice.

This Sunday before Christmas falls on the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year is a turning point in the calendar that has been celebrated throughout history. There are examples of Winter Solstice Festivals to be found in most cultures and the need to celebrate on the darkest day seems universal.

Mark Tully examines the antecedents of the midwinter festival and explores the human need to celebrate the cold and dark with warmth and light. From Ancient Rome to downtown LA and from pagan Scandinavia to modern China, he presents a celebration of a Winter Solstice - with readings from the work of John Keats, Ruth Fainlight and Craig Childs and music by Monteverdi, Franz Schubert and the Vienna Klezmer Band.

The readers are David Holt, Francis Cadder and Lucy Briers.

Produced by Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Absolutely Honest20100117

Mark Tully asks if honesty is always the best policy, and talks to philosopher AC Grayling

Mark Tully asks if absolute honesty is always the best policy, and questions philosopher AC Grayling about his suggestion that dishonesty can sometimes even be virtuous.

The readers are Emily Raymond and David Westhead.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Abstinence20140302

As Lent approaches, Mark Tully discusses the purpose and effects of fasting. Why do so many faiths consider fasting so virtuous?

In conversation with the broadcaster and writer John Butt, a convert to Islam of forty-five years standing, he discusses the varied approaches to fasting in the major faiths.

With readings from Gerard Manley Hopkins and Patrick Leigh Fermor, and music ranging from Bhim Sen Joshi and The Irish Descendants to Antonin Tucapsky, he examines the pleasures and pitfalls of abstinence and self-denial.

The readers are Robert Glenister and Francis Cadder.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

As Lent approaches, Mark Tully discusses the purpose and effects of fasting.

Achilles Heel20041010

Mark Tully considers the ways in which we acknowledge and deal with the flaws and weaknesses of our own character.

After The Wave20050206

Six weeks on from the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Mike Wooldridge reflects on the questions we should be asking in the wake of such disasters.

After You're Gone20060305

Every one of us will at some time feel the pain of losing a loved one.

But is there any 'best' way to deal with this experience of loss? Fergal Keane hosts.

Ageing Well20080720

Mark Tully considers the wisdom that comes with age, and talks to Sr Pia Buxton CJ about the spirituality of ageing.

How can we grow old gracefully and positively in our youth-obsessed and careless culture?

Agony And Ecstasy20150215

John McCarthy reflects on the feeling of euphoria and where it comes from.

If you're lucky enough to have felt it, a sudden overwhelming sense of well-being can be life-changing. Where do these crucial moments in our lives come from? Are they just chemicals reacting in the brain or could they originate from the divine?

John McCarthy reflects on the strange and sudden experience of euphoria. He begins with a deeply puzzling euphoric moment from his own life. Did he feel God or simply the release of endorphins? He revisits the trauma psychiatrist that helped him make sense of the bewildering experience.

John reflects on others' euphoric moments and their different sources - like religious ecstasy, brain disorders, drugs, exercise and music. He considers the mystical experiences of saints - Paul the Apostle's awakening on the road to Damascus, and St Teresa of Avila's sudden state of ecstasy consumed by the love of God.

Before his epileptic seizures, Fyodor Dostoevsky would experience staggering seconds of bliss, which influenced his writing and religious sentiments. In The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley detailed his euphoric experiences taking the hallucinogenic drug mescaline. Beyond the short-cut of mind-altering drugs, long-distance runners have often experienced euphoria after pushing their bodies to the absolute limit. The conclusion to Wagner's Tristan and Isolde climaxes with a musically-induced euphoria for both the audience and the performers.

Euphoria takes on many forms, but the feeling is often transformative. Euphoria can seemingly spontaneously enter one's life or can be experienced through the very human effort to transcend ordinary humdrum experience.

Producer: Colin McNulty

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

All The Mornings Of The World20051225

Fergal Keane examines the spirit and joy of Christmas morning.

All The Rage20080622

Mark Tully asks why are so many of us so angry all the time.

Are the roots of anger spiritual or economic and how can it be reined in or even re-channelled for good?

Always The Last To Be Picked20120408

Mark Tully considers the enduring effects that being chosen last can have on us.

Mark Tully considers the enduring effects that being chosen last can have on us and asks whether the negative aspects of competition might out-way the positive.

We often think of those who get picked first as the winners, or the best. But Mark Tully chooses to focus instead on those who are left until the end, whose self-confidence is jeopardised in the name of sport, and in many other areas of our lives.

He also questions the underlying notion that our very existence depends on 'survival of the fittest', a phrase that is often used to justify ruthless competition and the rejection of 'losers'. He discovers that the term originally referred to the survival of species that can best fit their environment, often by cooperation rather than aggression.

So is society better for being competitive, or would life improve for everyone if the pressure to be the best was abandoned? And will the last ever be the first?

The readers are Emily Raymond, David Holt, Adam Fowler and Frank Stirling.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Ambition20080803

Mark Tully asks how ambitious we should be and whether ambition can be detrimental to spiritual growth.

In fields such as politics, can too much ambition be dangerous?

An Opinion Of Dignity20091122

Mark Tully explores the meaning of dignity.

For some, dignity is an innate and noble quality of humanity, for others it is a meaningless notion, and for Dr Johnson it is a complicating factor in human relationships.

The readers are Janice Acquah and Nicholas Boulton.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

An Unexamined Life20020922

`An Unexamined Life'.

Mark Tully considers Plato's assertion that `the life which is not examined is not worth living'.

Anger20130825

Llewellyn Morgan reflects on the not always negative nature of anger.

Classicist Llewellyn Morgan confesses that he is what Aristotle called an 'orgilos', a naturally irascible man!

In this edition of Something Understood, he draws upon the reflections and experiences of writers including James Lasdun, Dorianne Laux and Timothy Steele to explore an emotion that isn't always as negative as it might at first appear. With music by Elvis Costello, Monteverdi and Arvo Part.

Produced by Alan Hall.

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Animals20110807

Mark Tully explores our relationship with animals, with Jane Goodall.

Mark Tully explores our relationship with animals.

He talks to Jane Goodall, who has spent her life living among chimpanzees, about how apes have changed her way of thinking.

With readings by Jenny Diski, David Constantine, Alexander Pope and Jeremy Bentham, and music by John Tavener, Joseph Haydn and St Francis of Assisi.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Audio production for BBC Radio 4.

Another Brick In The Wall20021208

Joan Bakewell explores the symbolism of the wall, a barrier which encloses, protects and segregates but sometimes crumbles and falls.

Anthem20130120

To a soundtrack of patriotism, Mark Tully ponders the purpose of national anthems.

To a soundtrack of patriotism, Mark Tully ponders the function and future of National Anthems.

He wonders why so many of them sound so similar, and why countries often rely on militaristic bombasts, or hymn-like dirges, rather than drawing from the variety of their own indigenous musical traditions. He discovers the oldest - and the newest - anthem, stumbles across the allegedly disreputable origins of the Star Spangled Banner, and uncovers some rather famous foreign fans of the British National Anthem.

But is it time for less jingoism in the music which nations play in celebration of themselves. In the 21st century, do we need anthems which inspire us to be patriotic citizens of the world, rather than stressing our identity as members of different nations?

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Anticipation20131201

Mark Tully looks at both sides of anticipation and how we relish or dread what is to come.

Mark Tully looks at both sides of anticipation and how we can either relish or dread what is to come. He considers the problems of anticipating too much, or too little, with the help of Thomas Hardy, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Linda Pastan and Winnie the Pooh.

Can neuroscience explain why the anticipation of something bad is often worse than the actual event or the prospect of a treat sometimes better than the treat itself? And does the anticipation of the future, either good or bad, mean that we risk squandering the present? Or as Seneca said, "Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today."

Producer is Adam Fowler.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Aphorisms Of Love20030427

Mark Tully talks to an old friend and Indiaphile, Lance Dane, about his lavish new version of the ancient Hindu text, the Kama Sutra.

Together they explore the deep relationship between the sensual and the sacred: a relationship that has been gloriously celebrated in many Eastern religious traditions and almost completely denied in most strands of Christianity.

Apocalypse Now?20100829

Mark Tully reflects on reasons behind the current raft of films with apocalyptic themes.

Mark Tully reflects on the reasons behind the current raft of films with apocalyptic themes.

Why has every age and every culture created myths of catastrophe and destruction? What function do these myths perform?

Producer: Eley McAinsh

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Art Of Prediction20110619

Mark Tully polishes his crystal ball and ponders the value of prediction.

Mark Tully polishes his crystal ball and, with the help of prophets ancient and modern, ponders the value of prediction.

Should we be grateful to those who can see the follies of our ways while we are in the thick of them? And should we be more prepared to listen to their foretellings, even if the news is bad.

In an interview for the programme, Julius Lipner, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion at Cambridge University, explains the prophetic aspects of Hinduism, where the actions of this life can influence the next.

He is sceptical about some of the devices used by soothsayers to ensure that what they say can be interpreted as correct, whatever actually happens.

He has some sympathy, though, for those who make predictions and expose themselves to our tendency to 'shoot the messenger' if we don't like the message.

Tully, himself, wonders briefly if there is any point in trying to prophesize what is ahead:'To those who will be alive in the future, our present, and its prophecies will be irrelevant, as they look to their futures.' But, in the end, he comes down very much in favour of contemplating the future consequences of our current actions.

It's unlikely, though, that all our predictions will be as prescient as Friar Roger in the 13th century, quoted in the programme as foreseeing, 'optical instruments, mechanically propelled boats and flying machines'.

Producer: Adam Fowler

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Artificial Soul20131110

Could a robot have a soul? John McCarthy speaks to experts in artificial intelligence.

As robots become more human-like, John McCarthy asks whether there is any aspect of humanity that could never be programmed into a machine.

Experts from the informatics department of King's College, London, reflect on the possibility of developing artificial emotions, morality and creativity. Will there come a time when it will be impossible to tell a machine from its maker?

The programme includes extracts from the first work of fiction about robots, by the Czech playwright Karel Capek, as well as more recent imaginings by Isaac Asimov.

William James, Andrew Marvell and Richard Dawkins muse on the nature of self, soul and culture.

We hear computer-generated music, as well as compositions by Stockhausen, Wasifuddin Dagar and Regina Spektor.

Readers: Michael Colgan and Sarah Lawrie.

Producer: Jo Fidgen.

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

As I Was Young And Easy20141130

John McCarthy uses Dylan Thomas's Fern Hill to explore timelessness in childhood.

John McCarthy explores the sense of timeless wonder that we can experience in childhood. Unravelling Dylan Thomas's poem Fern Hill, where delight and joy run carefree alongside the poignant tension of time's relentless force, John asks if these temporary moments of grace are mere fleeting illusion or whether they have a deeper significance.

Is a sense of being immersed in one's surroundings the preserve of a child growing up in a rural idyll, or can city children experience this too?

John joins the former Children's Laureate and author of War Horse and Private Peaceful, Michael Morpurgo, in Devon where he runs Farms for City Children. He shares his insights into what moments of escape from time can give children and how they can sustain us for the rest of our lives.

And Camila Batmanghelidjh, psychotherapist and founder of Kids Company (an organisation that provides support to vulnerable children and young people), reveals the emotional and environmental conditions that allow children's imaginations to flourish - where a state of 'merger' becomes 'the start of spiritual life'.

Readings range from Ted Hughes to Raymond Carver, and Arthur Ransome to Arundhati Roy. Music includes excerpts from Debussy, Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, and Yann Tiersen.

Picture credit: Nick Hedges

Readers: Guy Masterson and Chetna Pandya

Produced by Ruth Abrahams

A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.

As One Who Serves20050327

Mark Tully considers images of service and servanthood.

Jesus described himself as coming as one who serves and this is a constant theme in many of the world?s major faiths.

But are all attempts to understand ourselves as servants doomed to end in either pride or self-pity?

As You Have Lived20090308

Mark Tully explores how the way we live our lives reveals our most powerful beliefs.

Mark Tully explores how the way we choose to live our lives reveals our most powerful beliefs and motivations, whether we are conscious of them or not.

What happens when our deepest beliefs and motivations prove to be at odds with those we profess?

At The Darkest Point20151220

As midwinter approaches, John McCarthy explores how we cope with dark times.

At the moment of mid-winter, John McCarthy explores how we cope with dark times, how we express our feelings and how we find a way through.

Dark and difficult times are part of our human experience. On the news we encounter human suffering - on a scale so massive and distant from our immediate lives, whether man made or as a result of natural disasters, it is often impossible to take in or begin to understand.

Most of us have more local and intimate dark times to cope with. Sickness, loss of loved ones, financial worries - these are all examples of darkness that can come in the middle of the day.

And there is also the dark that is pure loneliness.

Since first reading it as a schoolboy, John has found solace in George Herbert's poem, The Flower, which emphasises renewal and return after the dark tempests of the night.

There's a new commission from the poet Jen Hadfield who sends us a postcard from the winter darkness of Shetland, readings of poems by Rilke and Byron, and the composer and sound artist Janek Schaefer tells the story of how he came to create a piece of music - White Lights of Divine Darkness (for Sir John Tavener).

The readers are Joshua Elliot, Serena Jennings and Jen Hadfield.

Produced by Natalie Steed

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

At The End Of The Year20081228

Mark Tully draws on the ancient prayer tradition of the Examen to look back on the year.

At the End of the Year: Mark Tully draws on the ancient prayer tradition of the Examen, a night-time reflection on the events of the day in order to achieve understanding, forgiveness and to express gratitude.

He looks back on the old year and looks forward to the new, guided by the wisdom of the Examen.

Atonement20050227

Mark Tully considers new thinking on the doctrine of the Atonement.

As increasing numbers of people, both inside and outside the church, are repelled by the sense of violent retribution underlying traditional understandings of the death of Christ on the Cross, does the work of philosopher Renť Girard offer a credible alternative?

Attitude Problem20100418

Mark Tully considers the impact of our mental attitude on situations, events and objects.

Mark Tully consider the impact of our mental attitude on situations, events and objects.

The power of positive thinking has been drummed into us in recent years, but has the backlash begun?

The producer is Eley McAinsh, and this is a Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Away Being, Coming Home20150726

Samira Ahmed asks what is a home. She explores how and why people leave them behind.

Samira Ahmed explores understandings of 'home' and the experiences of people leaving, desiring to leave and returning to their former dwelling places.

When the Beatles wrote their iconic song She's Leaving Home, they painted a picture of the post-war suburban house as a claustrophobic cage, trapping the free spirited young woman eager to make her way in the brave new world of 1960s Britain.

Decades later, the 'boomerang generation' abounds, as rapidly growing numbers of young adults return to their former parental homes due to economic or employment pressures. Some 3.3 million UK adults aged between 20 and 34 were living in the parental home in 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics, increasing by a quarter over seven years. This situation can be emotionally and practically challenging for all the family.

But what is 'home'? The term implies much more than simply a building or a geographical location. It can also be a community, a family, an institution, a sense of emotional wellbeing.

Samira Ahmed considers 'home' and how writers and musicians have explored relationships with current and former residences. She speaks to writer and teacher Alom Shaha, author of The Young Atheist's Handbook, about his unusual experiences of leaving both his home and his faith, and the specific challenges facing those who choose a different belief system from their parents.

The programme includes music from Talking Heads, Mike Vass and South African Bassist and Composer Benjamin Jephta and his Quintet - with poetry from Tony Harrison and Grace Nichols, and readings from Anne Tyler and L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks.

The readers are Rachel Atkins and Peter Ormond.

Producer: Lucy Dichmont

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Be The Change!20060101

Mark Tully considers Mahatma Gandhi's instruction: 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world'.

What sort of change should we aspire to, how do we go about it, and what sort of difference can we make?

Beating Time20141005

Samira Ahmed drums her fingers and considers waiting, measuring and keeping time.

Samira Ahmed drums her fingers and explores waiting, measuring and keeping time. She talks to the conductor Charles Hazlewood about why holding an orchestra to the beat is like persuading a pony round the paddock and considers the impatience of Henri Bergson who understood the nature of time as he mixed himself a drink.

The programme includes readings from works by Virginia Woolf, RS Thomas and Rosa Luxemburg, with music by Chopin, Messiaen and Brian Eno.

The readers are Emily Joyce and Hazel Holder.

Producer: Natalie Steed

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Behaving Virtually20090315

Mike Wooldridge considers the questions raised by the expansion of the digital world.

Mike Wooldridge considers some of the questions raised by the expansion of the digital world.

Is it possible to say what is real and what is virtual, or where the line between them lies? Are online communities and relationships 'real', does anonymity make us more or less our real selves in the digital world and is there any room for the spiritual in the virtual?

Being Good20120708

Do we consider a moral life an achievement? Mark Tully explores the value of 'being good'.

Some recent studies have shown that modern obituaries are unlikely to comment on a person's goodness. The phrase, "she or he was a good man or a good woman" is found less often than it used to be. In an edition of Something Understood called 'Being Good', Mark Tully considers why this should be so. Does it mean that we are no longer concerned about personal goodness and, if so, what are we concerned about when we judge a person's achievements in life? Do we undervalue the idea of being good? And is goodness enough on its own? Nelson Mandela has said, "A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special." This programme explores the values of a moral approach to life and the importance of valuing the good in others.

Mark draws on the expertise of Professor Simon Blackburn, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge, and author of the ethical study "Being Good". The programme is also illustrated by readings from the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, E.V. Lucas and Yi Fu Tuan with music ranging from Edward Elgar and Wladislaw Szpilman to the Canadian band Emerson Drive.

The Readers are Philip Franks and Grainne Keenan.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Being Mum20080302

On this Mothering Sunday, Fergal Keane considers some of the aspects of being a good mother.

Believing Otherwise20040919

Mark Tully explores the nature of Heresy, in the light of the Church of England's recent, very close, decision not to re-introduce heresy trials for wayward clergy.

Who are the heretics and what motivates them, and why do so many feel compelled to control and persecute those who, in the words of Hans Küng, 'believe otherwise' than themselves?

Better To Light A Candle20071202

Rabbi Julia Neuberger explores the symbolism of candles at this time of year.

Beyond The Grey Towers20141116

Samira Ahmed explores Durham Cathedral's enduring historical and spiritual significance.

Samira Ahmed explores Durham Cathedral's enduring historical, cultural and spiritual significance.

She first visited the cathedral over twenty years ago and it has maintained a fascination for her ever since. Now Samira returns to Durham to explore the connection that she, and so many others, feel with the Cathedral.

'Grey towers of Durham

Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles

Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot

And long to roam those venerable aisles

With records stored of deeds long since forgot.' Sir Walter Scott, Harold the Dauntless

Durham Cathedral is the shrine of St Cuthbert, the seat of the Bishop of Durham and a focus of pilgrimage and spirituality in North East England.

What is the source of its power to move, not only Christians, but those of others faiths or none? Is it the sanctity of the shrine of St Cuthbert? Is it its spectacular architecture? Is it the unique positioning in the natural and human landscape (now a world heritage site)? Or is it the echoes of centuries of history as a fortress, a seat of learning and a sacred space?

Through words, art and music and by speaking to those intimately connected to the Cathedral, Samira Ahmed creates a vivid portrait of Durham Cathedral through the centuries. She explores how it has reflected Durham's changing communities and balances the preservation of ancient traditions with the celebration of contemporary Christianity, art and music.

The programme includes poems by Thomas Hardy, L.E.L and John Ormond and extracts from Pat Barker. Music includes pieces by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, Kathryn Tickell and the choir of Durham Cathedral.

The readers are George Irving and Olivia Onyehara

Produced by Lucy Dichmont

A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.

Birth20081221

Poet laureate Andrew Motion considers perceptions of birth.

At the time of the year when we celebrate the most famous of all nativities, poet laureate Andrew Motion considers perceptions of birth.

Bitterness And Balm20050918

Mark Tully contemplates the corrosive effects of bitterness on a life, and those things which offer balm for that pain and open up a future and a hope beyond the bitterness.

Blame It On The Universe20100919

Mark Tully wonders why so many people now talk about The Universe rather than God.

Mark Tully wonders why so many people now talk about The Universe where they would once have spoken about God.

Why is The Universe a more helpful and meaningful concept for some than 'God', when they are seeking guidance, confirmation and blessing.

Where has the expression come from, and what does it actually mean?

Producer: Eley McAinsh

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Blunt Speaking20110206

Alastair Campbell tells Mark Tully his blunt speaking reputation isn't entirely accurate.

Alastair Campbell tries to persuade us that his reputation for blunt speaking is not entirely accurate, as Mark Tully explores the pros and cons of saying exactly what you think. As a guest on the programme, Campbell suggests he has a 'feline' side which enabled him to be subtle in his work as Tony Blair's Director of Communications, and that blunt speaking need not necessarily be aggressive.

Mark Tully invites us to make up our own minds on whether we believe Campbell, before examining the nature of speaking plainly, as we see it. And it's this last phrase which Tully sees as important: blunt speakers may only be voicing an opinion that can often be hurtful and stand in the way of dialogue and understanding. But can withholding an honest opinion be just as obstructive to real communication? Perhaps the answer lies in the sentiments of one of the groups of musicians featured in the programme, Tama, who state "There are three truths in Africa: my truth, your truth, and the truth itself. Whoever is right is right, whoever imposes their reason is wrong".

Presented by Mark Tully

Produced by Adam Fowler

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Alastair Campbell tries to persuade us that his reputation for blunt speaking is not entirely accurate, as Mark Tully explores the pros and cons of saying exactly what you think.

As a guest on the programme, Campbell suggests he has a 'feline' side which enabled him to be subtle in his work as Tony Blair's Director of Communications, and that blunt speaking need not necessarily be aggressive.

Mark Tully invites us to make up our own minds on whether we believe Campbell, before examining the nature of speaking plainly, as we see it.

And it's this last phrase which Tully sees as important: blunt speakers may only be voicing an opinion that can often be hurtful and stand in the way of dialogue and understanding.

But can withholding an honest opinion be just as obstructive to real communication? Perhaps the answer lies in the sentiments of one of the groups of musicians featured in the programme, Tama, who state "There are three truths in Africa: my truth, your truth, and the truth itself.

Whoever is right is right, whoever imposes their reason is wrong".

Born Lucky20091227

Mark Tully explores how the circumstances of our birth affect the course of our lives.

Mark Tully explores how the circumstances of our birth - year, era, parents, birth order, star sign, religion - shape our personalities and affect the course of our lives.

The readers are Janice Acquah, Nicholas Boulton and Frank Stirling.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Bread Of Life20150823

John McCarthy considers the importance of bread in people's physical and spiritual lives.

John McCarthy considers the importance of bread in our physical and spiritual lives.

John is baking with members of the bread group at an organisation called Freedom from Torture. It looks after survivors of torture from all over the world, people who have been abused in their homelands and are now trying to build new lives as exiles in the UK. Alongside regular counselling, social and legal help, the clients can also take advantage of group therapies such as the bread group. As they measure, mix, knead, bake and eat, they talk about the importance of bread in fulfilling both our physical and spiritual needs.

The programme includes readings from works by Primo Levi, David Scott and Zimbabwean poet Amanda Hammar, as well as two poems by Jean Atkin and Elizabeth Charis specially commissioned for this programme by Writing West Midlands.

Music comes from William Byrd and from Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel.

The readers are Rachel Atkins, Kate Taylor and Jonathan Keeble.

Produced by Rosie Boulton

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Breath, You Invisible Poem20150719

John McCarthy explores the cultural and metaphorical significance of breathing.

John McCarthy considers the cultural and metaphorical significance of breathing.

For most of us breathing is so continuous, so easy, that it's something we take for granted. But without breath nothing is possible. Breath energizes movement and enables bodily activities. It punctuates speech, and is central to singing and the playing of many musical instruments. And in particular situations, giving birth or meditating, it becomes the focus of our attention and is bound by specific techniques.

John McCarthy explores a range of different breathing experiences. From God's breath of life, blown into Adam's nostrils at the dawning of the World, to the Navajo Indian idea about a Little Wind hidden in our ears, he looks at how the breath has traditionally been understood as something that connects spirit and body. We talk about a first and last breath as marking the beginning and end of life, it's also affected by mood and emotion.

The programme features readings taken from the Sonnets to Orpheus, Book II by Rainer Maria Rilke, Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty's and Breathing by Josephine Dickinson. Music comes from Maria Callas, Nick Cave and the New Zealand All Blacks.

The readers are Helen Bourne and Brian Fenton.

Producer: Emily Williams

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Breathe Easy20100214

The power of the breath as the source of our physical, mental and spiritual health.

Mark Tully explores the power of the breath as the source of our physical, mental and spiritual health.

The readers are Janice Acquah, Frank Stirling and David Westhead.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Brilliant Mistakes, Blessed Failures20160710

Artist Grayson Perry has said that 'creativity is mistakes'. Journalist Abdul-Rehman Malik agrees, and explores through poetry and prose how mistakes, although a reminder of human imperfection, nevertheless have the ability to reveal something new and hidden.

The programme features the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Costello and Puccini, and readings from theologian Paula Gooder, the Qu'ran, and the Old and New Testaments.

Presenter: Abdul-Rehman Malik

Producer: Jonathan Mayo

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Buddha20020707

Mark Tully goes in search of the Buddha - who is he and what is his legacy to the modern world?

Building Bridges20091101

Writer Christie Dickason considers the physical and metaphorical significance of bridges.

Writer Christie Dickason considers the physical and metaphorical significance of bridges - connecting peoples, cultures and countries, but also underlining differences.

She talks to violinist Ruth Waterman about the famous bridge of Mostar in Bosnia, and draws upon the poetry of Emily Dickinson and music by Bobbie Gentry and Mozart.

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Building Soul20041212

BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge considers the spirituality of architecture and how a building acquires a sense of soul.

Buying And Selling20090705

Mark Tully examines the relationship between buyer and seller.

Mark Tully examines the troubled relationship between buyer and seller, talking to business guru Charles Handy.

Featuring music by Henry Purcell and Memphis Minnie and commentary from Martin Amis and Montaigne.

By Their Fruits20040801

On the ancient festival of Lughnasadh, or Lammas, Mark Tully asks how we distinguish between true and false, healthy and unhealthy spiritualities.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

Called To Account20060521

Mark Tully considers the impact of globalisation on our attitudes and responses to the disadvantaged within and beyond our own communities.

Is it true, as has been claimed, that in the wake of the Make Poverty History campaign we are, more than ever before, being called to account?

Candles And Curses:20031228

For the last Sunday of 2003, Mark Tully reflects on the saying ""better to light a candle than to curse the darkness"", in conversation with Terry Waite.

Can't Get No Satisfaction20021201

At a time when all indicators suggest that we have never had it so good, Mark Tully asks why there appears to be a growing sense of dissatisfaction.

Care Not Cure20060507

Mark Tully explores the intimate relationship between 'care' and 'cure' that lies at the heart of the hospice movement.

He talks to Harmala Gupta, one of the founders of Delhi's first home-based palliative care service, and discovers that even when the medical prognosis is bleak, with compassionate, sensitive care many patients experience profound levels of healing in their inner lives and in their relationships.

Careless Words20050710

Rosemary Hartill considers the complex relationship between openness and confidentiality.

Careless words can indeed cost lives, or at the very least deeply hurt and cause a sense of betrayal.

But secrecy can be manipulative and repressive.

How do we get the balance right in our private and public lives?

Carried On The Wind20060910

Storyteller Pamela Marre reflects on the invisible power of the wind, drawing on ancient tales which advise us not to fight it.

Carried On The Wind20070909

Storyteller Pamela Marre reflects on the invisible power of the wind, drawing on ancient tales which advise us not to fight it, but instead to bend and remain unbroken.

Cats20121007

Mark Tully investigates the mysterious relationship between mankind and the cat.

Our relationship with the cat is a fascinating and contradictory one. Ancient cultures revered and sometimes worshipped them. Cats have at times been companions to holy men in many of the great faiths and exterminated at others. They are loyal friends and implacable enemies.

Mark Tully asks what it is that makes our relationship with one of our oldest pets so contradictory. He talks to art historian and journalist Caroline Bugler about the intriguing ways cats have been depicted in sacred art and draws on music by Rossini, Scarlatti and Peggy Lee and the writings of Doris Lessing, P.G. Wodehouse and Diodorus of Sicily.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Celtic Benediction20030817

Mark Tully considers the latest developments in our understanding of Celtic spirituality.

What is the reality beneath popular and romantic perceptions of this tradition, and what is its gift to our third millennium world?

Challenging Your Instincts20120304

Mark Tully wonders what might happen if we challenge our instinctive fears and prejudices.

Mark Tully wonders what might happen if we challenge our instinctive fears and prejudices. Some instincts can protect us but others can act as barriers in our lives.

Mark looks at instincts like fear, disgust, hatred and revenge and considers how overcoming them can have positive results.

The programme features examples of people who have gone against the instinct to hate: the white judge in the Southern States of America who, in times of segregation, risked his life to defend Negroes; and the Croatian poet who writes of the need to love our enemies, despite what they have done in the past and continue to do now. In her words: 'only love such as this can save the world... make life come out of death'.

The readers are Samantha Bond and Peter Guinness.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Chance Of A Lifetime20031207

Have we control over our destiny or is our life's journey due to coincidence, error or happy accident? Michelene Wander reflects on the effects of chance.

Changing The Climate20160424

Mark Tully asks if climate change offers an opportunity to change our lives for the better

Mark Tully asks if climate change offers an opportunity for us to improve our lives - not just by consuming less and respecting nature more, but by finding a deeper relationship with nature and each other.

Mark discusses the prevailing economic wisdom of ever increasing growth, and ever increasing demand to feed that growth, with leading Indian economist Rajiv Kumar who believes that economics can and must change to reduce our impact on the climate.

But Mark also acknowledges the benefits of human ingenuity and curiosity which have led to so many technological advances, as well as enhancements in our lives. He considers how a move towards a new way of life might be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, while reminding us with the help of a Native American

Cree proverb that "only when the last tree has been cut down, the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will man finally realise we can't eat money."

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Changing The Mirror20150816

Actor Adjoa Andoh explores the importance of seeing your identity reflected in culture.

The actor Adjoa Andoh explores our need to see our own identities reflected in the culture and environment that envelop us.

With readings from work by Jackie Kay and Aminatta Forna and music by Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba and Florence Price.

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Charged With Meaning20060219

Mark Tully considers the perennial human quest for meaning, and explores the difference between meaning and explanation.

Charm20090614

Mark Tully investigates the danger and usefulness of charm, with guest Tony Benn

One such example was when film director Michael Korda was cornered by furious investors, wanting to know what had happened to their money.

He would stare at their feet, riveted.

'What simply marvellous shoes,' he would remark - thus defusing the confrontation, and escaping unscathed.

With music from Handel, Gluck and Gerard Souzay and readings from Milton, Plutarch and The Last King of Scotland.

Chasing The Warm Rainbow20020714

`Chasing the Warm Rainbow'.

Fergal Keane reflects on the effect of alcohol on creativity and the human spirit.

Childhood Innocence20101226

Jonathan Charles considers the innocence of children.

Jonathan Charles considers the innocence of children and reflects on the charm of those adults who still retain something of the child within.

Producer: Ronni Davies

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Choosing To Care20110828

Mark Tully discusses the choices facing voluntary carers and those for whom they care.

The choice to care or be cared for is one that faces over half of us and some stage in our lives.

Mark Tully presents an edition of Something Understood to explore that choice and to discuss the emotional, practical and spiritual costs and rewards of caring and being cared for.

He examines the benefits and the responsibilities felt within such relationships in the company of Jean and Geoffrey Almond, a couple living with the consequences of Multiple Sclerosis, and with poetry by a variety of carers as well as music from Shostakovich, Elmer Bernstein and folk-singer Kate Rusby.

The readers are Kenneth Cranham and Isla Blair

The producer is Frank Stirling

A Unique Production for BBC Radio 4.

Clowns, Jesters And Fools20030105

Mark Tully celebrates the role of clowns and jesters and considers their purpose and significance.

Colours Of Religion20110410

Mark Tully attends Holi, and asks what is the religious significance of colour.

Mark Tully attends the Hindu festival of Holi in Delhi, gets covered with dye, and asks what is the significance of colour, in religion and in spring festivals.

Recorded partly on location in Mark Tully's home town of Delhi, this programme charts the run up to the festival, with the singing of traditional songs, and the lighting of bonfires.

On the special day itself, coloured dyes and waters are thrown as the city erupts in an explosion of colour, noise and sometimes lusty humour.

Speaking to locals and visitors alike, Tully gets a sense of the importance of colour to this festival, his city and to Hinduism.

Looking to other traditions he asks what different colours mean to different faiths.

And as the rumbustiousness of Holi subsides, Tully is left to consider what parallels he can find in western festivals, music and writing, which might first appear more solemn, but can have their own undercurrents of bawdiness and abandon.

Presented by Mark Tully

Produced by Adam Fowler

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Commemoration20141109

On Remembrance Sunday, Mark Tully investigates the psychological need for commemoration.

On Remembrance Day, Mark Tully asks why we feel acts of commemoration are important and discusses their purpose with the campaigner and survivor of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, Selma Van de Perre.

He also introduces readings and music written in commemoration of some of the major conflicts and acts of violence of the last 100 years - from accounts of the very first Armistice Day to commemorations of the Afghan conflict. There is music too, ranging from Shostakovich to Suzanne Vega.

The readers are Jane Whittenshaw, David Westhead and Francis Cadder.

Produced by Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Committees20080525

Are committees good or bad for us? Mark Tully asks whether they are an efficient way of making decisions or an excuse for postponing or avoiding difficult problems.

Compassion20060723

Fergal Keane considers the idea of compassion as found in the roots of the great religions, and as experienced in the modern world.

Compassion20110925

Fergal Keane considers the virtue of compassion.

Fergal Keane reflects on the vital human instinct of compassion and how it benefits us as individuals to be compassionate.

He considers how, when faced with evil, a sense of justice can interfere with compassion.

He concludes that although there are times when compassion might overwhelm critical reasoning and propel us into disaster, it can also move us to mercy and the healing of wounds.

To illustrate his argument Fergal Keane draws on the writing of Bernard Schlink and Cormac McCarthy, the poetry of Elizabeth Jennings and Michael Longley, and the music of Leonard Cohen and Morten Lauridsen.

The readers are Liza Sadovy and Patrick Drury.

Producer: Ronni Davis

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Confession20150329

On the last Sunday in Lent, Mark Tully asks if confession is really good for us. He examines the secular and political benefits of owning up to crimes and misdemeanours in public life, as well as talking to religious historian and writer Eamon Duffy about the history of confession as a religious rite.

There are stories here of politicians caught red-handed, a priest confessing posthumously to his atheism - and to his hatred for the confessional box - and of the sheer psychological relief of forgiving.

The programme includes readings from James Joyce, Elizabeth Jennings and A. C. Clarke, with music by Caroline Barnett and Hans Zimmer among others.

The readers are Adjoa Andoh and Arsher Ali

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Mark Tully considers the political and religious value of confession.

Consider The Lilies20150308

Samira Ahmed explores representations of flowers and people's relationships with them.

Samira Ahmed explores our representations of flowers, and our relationships with them.

Focusing on the flowers that have had a particular importance in her own life, she considers the meanings and cultural resonances of several species - passion-flower, bluebells, tulips and the exotically perfumed champa flower or frangipani.

Through music and poetry she explores how certain blooms have been thought to embody emotional, spiritual and philosophical ideas - and been used and subverted by artists, musicians and writers around the globe. She investigates how different countries have developed complex codes of communication through the gift of flowers and asks if sometimes it is better not to 'say it with flowers'. How can the giving and receiving of floral tributes be transformed from a simple gesture of affection to one of potential threat or insult?

The programme includes poetry by Sylvia Plath, Wendy Cope and Rabindranath Tagore, along with music from Katherine Jenkins, Ben E. King and the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

The readers are Olivia Onyehara, Matthew Wynn, and Haruka Kuroda.

Producer: Lucy Dichmont

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Counterpoint20160807

Composer David Owen Norris explains the musical concept of counterpoint and plays examples to Mark Tully, who also looks at the metaphorical use of it in religion and literature.

With the help of Johann Sebastian Bach, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Gilbert and Sullivan, and some bawdy Lay Clerks from Canterbury Cathedral, David Owen Norris takes Mark on an interweaving tour of contrapuntal history and development from the earliest experiments in Plainsong to his own latest composition.

But the last word is left to Gerard Manley Hopkins and the remarkable rhythmic counterpoint of his poem The Windhover, with its depiction of a Flacon's flight:

"....in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy!"

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Composer David Owen Norris explains and plays musical counterpoint to Mark Tully.

Creatures Of The Wind20160724

Mark Tully hears how winds like El Nino, the sirocco and the trade winds connect us all.

Mark Tully hears how winds like El Ni√Īo, the Sirocco and the Trade Winds connect the earth's ecosystems, as well as human societies and beliefs.

The science of this inter-connectedness is explained by David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme. He discusses with Mark how commerce, conflict and culture have been shaped by the flow of air around our planet, and how ideas can be carried on the breeze.

From idyllic breezes to tempestuous storms, and from the Saharan desert to the South China Sea, artistic images of the wind are summoned, in music, by Benjamin Britten, Nina Simone and Frederic Chopin - and, in words, by Joseph Conrad, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Jan DeBlieu.

Mark considers also how the wind can be one of the wonders of nature that connect us to God, and how it can so overawe us that we lose our self awareness and experience the transcendent.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Cricket20090802

Mark Tully celebrates cricket as a symbol of an ideal society.

Mark Tully celebrates cricket as a symbol of an ideal society, with historian Ramanchandra Guha.

Crises And Opportunities20040613

Mike Wooldridge considers what it means to confront the onset of disability and the limitations and deteriorations of old age.

What struggles do we have - mentally, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually - to turn health crises into

opportunities for creativity, renewal and service?

Crossing The Master20170402

Journalist Abdul-Rehman Malik explores the complex relationship between master and disciple. Acknowledging that truth lies in fiction, he describes how the relationship between Obi Wan Kenobi and his former disciple Darth Vader in the film Star Wars prompted this exploration.

A passage written by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams defines what a disciple is and a reading from the 19th century Buddhist master Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro helps the disciple discern a true leader. Hindu mystic Rama Krishna describes how Tapobana the Master, threatened by a disciple he thought of as foolish, goes on to make a fool of himself.

Conflicts between master and disciple arise in the secular world too. We hear the music of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis as Abdul-Rehman recounts the tale of the clash between young lion Wynton Marsalis and the legendary Davis. The death of Malcolm X in 1965 showed that crossing the master can have deadly consequences - we hear from his autobiography.

Abdul-Rehman concludes by examining how differences between the master and disciple can be reconciled.

Presenter: Abdul-Rehman Malik

Producer: Jonathan Mayo

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Abdul-Rehman Malik explores the complex relationship between master and disciple.

Dark Sanctuary20090628

Fergal Keane explores the physical and fairytale world created by the forest.

Darkness20120520

Poet Stewart Henderson celebrates true darkness, now absent from much of the modern world.

In Something Understood this week, poet and broadcaster Stewart Henderson celebrates the power of true darkness. With streetlamps dominating our modern industrialised world, few people in Britain now have the chance to experience real darkness, but Stewart believes it can have a transformative effect.

Some people fear darkness, others find it disorienting and confusing. These days, we fill our world with electric light and it's only in the deepest countryside that we find true darkness. Yet when we do immerse ourselves in the dark, it can bring another form of illumination, heightening our physical senses and our sense of self. Our surroundings take on new meaning and significance. And the darkness can be inspirational - as Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1888, 'I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day'. Other readings come from astronauts, scientists and pilots, all of whom have embraced the dark and found riches and depth within it.

Stewart speaks to Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. As a child he was fascinated by the natural world, and now his job is to explain the latest discoveries in space to the public. Darkness is essential to Marek's work, but it also has a spiritual dimension for him. As someone who seeks out dark places from which to see the stars, he regrets the light pollution which is driving true darkness out of many places. Marek is a supporter of the International Dark Sky Association which aims to identify and protect those places which still enjoy truly dark skies. Without darkness to heighten our awareness, are we left with a loss of inner sight?

Producer: Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Dawn20111030

Mark Tully examines the psychological and spiritual significance of dawn.

Millions of Hindus start their day by greeting the sun with a Yoga practice known as Surya Namaskar.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims start their day at dawn.

In Japan Shinto believers bow before the rising sun and clap to get the sun goddess' attention, so that she will dispel evil.

St.

Benedict, the father of Western Christian Monasticism, ordained that monks should say the office of Matins.

Yet not all of us are good in the morning.

Notwithstanding it is difficult to ignore the mystical resonance of the sunrise.

With the help of Henry David Thoreau, Vachel Lindsay and Brendan Kennelly and with music from Carl Nielsen, Bruce Cockburn and Ortolino Respighi, Mark Tully explores the psychological and spiritual significance of this particular time of day.

The readers are Hattie Morahan and Dan Stevens.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Days Of Empire20030713

Mark Tully continues his exploration of the meaning and legacy of Empire.

On location at the new British Empire And Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, he considers the story of Empire: a story which continues to stir the mood, and conscience, of contemporary Britain.

Days Of Empire:20030706

In the first of two programmes recorded at the British Empire And Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, Mark Tully explores the concept of Empire with Gareth Griffiths.

Deadlier Than The Male:20060430

Writer and broadcaster Shazia Khan considers the allure and power of female beauty and explores the place of modesty in religion.

Debt20130505

Against a background of economic insecurity, Mark Tully discusses the moral side to debt.

Ever since the current financial crisis started back in 2007, debt has been on everybody's mind.

Much of the discussion in the media has been about economics and ways to alleviate the crisis. What about the moral questions debt raises?

Mark Tully discusses our social and philosophical attitudes to the problem of debt and talks to financial educator and broadcaster Alvin Hall.

There are readings from Dickens, Shakespeare and the poet Kathleen Raine and music by composers ranging from Handel to Jocelyn Pook. The readers are Harriet Walter and Tim Pigott-smith.

Produced by: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Deeds Not Dared20030504

Mark Tully draws on a line from poet Elizabeth Jennings, to begin his exploration of our fear of giving up our securities.

In Ghosts, Jennings wrote: "The deeds we dared not act they flaunt." Why do we allow such fear, such lack of daring, to stop us living life more fully and moving forward into a more creative future?

Deeper Than Desire20080309

Mark Tully considers the human experience of longing.

Einstein wrote that feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavour and human creations, but what is longing? Where does it come from, how is it different from other human desires, and can it ever be satisfied?

Degree Of Remoteness2003022320030301

Indian-born Birmingham poet Roshan Doug explores his own journey to define his cultural identity through poetry, prose and music.

Delete! Delete!20050116

Mark Tully asks whether anything is ever truly deleted from the universe.

Is the difficulty of deleting incriminating evidence from a computer hard-drive a metaphor for the nature of creation?

Deserts20150419

Samira Ahmed explores ideas of the desert.

Samira Ahmed explores how the idea of the desert has been used in literature and spiritual texts.

Often, in Western literature, the desert is a place of self-discovery for a single, romantic explorer or is used as a place to test ideas and fears about the end of the world. But Samira's first encounter with a desert story was that of Hagar and Ishmael. Ishmael, the first son of the Biblical Patriarch, Abraham, is cast out into the desert with his mother, Hagar. Thirsty and abandoned they are saved by an intervention from God and a promise that Ishmael will go on to found a great nation.

Harsh and difficult places to live, yes, but the desert regions of the world are not the unpopulated wastelands of the Western literary imagination. In this programme we hear music and poetry from people who live in deserts and find great beauty there.

There's music from Steve Reich, Tinariwen and Brian Eno, along with poems and prose written by Laurie Lee, Elana Bell and the pre-Islamic Arabic poet, Shanfara.

The readers are Joe Armstrong, Sirine Saba and Emily Taaffe.

Producer: Natalie Steed

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Desire20130721

Sarah Cuddon reflects on the nature of desire.

Sarah Cuddon reflects on the nature of desire - full of passion, ambition, creativity and, potentially, danger.

She draws on the writings of Sharon Olds, Marie Colvin and Gwendolyn Brooks; the music of Edith Piaf, Felix Mendelssohn and Sweet Honey in the Rock and she talks to 90 year old Josephine about the undimmed power of her desires.

Produced by Alan Hall.

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Desire Lines20150705

Mark Tully follows the paths we prefer to take instead of the routes laid out for us.

Mark Tully follows the paths we choose to take instead of the official routes laid out for us by others.

Literally, desire lines are paths worn over time through a landscape by people taking the shortest or most desirable route, rather than the one provided for them by planners or designers. They can cut across fields or over busy roads, even between countries. But do they represent a desire to break the bounds of convention, or an instinct to follow the crowd?

Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schubert take a musical detour from the prescribed channels, while Philip Larkin leads the literary trail off-piste, as Mark considers metaphorical desire lines - behaving, thinking or doing as we want, rather than as custom, etiquette or rules would have had us do.

In the end, desire lines could be seen as evidence of human behaviour triumphing over rigid attempts to control and confine - but might they also be physical reminders of our inherent laziness? Is there not something to be said for taking the long way round?

A Unique Broadcasting Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Diamonds And Coal20110626

Llewelyn Morgan examines the ambiguous nature of diamonds.

In this week's Something Understood, Llewelyn Morgan considers how the diamond, a beautiful yet tarnished jewel, is capable of provoking complex responses within us.

With readings from Christina Rosetti, Marco Polo and William Pitt, music from Joan Baez, Bela Bartok and Joni Mitchell, and an interview with bookseller Farrukh Hussain, he examines how this precious stone can bring out the best and worst in us.

Producer: Katie Burningham

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

Dignity20130106

Mark Tully asks why dignity should be so important to us.

Mark Tully asks why dignity should be so important to us. It is considered a human right, but is it always so noble, or can we use a false sense of dignity to undermine others?

Drawing on stories about the British in India during the Raj, being visited while a patient in a hospice, and the enlightenment of the Buddha, the programme searches for what could be called a fundamental dignity.

In the end, Mark Tully concludes that if we want to be genuinely respected, we shouldn't demand respect, but if we are dignified we will be respected by those who are themselves dignified.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Discernment20050102

Rosemary Hartill considers how we can make the best decisions about our lives, actions and relationships.

Divine Comedy20060618

God, it's generally presumed, is no laughing matter.

Writer and performer Judith French considers the link between God and comedy.

Divine Comedy: God, it's generally presumed, is no laughing matter.

[Rpt of today 6.05am]

Divine Noise20170219

Noise permeates our lives and is often depicted as a fundamentally negative by-product of the hectic pace of modern life. Noise is often used as a pejorative term, it's unwelcome, intrusive and unpleasant. But this isn't the whole story.

Academic Dr Sarah Goldingay argues that noise can be joyful and that joyful noise affects us deeply. She explains that noise and unexpected sounds can trigger moments of profound spirituality.

Sarah leads us on a journey into sound, from the gong baths through which people seek healing by immersing themselves in waves of vibrational energy, to the zen art of Suizen in which practitioners play a traditional flute as a means of progressing towards enlightenment. We hear from the poet William Cowper, who describes how church bells heard at noon on a winter's walk affect him on a cellular level, and we visit a Mississippi church where the congregation pounds out a spiritual pulse on the wooden floorboards.

Through these examples and more, Sarah argues that it's possible to listen out for the divine noise in and amongst the din.

Presenter: Sarah Goldingay

Producer: Max O'Brien

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Academic Dr Sarah Goldingay listens out for the spiritual impact of noise.

Dna And The Divine20140803

Mark Tully asks whether the discovery of DNA is evidence for or against God.

CORRECTION: Please note that, in this programme, Joseph Addison's Spacious Firmament on High is referred to as a hymn. However, the music used is, in fact, a setting of the poem as an anthem by Bernard Rose.

In this week's edition, Mark Tully considers whether the discovery of DNA is evidence for or against the existence of God.

He discusses DNA with the Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University, Alister McGrath, who welcomes the debate between theists and atheists and believes the truth lies between the two sides of the argument.

Together, they question whether genetic codes could have come about randomly, and why a loving God might create something that can transmit pain and disease between generations.

The programme looks at how evolving Christian theology can accommodate new scientific discoveries, and warns against too much faith in DNA to answer the big questions about God, or about ourselves.

Featuring music from Haydn, Michael Nyman, Gregory W Brown and Bernard Rose.

The readers are Cyril Nri, Frank Stirling and Michael Symmons Roberts.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Doubting Thomas20060813

In conversation with Canon John Shepherd, Mark Tully considers the doubt in people's faith, from Thomas to Jesus himself.

Downsizing20080615

How easy is it to make do with less? Mark Tully considers how we deal with enforced downsizing through financial necessity.

Should we all consume less for the common good, as Gandhi did?

Drawing The Sting20040718

Rosemary Hartill considers those moments of choice when it's possible to alter the course of difficult situations or encounters by a shift in mental attitude.

Drawing on personal experience and professional insights from her work in both journalism and conflict resolution, she looks for those behaviours, attitudes and techniques which can bring creative outcomes to tense, even dangerous, situations.

Drudgery Divine20100228

Scholar and priest Teresa Morgan explores some of the many ways in which we see work.

Dust Yourself Off20070304

Food writer Marguerite Patten, now in her nineties, looks back on a lifetime of love and loss.

She reflects on her wartime experiences as a home economist, the deaths of her parents, her marriage of over five decades and her abiding passion for nature.

Marguerite draws upon the writings of AE Housman, Victoria Hislop and RD Blackmore and music by Puccini, Ivor Gurney and the Japanese traditional melody Sakura (Cherry Blossom).

Earth's Crammed With Heaven2010010320100109 (WS)
20100110 (WS)

Mark Tully considers where heaven is to be found, in conversation with Jonathan Stedall.

Mark Tully considers where heaven is to be found, in conversation with his friend and veteran documentary maker Jonathan Stedall.

The readers are William Gaminara, Emily Raymond and Frank Stirling.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

East/west20080824

BBC Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Charles, who has spent the past two decades journeying to some of the most far-flung parts of the world, reflects on whether travel really does broaden the mind.

Easter: A Matter Of Life And Death20170416

Master of the Temple Church, Robin Griffith-Jones, presents an Easter choral special.

In this Easter Sunday special episode, Master of the Temple Church, Robin Griffith-Jones, explores the fascinating parallels between the story of creation in Genesis and the Easter story as told in John's gospel.

The music is sung by the eighteen voices of the Temple Church Choir.

Robin explains that the Temple Church, an oasis of calm in the heart of the City of London for over 850 years, is the perfect place for an examination of the Easter narrative. Three hundred years after Jesus died, the Emperor Constantine rediscovered his tomb. Constantine built around it a vast circular church - The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Move on another 800 years and the Christians ruled Jerusalem. Back home in Europe, they built a handful of round churches like the Temple Church, on Fleet St in London, designed to recreate the Sepulchre's shape and so its sanctity.

Sat in the beautiful surroundings of his beloved church, with the sunlight streaming in through stained glass windows and the voices of the choir permeating the air, Robin leads us on a theological journey deep into John's gospel.

Robin describes the gospel of John as a strange and poetic text that invites us to see ourselves and the world in a new way. Robin reveals that John's Easter narrative is filled with allusions to Genesis - indeed his whole gospel can be read as the story of a new creation.

Presenter: Robin Griffith-Jones

Producer: Max O'Brien

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Elegy For New Orleans20051002

As the full significance of the tragedy that has befallen New Orleans finds expression, Fergal Keane considers what the city has represented culturally and spiritually.

With extracts from some of the city's writers, including John Kennedy O'Toole, Kate Chopin and Richard Ford and music by some of New Orleans' finest sons - among them, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Wynton Marsalis.

Elephants20140427

Mark Tully investigates the spiritual and cultural power of the elephant.

Mark Tully investigates the significance of the ancient cultural and spiritual connections between humans and elephants.

Demon, god, Lord of the Jungle, beast of war and of servitude, both temple and carnival attraction, the elephant inspires awe, affection and fear in equal measure. We worship elephants and enslave them, love them and kill them in their thousands.

In conversation with photographer, conservationists and founder of The World Wide Fund for Nature, Belinda Wright, he discusses the myriad qualities of the elephants of Asia and Africa.

The programme includes literature and music from Africa, India, Europe and America, with work by D.H Lawrence, Heathcote Williams, George Orwell, Jack Mapango, Claude Debussy, June Tabor and Henry Mancini.

The Readers are Adjoa Andoh, Michael Feast and Francis Cadder.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Embarrassment20151101

teaches, amuses and can even kill us. Mark Tully studies its repercussions.

Mark Tully examines the extraordinary contradictions of embarrassment.

It's an emotion that is an invaluable teaching aid, a source of the purest and funniest entertainment, an experience capable of creating powerful bonds and of causing deep estrangement. It's also a psychological state that frequently kills us - 'dying of embarrassment' is all too common.

In a programme devoted to embarrassment in all its many guises, Mark investigates the emotion that makes us blush with readings from Jane Austen, T.S. Eliot and Wendell Berry and music by Puccini, Ella Fitzgerald and the French revue star Mistinguett.

The readers are Samantha Bond, Francis Cadder and Matt Addis.

Presenter: Mark Tully

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique Broadcasting Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Embracing The Classical20141102

Mark Tully debates the cultural benefits of classical music with composer James MacMillan.

Luciano Pavarotti said it was "so important at a young age to be invited to embrace classical music and opera." Mark Tully and composer James MacMillan discuss the cross-cultural benefits of sharing classical traditions with new audiences and the power of music to unite.

The two first met during the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's tour of India earlier this year. Most of the music in this programme is taken from those concerts, as well as from the family concerts which accompanied them, where young audiences got their first introduction to Western classical traditions.

Mark and James compare the classical traditions of East and West and consider the exciting opportunities for music in a new global culture.

With music by Bizet, Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky and readings from Coleridge, Delmore Schwartz and Alice Herz-Sommer.

The readers are Jane Whittenshaw, David Westhead and Francis Cadder.

Produced by Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Emerging From The Ruins20070610

Mark Tully considers life after downfall, personal, emotional or financial.

Including a conversation with Jonathan Aitken

Encountering The Desert20050403

BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge considers how an encounter with the desert impacts on the human spirit.

Endings And Beginnings20130526

Marie-louise Muir reflects on the mysteries of the creative process.

What do we do when new revelations throw our past convictions into doubt? Samira Ahmed reflects on times when existing certainties in people and events are shaken - when trust is tested.

Is there anything we can be truly certain of in life? Our sense of self alters with age and experience, the most solid relationship can change or end, and even our most heartfelt beliefs can falter. In the wider world, we place trust in things communally as a society - things we feel we should be confident in, such as financial institutions or the labels on our food. Even with a healthy dose of scepticism, we need to invest a degree of trust for society to work. When something goes wrong, we feel that trust has been shaken.

History has many examples of existing certainties crumbling in the face of new revelations, especially from science. And maybe that's not so surprising. Absolute certainty about anything is rare - the great American Benjamin Franklin said the only certain things in life are death and taxes. And that might not always be a bad thing. Perhaps we need to steer a course: to acknowledge uncertainty, trust just the right amount.

Featuring music by Etta James, Sufjan Stevens and Miles Davies, and the words of Elif Shafak,

Rainer Maria Rilke and Walt Whitman.

Produced by Caroline Hughes

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Enduring Love20070429

How does the love between two people survive the disappointments, betrayals and routine of everyday life? With poetry, prose and music, Fergal Keane reflects on what makes a lasting relationship.

Enough Is Enough20151025

John McCarthy is joined by tenor Ian Bostridge and ecological economist Professor Tim Jackson, to consider whether aspiration for "stuff" and status gets in the way of personal contentment.

They begin their exploration by considering where our desire for wealth and status comes from, and whether it was ever thus. But the discussion broadens to explore our discontent with other aspects of life, such as sufficiency of time, work, space, looks, faith and love.

They end with Bach's beautiful Cantata Ich habe genug. This translates: It is enough or I am content. The piece is about the very elderly man Simeon at last seeing the baby Jesus when he was brought to the temple. He says:

It is enough.

I have held the Saviour, the hope of all peoples,

In the warm embrace of my arms.

Ian and John discuss the way in which Bach captures this sense of contentment and peace of mind that so often eludes us as human beings.

Produced by Rosie Boulton

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Entitlement20090510

Mark Tully explores the complex relationship between entitlement and rights.

Mark Tully explores the complex relationship between a sense of entitlement and the claiming of rights.

What is the difference between entitlements and rights and why is a sense of entitlement so closely related to privilege?

Eruption20160117

Samira Ahmed explores the power of unexpected eruptions - spiritual or geological.

Samira Ahmed explores the power of eruptions - emotional, spiritual or geological.

We often think of eruptions of emotion, anger for example, as troubling and out of our control, but can they be useful or powerful ways of effecting change? Giles Fraser discusses with Samira the significance of Jesus over-turning the tables of the money changers in the temple.

Eye-witness accounts of volcanic eruptions and poems by Neil Rollinson and James Kirkup are read by Emily Taaffe and Peter Marinker, with music by Sibelius, Ennio Morricone, CPE Bach and Alan Hovhahness.

Producer: Natalie Steed

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Escapism20130428

Art historian James Fox considers why there seems to be a human need to escape.

The art historian James Fox considers the idea of escapism, asking if there is a human need to escape and, if so, what it might be that we need to escape from.

From the idea of heaven to the draw of nostalgia, and from the reaction against the horrors of the First World War to the appeal of popular entertainment, the human imagination is celebrated and explored.

James Fox traces a path through readings from, amongst others, W.B. Yeats, David Foster Wallace and Marcel Proust, with music from Gabriel Fauré, Vaughan Williams and The Wizard of Oz.

The readers are Mark Quartley, Monica Dolan and Frank Stirling.

Producer: Philippa Geering

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Everything Changes20150322

Change is written into our DNA. Arts broadcaster Marie-louise Muir reflects on how we equip ourselves to deal with the inevitability that everything changes - from transformations in our physical being to less predictable shifts in our relationships - and asks whether experience makes us better at dealing with it.

The programme draws upon recent music by Peggy Seeger, Tim Wheeler and Irish music 'supergroup' The Gloaming, as well as extracts from books by Viv Albertine, Julian Barnes and Siri Hustvedt.

Readers: Julie Covington and Jonathan Keeble

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio Four.

Everything Has Its Place20110424

Felicity Finch reflects on how much we feel the need for order in our lives.

The pursuit of coherence in our lives is often mirrored in the orderly way in which we manage the clutter of our physical environment.

In 'Everything Has Its Place' Felicity Finch reflects on how we express this desire for neatness and order.

Referring to words and music from Carol Shields, Robert Herrick and Daniel Abse, Radiohead, Mozart and Jacques Brel, and in conversation with actress Souad Faress, Felicity explores the comfort we draw from the arrangement of the objects with which we surround ourselves, the chaos thrust upon us by nature and the desire for freedom from the rigidity and limitations that order can sometimes impose.

With readings by Emma Fielding and Jonathan Keeble.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

Everything In The Garden20100606

The journalist Madeleine Bunting reflects on the appeal of gardens and gardening.

Producer: Ronni Davis

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Everything Is Music20120422

Teresa Morgan explores how music runs like a thread through our lives.

Scholar and priest Teresa Morgan examines why music is so often used to communicate the nature of our existence - from the Big Bang to the human genome. With readings from Oliver Sacks, C.S. Lewis and Milan Kundera and music from Beethoven, Olivier Messiaen and Aaron Copland.

Producer: Eleanor McDowall

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

Expanding God20060827

Mike Wooldridge explores how our expanding knowledge of the cosmos challenges us to expand our vision of God.

He talks to Prof Keith Ward, who believes that we must rethink much of our imagery of creation and of Heaven.

There may be millions of years of evolution still to come, he suggests, and God's plan for intelligent life may hardly have begun.

Expanding God20070826

Mike Wooldridge explores how our expanding knowledge of the cosmos challenges us to expand our vision of God.

He talks to Prof Keith Ward who believes that we must rethink much of our imagery of creation and of heaven.

There may be millions of years of evolution still to come, he suggests, and God's plan for intelligent life may hardly have begun.

Exploration20140622

British writer and mountaineer Stephen Venables considers the importance of exploration.

"There are few treasures of more lasting worth than the experiences of a way of life that is in itself wholly satisfying. Such, after all, are the only possessions of which no fate, no cosmic catastrophe, can deprive us; nothing can alter the fact if for one moment in eternity we have really lived."

Drawing on these words from the explorer Eric Shipton, the British writer and mountaineer Stephen Venables considers the importance of exploration.

Producer: Eleanor McDowall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Exploring Our Own Amazement20040704

In Something Understood this week Mark Tully talks to poetry publisher Michael Schmidt about the relationship - both explicit and implicit - between poetry and spirituality.

Is there a link between our growing appetite for poetry and the wide-spread, well-documented exploration of all facets and dimensions of spiritual experience?

Faith In Numbers20130908

John McCarthy explores the potential of numbers to both comfort and inspire.

When John McCarthy was held hostage in the Lebanon he found an entirely unexpected source of sanity - numbers.

Five years and four months, 1 943 days - numbers always defined his time in captivity. They also enabled John to create his own safe world and maintain stability. In this deeply personal edition of Something Understood, John recalls his own surprising faith in numbers and finds others for whom numbers both comfort and inspire.

He discusses his experience with Frank Close, Professor of Physics at Oxford University. What is it like turning to numbers to explain the mysteries of our universe? Scientists often work intensely for years towards new discoveries, and breakthroughs are rare. Frank describes what that process is like - revealing what keeps him going if the breakthrough doesn't come.

Are numbers our method of explaining everything, or is there always some mystery beyond? Fellow physicist and practicing Hindu, Jay Lakhani, offers us his own unique, scientific and spiritual perspective. Numbers are deeply rooted in the Hindu faith and have been since its inception. We discover the resonance of the number zero, rooted in the Nasadiya Sukta, The Hymn of Creation - describing our journey from nothingness to something, from zero to one and then beyond.

Finally, what about when faith in numbers and faith in God truly coincide? We hear from a 30 year old American Christian who used to be part of the Holy Rollers, a card-counting Christian Blackjack team who used mathematics to beat the casinos. Their success relied completely on trust, within their own community and in the numbers themselves.

Presenter: John McCarthy

Producer: Rose de Larrabeiti

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Faith On The Frontline20110605

Jo Fidgen considers the challenges faced by soldiers with religious faith in wartime.

The journalist Jo Fidgen examines how religious belief can be both diminished and strengthened during service on the frontline.

She talks with Padre Simon Rose of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment about his experiences in Afghanistan and with Brian Turner, the American poet who served in Iraq.

And she also draws upon the writings of soldiers who saw action in the First World War, including the Padre Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, and Vietnam (the poet Yusef Komunyakaa).

With music by Bobby McFerrin, Sheryl Crow, Ivor Gurney and Penderecki.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Faithful Cities20061112

Mike Wooldridge explores how the religious landscape of the world's cities has been transformed since the publication of Faith in the City 20 years ago, and how frequently initiatives inspired by religion offer hope amidst the stress, squalor and degradation of urban life.

False Memories20150607

Mark Tully considers how misremembering past events can have far-reaching consequences.

Mark Tully considers the consequences of mis-remembering the past. Why do people have different memories of the same event, and how can we remember things that never happened?

The programme includes ideas from American psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who suggests that memory works a little bit like a Wikipedia page which you can change, but others can change too. She has warned against the dangers of certain therapies that lead to 'false memory' and unreliable accusations against innocent people.

In poetry, Ravi Shankar describes memories as the 'wobbly beams' on which we build our self-respect, and Carol Ann Duffy explores the dark side of a childhood misremembered.

Perhaps Jane Austen's heroine in Mansfield Park puts it best, when Fanny Price proclaims, "The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control!".

A Unique Broadcasting Company Production for BBC Radio 4.

Familiarity Breeds Content20120902

Mark Tully challenges the popular wisdom that familiarity breeds contempt.

Familiarity plays an important part in life. Familiar people, familiar places, familiar objects can provide us with security, strength and comfort. Why is it then that the most common phrase that we associate with the word familiarity is that it breeds contempt? Mark Tully asks whether it is actually more likely to be a source of happiness and investigates the paradox that causes this common source of contentment to be so frequently overlooked. With music by Lyle Lovett and Sir Henry Wood and with readings from Katherine Mansfield and U. A. Fanthorpe, he celebrates the pleasures of the familiar.

The readers are Philip Franks and Grainne Keenan.

Produced by Frank Stirling

A Unique Production for BBC Radio 4.

Fantasy And Imagination20060625

Mark Tully explores the difference between fantasy and imagination.

Is it true, as the Dominican Timothy Radcliffe has written recently, that while imagination creates signs that speak of the future and bring it nearer, fantasy is a form of despair that flees from reality rather than seeking to reshape it?

Father And Son20140223

Hardeep Singh Kohli reflects on the relationship between fathers and sons.

Being the father of a son who's about to turn 21, Hardeep Singh Kohli is drawn to reflect on this special parental relationship.

With reference to the writings of Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy and Arthur Miller, and music by Terry Riley, The Lemonheads and John Lennon.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio Four.

Fear And Compassion20071216

Mark Tully considers the idea that people rediscover their compassion when they stop being afraid.

Why is fear at the heart of so much cruel and corrupt behaviour and how can it be overcome to release kindness, empathy and generosity?

Fear Not20160103

Marie-louise Muir reflects on the last words of poet Seamus Heaney, 'do not be afraid'.

The last words of the poet Seamus Heaney were 'Noli Timere', sent in a text to his wife. They translate as "Do not be Afraid".

The broadcaster Marie-louise Muir speculates on what Heaney might have meant by this advice to a loved one and reflects on how a calm confidence and moral strength can be developed to keep the noisy external world and its accompanying fears at bay.

With reference to the writings of Keats and JK Rowling, and the music of Talking Heads and JS Bach.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Feast And Famine20090329

Writer and broadcaster Irma Kurts reflects on the human obsession with food.

Feeling Groovy20150531

Jazz musician Django Bates muses on being 'in the groove'.

The jazz musician Django Bates has a professional instinct for finding his way into 'the groove'. In 'Feeling Groovy', he reflects on what that means, both musically and in reference to our daily lives - that sense of all things being possible, of being at one with the world.

He draws on the experience of other musicians - such as Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane and Morton Feldman - as well as the poetry of Elizabeth Jennings and the writings of James Baldwin. He also visits Air Studios in London to talk to legendary mastering engineer Ray Staff about the particular appeal of vinyl grooves.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Finding Your Father20100704

Nigerian-born Gospel singer Muyiwa Olarewaju tells the story of his search for a father.

British-based Gospel singer and broadcaster Muyiwa Olarewaju tells the story of his search for a father.

He was sent from Nigeria to Britain when he 10 years old.

His father was shot dead in Nigeria and he never saw him again.

Muyiwa recalls standing on a London high street, with all his belongings in a black bin bag, wondering where to turn.

He recounts how he met a church youth leader Emmanuel Mbakwe - now the national leader of the UK Apostolic Church - who adopted him and encouraged him to take up his career as a Gospel singer.

This led to a deeper understanding of his spiritual father and eventual peace.

Muyiwa reflects upon the true sense of fatherhood, drawing on readings ranging from Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's classic "Things Fall Apart", to American Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead".

He also draws on music and songs which reflect the theme of finding a father - including his own hit Gospel song "Safe In His Hands," recorded with his band Riversongz.

Producer: Kim Normanton

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

First Impressions20110417

Mark Tully asks if we should rely on first impressions or take more time to form opinions.

Can we influence the impact we make on others, and can we be manipulated by those who cultivate misleading first impressions for their own benefit.

Using examples of music inspired by the composers' first impressions of landscapes, and poetry written about first impressions of lovers, and even drawing on the conclusions of research into instinctual judgments, Tully discovers that 'snap' decisions can not only prove trustworthy in the long run, but help to protect us from harm.

But should we always trust our immediate responses, or is there an argument to be made for 'proper' consideration? What are the dangers of acting upon first impressions, and when has it all gone wrong.

Producer: Adam Fowler

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Follow My Leader20090816

Mark Tully considers great leaders and the source of their power to galvanise the cynical.

Mark Tully considers great leaders and the source of their power to galvanise the cynical and apathetic on local, national and global levels.

Food For Life20120923

Rabbi Julia Neuberger discusses the complexities of our relationship with food.

That food is not simply fuel is a point conceded by most cultures, but at the same time there are lots of conflicting messages about how it should affect our lives in other ways. As we veer between famine, food mountains, food fads, what Michael Pollan has described as "national eating disorders", religious and spiritual rituals and national feasting, Julia Neuberger attempts to unravel some of the complexities of the modern relationship with food.

She looks at a range of literature from the food criticism of Brillat-Savarin to the novels of Emile Zola and the memoirs of Benjamin Franklin. With music from Kurt Weill and Puccini.

The readers are Neil Dudgeon and Joe Kloska.

Produced by Frank Stirling

A Unique Production for BBC Radio 4.

Footloose20120729

Irma Kurtz considers how curiosity and imagination inspire true footloose travellers.

Irma Kurtz considers how curiosity and imagination inspire true footloose travellers to explore.

She reflects that, for her, the important part of travel is encountering others on the road: learning how different we are, and how alike. Irma believes that by extending your view of the world, you extend your view of yourself so that, by the end of your journey, you will have changed.

To illustrate her footloose theme we hear readings from the work of John Keats, Walt Whitman and Mary Morris as well as an extract from her own travel book 'The Great American Bus Ride'. Music is provided by composers Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and Claude Debussy.

The readers are Liza Sadovy and Col Farrell.

Producer: Ronni Davis

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

For What We Give Thanks20041121

In the week of the American Thanksgiving festival, Fergal Keane explores the rituals and meaning of gratitude.

Forests: Weaving Magic Secrets20140810

John McCarthy explores our connection to forests, both real and imagined.

John McCarthy asks why we are drawn to and drawn into forests, both real and imaginary. And what do we find there?

From Jean Paul Sartre's Nausea to Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, woodland has often been seen as magical, strange, sacred and scary. The ancient forests of northern Europe were where folk tales began - the wolf, the witch, the gingerbread house, and the poor woodcutter.

Mostly though forests, whether invented or actual, stand in relation to civilisation and, as such, have a particular imaginative resonance.

In Dante's Paradise Lost, he sees the forest being domesticated, from the dark forest of the Inferno, an allegory of the soul's state of sinfulness and error to the ancient forest of Eden at the top of Purgatory, which is a kind of park under the jurisdiction of the City of God.

Following in the footsteps of the poet John Clare on his walk out of Epping Forest and away from his asylum, John McCarthy learns why the forest is not just a setting for so many stories, it is central to what happens next with rules of its own and a way of intervening into the drama of those travelling through it.

The programme features music by Paul Weller and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Producer: Emily Williams

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Francis, The Saint Whose Time Has Come20080713

Mike Wooldridge visits the unique Franciscan community at Hilfield in Dorset.

He talks to community leader Brother Samuel SSF about why Franciscan spirituality has such a particular relevance and appeal today.

How might long-hidden aspects of the teaching and example of St Francis be a powerful model for inter-faith peace-making and collaboration for the survival of the planet?

Freedom And Control20110116

Mark Tully considers the paradox that controls can create a sense of freedom and creativity.

Mark Tully considers the paradox that boundaries and controls can create a sense of freedom and creativity.

A sonnet, or a sonata are bound by prescribed form, but in the hands of Wordsworth, or Beethoven they can transcend the rules they depend on.

Using a diverse range of music from Olivier Messiaen, to Ravi Shankar, Humphrey Littleton and the mathematically constructed work of Iannis Xenakis, Mark Tully discovers that structure usually, though not always, allows extemporization which creates something much greater than the original form.

And with the help of the words of others like Bertrand Russell and Stephen Fry who have maintained that constraints enable, or are even necessary for creativity; he suggests that rhythm controls not only music and poetry, but the natural world around us, and can also influence our own spiritual lives.

So do we all need fixed boundaries within which to operate with free will, and is freedom always dependent on control?

This programme is the first of two parts, in the second of which, Freedom From Control , Mark Tully interrogates the opposite view that, for some, true creativity is the result of abandoning all boundaries.

Presenter: Mark Tully

Producer: Adam Fowler

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Freedom From Control20110123

Mark Tully considers that, for some, creativity is only possible when control is abandoned

As an antithesis to the previous Something Understood, Mark Tully considers that, for some, creativity is only possible when normal controls are abandoned.

To jettison the boundaries which shape our sense of reality and of ourselves involves a great deal of risk and, for most of us, this sounds like a dangerous path to follow.

But Mark looks at the artists, writers and composers who have done just that, and assesses whether, in his opinion, their creativity has been enhanced or obstructed by lack of control.

Imagine being given licence to do, say and create anything you wanted, unhindered by what others will think, or how it will affect them.

Is there a truth that you might have within you that might be freed this way, and what would you create to express that truth?

And is this where genius abides, or madness? Or both? Can we function as humans and as societies if this kind of thinking is developed, or will we always just tolerate the few "crazy" artists who push our boundaries for us, while we remain safe and enclosed?

Presented by Mark Tully

Producer: Adam Fowler

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Fruits Of Labour20120603

Melissa Viney reflects on how becoming a mother can affect creativity.

After giving birth recently for the first time, the writer and broadcaster Melissa Viney reflects on how motherhood can affect a woman's creative life.

Does it open up new ways of viewing the world or can it occasionally push them 'to the side of their own lives' as Philip Larkin suggested? Including readings from the work of Esther Morgan, Ellen Bell and Chana Bloch, music from Nina Simone and Clara Schumann and new interviews with the artists Charlotte Verity and Jo Dennis.

Producer: Eleanor McDowall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Fun Is Its Own Reason20061022

Mark Tully contemplates the philosophy of enjoyment.

Advertising and social life is now dominated by the notion of having fun, but is this always desirable?

Future Perfect20070506

Mark Tully considers how far it is possible for us to create the future.

Many denounce the idea that we can forge our own destiny, but some contemporary theologians argue that it is not only possible but also our moral obligation.

Futurechurch20040208

Mark Tully asks what the future holds for the Church as more and more of its members question its central doctrines and structures.

Gardens20110703

Mark Tully celebrates the healing power of gardens.

Mark Tully celebrates the healing power of gardens, and talks to Rev.

Lizzie Hopthrow, Chaplain of the Pilgrims' Hospice in Canterbury, about how her hospice garden brings hope to patients and their families.

With poetry from 14th century Persia, to contemporary writers Karl Capek and Diana Athill, and music by de Falla, June Tabor and Stevie Wonder.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Audio production for BBC Radio 4.

Genius20090719

Mark Tully explores the nature of genius.

Are geniuses born or made, what sets them above the merely excellent, what conditions do they need to reach their full potential and what are they like to live with?

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930412]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

Poetry on the theme of Easter, including The Dream of the Rood.

Readers Bill Paterson and Barbara Leigh-Hunt. producer Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930412]

Readers: Bill Paterson

Readers: Barbara Leigh-Hunt

Producer: Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930413]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

Poetry on the theme of Easter. Readers

Paul Scofield , Brid Brennan ,

David Holt and Alison Reid. Producer Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930413]

Readers: Paul Scofield

Readers: Brid Brennan

Readers: David Holt

Readers: Alison Reid.

Producer: Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930414]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

An extract from

Paradise Illustrated byDJEnright.

Reader Jack Shepherd. Producer Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930414]

Reader: Jack Shepherd.

Producer: Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930415]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of Creation. Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt and Alison Reid.

Producer Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930415]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19930416]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of Prayer.

Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt , Alison Reid and James Telfer.

Producer Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930416]

Readers: Paul Scofield

Readers: Brid Brennan

Readers: David Holt

Readers: Alison Reid

Readers: James Telfer.

Producer: Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930419]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of Nature.

Readers Norman Rodway and David Rintoul. Producer Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930419]

Readers: Norman Rodway

Readers: David Rintoul.

Producer: Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930420]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of Nature.

Readers Barbara Leigh -Hunt, Angela Pleasence , David Rintoul and Norman Rodway

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930420]

Readers: Barbara Leigh

Unknown: Angela Pleasence

Unknown: David Rintoul

Unknown: Norman Rodway

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930421]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

Poetry on the theme of Nature.

Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt and Alison Reid.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930421]

Readers: Paul Scofield

Readers: Brid Brennan

Readers: David Holt

Readers: Alison Reid.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930422]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the" nature of God.

Readers Freddie Jones ,

Amanda Waring , Jennifer Ehle and Nonie Kent.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930422]

Readers: Freddie Jones

Readers: Amanda Waring

Readers: Jennifer Ehle

Readers: Nonie Kent.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930423]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of Personal

Faith.

Readers Freddie Jones ,

Amanda Waring , Jennifer Ehle , Nonie Kent.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930423]

Readers: Freddie Jones

Readers: Amanda Waring

Readers: Jennifer Ehle

Unknown: Nonie Kent.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930426]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of death.

Readers Barbara Leigh -Hunt, Michael Onslow , Angela Pleasence and Paul Shelley.

Producer Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930426]

Readers: Barbara Leigh

Unknown: Michael Onslow

Unknown: Angela Pleasence

Unknown: Paul Shelley.

Producer: Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930427]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of death.

Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt and Alison Reid.

Producer Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930427]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19930428]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of love.

Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt and Alison Reid.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930428]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19930429]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of Love.

Readers Barbara Leigh -Hunt, Michael Onslow ,

Angela Pleasence , David Rintoul and Paul Shelley.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930429]

Readers: Barbara Leigh

Unknown: Michael Onslow

Unknown: Angela Pleasence

Unknown: David Rintoul

Unknown: Paul Shelley.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930430]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of Ordinary Lives. Readers Louise Beattie. Jennifer Ehle , Keely Marshall and Amanda Waring.

Producer David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930430]

Readers: Louise Beattie.

Readers: Jennifer Ehle

Readers: Keely Marshall

Readers: Amanda Waring.

Producer: David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930504]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of doubt.

Readers Angela Pleasence , David Rintoul and Paul Shelley.

Producer Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930504]

Readers: Angela Pleasence

Readers: David Rintoul

Readers: Paul Shelley.

Producer: Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930505]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of doubt.

Readers Barbara Leigh -Hunt, Angela Pleasence , David Rintoul and Paul Shelley.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930505]

Readers: Barbara Leigh

Unknown: Angela Pleasence

Unknown: David Rintoul

Unknown: Paul Shelley.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930506]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verge

A selection of poetry on the theme of doubt.

Readers Louise Beattie. John Moffatt.

William Roberts. Amanda Waring. Jennifer Ehle and Nonie Kent.

ProduceDavid Benedicts

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930506]

Readers: Louise Beattie.

Readers: John Moffatt.

Readers: William Roberts.

Readers: Amanda Waring.

Readers: Jennifer Ehle

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930507]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of peace.

Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt and Alison Reid.

Producer Katnona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930507]

Readers: Paul Scofield

Readers: Brid Brennan

Readers: David Holt

Readers: Alison Reid.

Producer: Katnona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930510]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of childhood. Read by Barbara Leigh -Hunt and David Rintoul. producer Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930510]

Read By: Barbara Leigh

Unknown: David Rintoul.

Producer: Jocelyn Boxall

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930511]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of childhood.

Readers Amanda Waring , Jennifer Ehle , Freddie Jones and Dermot Crowley. Producer David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930511]

Readers: Amanda Waring

Readers: Jennifer Ehle

Readers: Freddie Jones

Readers: Dermot Crowley.

Producer: David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930512]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on nuns. Readers

Brid Brennan and Alison Reid.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930512]

Readers: Brid Brennan

Readers: Alison Reid.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930513]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of humanity. Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt and Alison Reid.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930513]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19930514]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of bereavement. Readers Virginia

McKenna, Keely Marshall , Dermot Crowley and John Moffatt. producer David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930514]

Unknown: Keely Marshall

Unknown: Dermot Crowley

Unknown: John Moffatt.

Producer: David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930517]

A selection of poetry on the theme of despair.

Read by Virginia McKenna , Louise Beattie ,

Jennifer Ehle and Amanda Waring. Producer David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930517]

Read By: Virginia McKenna

Read By: Louise Beattie

Unknown: Jennifer Ehle

Unknown: Amanda Waring.

Producer: David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930518]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of animals.

Readers Amanda Waring , Jennifer Ehle ,

William Roberts and Freddie Jones. Producer David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930518]

Readers: Amanda Waring

Readers: Jennifer Ehle

Unknown: William Roberts

Unknown: Freddie Jones.

Producer: David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930519]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of animals.

Readers Amanda Waring , Jennifer Ehle ,

Louise Beattie , Dermot Crowley and Tom Courtenay. Producer David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930519]

Readers: Amanda Waring

Readers: Jennifer Ehle

Unknown: Louise Beattie

Unknown: Dermot Crowley

Unknown: Tom Courtenay.

Producer: David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930520]

An Anthology of Spiritual Verse

A selection of poetry on the theme of last times. Readers Paul Scofield ,

Brid Brennan , David Holt , Alison Reid and Sandra James-young.

Producer Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930520]

Readers: Paul Scofield

Readers: Brid Brennan

Unknown: David Holt

Unknown: Alison Reid

Unknown: Sandra James-young

Producer: Katriona Wade

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930521]

An Anthology of Spiritual

Verse

A selection of poetry chosen by listeners from the current series.

Producer David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19930521]

Producer: David Benedictus

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970105]

Mark Tully looks at the new relationship between scientists and theologians. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970105]

Unknown: Mark Tully

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970112]

Mark Tully talks to playwright Christopher Fry.

Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970112]

Talks: Mark Tully

Unknown: Christopher Fry.

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970119]

Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970119]

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970126]

Mark Tully talks to Lord Howe about the trials and tribulations of power. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970126]

Talks: Mark Tully

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970202]

Mark Tully celebrates the enduring role of the English Cathedral. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970202]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970209]

Peter Hobday investigates the healing properties of herbs. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970209]

Unknown: Peter Hobday

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970216]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970216]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970223]

Peter Hobday examines our understanding of the word "holiness". Producer Will Cantopher

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970223]

Unknown: Peter Hobday

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970302]

The first of two programmes in which Mark Tully asks how people can find their spiritual home.

Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970302]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970309]

Last of two programmes. Mark Tully asks how people can find their spiritual home. With Dr Julius Lipner , who describes himself as a Catholic Hindu. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970309]

Unknown: Mark Tully

Unknown: Dr Julius Lipner

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970316]

Denis Tuohy discovers the spiritual benefits of silence.

Producer Will Cantopher

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970316]

Unknown: Denis Tuohy

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970323]

Actor and climber Brian Blessed talks to Denis Tuohy about personal Everests. Producer Will Cantopher

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970323]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970330]

Denis Tuohy reflects on death and rebirth and looks for signs which symbolise new life. Producer Will Cantopher

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970330]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970406]

Mark Tully explores the language and symbolism of flowers, in conversation with floral artist Beverley Parkin. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970406]

Unknown: Mark Tully

Artist: Beverley Parkin.

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970413]

Mark Tully looks at the benefits and dangers of a disciplined life. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970413]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970420]

Mark Tully looks at the origins of chivalry and asks if it is really true that the age of chivalry has gone for good. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970420]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970427]

Mark Tully talks to barrister

Christopher Clarke about issues of crime and appropriate punishment, and good and bad judgement. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970427]

Talks: Mark Tully

Unknown: Christopher Clarke

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970504]

Eileen Campbell explores the power and significance of the river.

Producers Jane Jeffes and Tamsin Collison

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970504]

Unknown: Eileen Campbell

Producers: Jane Jeffes

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970511]

Eileen Campbell explores pilgrimage through words and music by Berlioz, Chandra, TS Eliot and Judah Halvei , and in conversation with Umar Hegedus. Producers Tasmin Collison and Jane Jeffes

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970511]

Unknown: Eileen Campbell

Unknown: Ts Eliot

Unknown: Judah Halvei

Unknown: Umar Hegedus.

Producers: Tasmin Collison

Producers: Jane Jeffes

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970518]

What is a mission statement?

Eileen Campbell explores this topical subject. Producers Tamsin Collison and Jane Jeffes

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970518]

Unknown: Eileen Campbell

Producers: Tamsin Collison

Producers: Jane Jeffes

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970525]

Mark Tully explores the nature and significance of colour in our lives. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970525]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970601]

Mark Tully considers questions of trust and how it is won, lost and regained.

Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970601]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970608]

Mark Tully investigates contentment. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970608]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970615]

To celebrate Father's Day, Mark Tully talks to the writer John Mortimer about his relationship with his father and with his son.

Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970615]

Talks: Mark Tully

Unknown: John Mortimer

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970629]

What is time? Peter Hobday asks

Maria Bluzinsky , curator of astronomy at the Old Royal Conservatory in Greenwich, south London. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970629]

Unknown: Peter Hobday

Unknown: Maria Bluzinsky

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970706]

Touch. Peter Hobday explores the most undervalued of our senses, with the help of Peter White , the BBC's disability affairs correspondent. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970706]

Unknown: Peter Hobday

Unknown: Peter White

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970713]

Denis Tuohy examines monastic life and explores its impact on the world. Producer Will Cantopher

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970713]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970720]

Is villainy as much a part of life and art as heroism or goodness? Denis Tuohy examines the evidence. Producer Will Cantopher

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970720]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970727]

Denis Tuohy looks at how we find strength in the simple comforts of life. Producer Will Cantopher

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970727]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970803]

Mark Tully considers the history and symbolism of castles and their occupants.

Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970803]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970810]

Repeated from 6.10am

Mark Tully tries to identify the true spirit of India.

Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970810]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970817]

Mark Tully talks to Professor Richard Dawkins about his views on evolution. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970817]

Talks: Mark Tully

Unknown: Professor Richard Dawkins

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970824]

Repeated from6.10am

Mark Tully 's theme is Work, Rest and Play. Drawing on the archive, he looks at the changing face of work and leisure. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970824]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970831]

Mark Tully considers images, icons and idols in conversation with Professor

Ursula King of Bristol University. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970831]

Unknown: Mark Tully

Unknown: Ursula King

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970907]

GK Chesterton once claimed that

England was the only country in the world to experience real weather. Mark Tully considers this most enduring conversational staple. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970907]

Unknown: Gk Chesterton

Unknown: Mark Tully

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970914]

Eileen Campbell explores the lure of the desert, where nothing is ever quite what it seems. Producer Tamsin Collison Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970914]

Unknown: Eileen Campbell

Producer: Tamsin Collison

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970921]

Eileen Campbell looks at man's fascination with the unknown.

Producer Tamsin Collison Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970921]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19970928]

Eileen Campbell looks at the different ways in which man has perceived and striven for Utopia.

Producer Tamsin Collison Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19970928]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971005]

Mark Tully considers our most enduring conversational staple - the weather. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971005]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971012]

Poet Roger McGough reads some of his poems on the subject of class.

Producer Beverley McAinsh. Rptd at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971012]

Unknown: Roger McGough

Producer: Beverley McAinsh.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971019]

Mark Tully and Frank Delaney explore the myths and magic of Ireland. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971019]

Unknown: Mark Tully

Unknown: Frank Delaney

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971026]

Mark Tully and psychologist Dorothy Rowe consider gurus and guides. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971026]

Unknown: Mark Tully

Unknown: Dorothy Rowe

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971102]

Peter Hobday asks whether it is the maverick or the conformist who contributes more to life and society. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971102]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971109]

On Remembrance Sunday,

Peter Hobday considers the mourning process and the importance of remembrance.

Producer Beverley McAinsh. Repeated 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971109]

Unknown: Peter Hobday

Producer: Beverley McAinsh.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971116]

Peter Hobday explores how our sense of value and worth develops. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971116]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971123]

Mark Tully considers transport in all its guises.

Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971123]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971130]

Mark Tully 's theme is optimism. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971130]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971207]

Mark Tully considers associations we make with various times of the day. Producer Beverley McAinsh Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971207]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971214]

Mark Tully talks to Tim Grandage , who works with street children in Calcutta. Producer Beverley McAinsh. Rptd at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971214]

Talks: Mark Tully

Unknown: Tim Grandage

Producer: Beverley McAinsh.

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971221]

Denis Tuohy looks forward to the shared family experience that is the hallmark of Christmas. Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971221]
Genome: [r4 Bd=19971225]

Christmas celebrations with Mark Tully. Producer Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971225]

Unknown: Mark Tully.

Producer: Beverley McAinsh

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971228]

Denis Tuohy explores the relationship between pulpit and stage with the help of the Reduced Shakespeare

Company, who perform extracts from their most recent show, The Bible: the Complete Word of God. Producer Will Cantopher Repeated at 11.15pm

Genome: [r4 Bd=19971228]
George Herbert20141019

Mark Tully discusses the religious importance of metaphysical poet George Herbert.

George Herbert provided the series Something Understood with its title and so is, in a sense, the programme's literary patron. Mark Tully presents a celebration of the seventeenth century metaphysical poet's life and work in conversation with his latest biographer John Drury, and discusses the relevance Herbert can still have for us today.

There are readings of Herbert's work and the music his verse has inspired. The featured authors and composers include Vikram Seth, T S Eliot, Alec Roth, Sandy Denny and Vaughan Williams.

The readers are Jane Whittenshaw, David Westhead and Francis Cadder.

Produced by Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Getting Away With It20120624

Felicity Finch reflects on the feeling of 'getting away with it'.

Felicity Finch reflects on the balance of insecurity and confidence in our lives which can prompt us to feel we are 'getting away with it'. From the idea that we are impostors in our own lives, pretending to play a role we feel we're ill-equipped to perform, to the deliberate attempt to deceive others without facing the consequences.

Including readings from Paul Dunbar, John Cheever, and Hilary Mantel; alongside music by Bessie Smith, Fritz Kreisler and Matteo Carcassi and an interview with Professor Athene Donald.

Produced by Eleanor McDowall

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

Ghosts2003020920030215

Mark Tully considers the phenomenon of those who come back to haunt us in spiritual form.

Gifts20140316

John McCarthy considers the complexities in giving and receiving gifts.

As he shops for a present for a relation he hasn't seen for a while, John reflects on the dance of gifting. He explores ways in which gifts can create unanticipated jealousies. They can so often reflect the taste of the giver rather than the recipient and sometimes giving can be manipulative.

The shopping trip brings back memories of a surprise gift John's father once brought home from a business trip, and he remembers his nephew's intense disappointment at not getting the present he wished for from his grandmother. All of which raises the knotty subject of how to receive a gift graciously.

The programme includes readings from works by EM Forster, Eva Ibbotson, Kim Addonizio and Brian Patten. And there's music by Wagner, Chris Wood, Jim Croce and Cesar Franck.

Readers: Rachel Atkins and Fraser James

Produced by Rosie Boulton

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Glimpses In The Garden2005031320050320

As a young art therapist Joyce Laing noticed the intensity of paintings by her TB patients eerily prefigured their bouts of illness.

This led to a lifelong interest in art by people with mental health problems, with Joyce connecting the visions of William Blake to the surrealists and finally to a tiny woven offering she found beneath a holly bush in the grounds of a mental asylum.

On the Road Again: Fergal Keane considers the compulsion some people have to travel and wonders if the importance lies in the journey or the goal at the end of the road.

[Rpt of Sun 6.05am]

God Be In My Head20100404

Tom Robinson reflects on the benediction God Be In My Head.

The benediction 'God Be In My Head' often forms part of funeral ceremonies.

This week's presenter, Tom Robinson, heard it at his own father's recent memorial service, which led him to reflect upon how it's refrain resonates in our lives, both spiritually and in secular contexts.

He draws upon the words of Martin Luther King, John Wesley and Evelyn Waugh, among others, with music by Peteris Vasks, Hank Williams, Ben Harper and Walford Davies.

The producer is Alan Hall.

This is a Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

God Bless Our Contradictions20130324

Poet Stewart Henderson reflects on our inner contradictions. Can they ever be helpful?

Stewart Henderson reflects on our inner contradictions. Can they ever be helpful to us?

We often think of contradiction as a bad thing - it means being hypocritical, or struggling with two opposite emotions at the same time. But can that actually have its benefits?

Stewart Henderson explores whether our inner contradictions can enrich our lives. He speaks to Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church, who challenged his Church on its attitude to gay and lesbian people and women, yet remained an active member of the institution. Stewart asks him about his persistent refusal to stop questioning Christianity, and if he's come to terms with his uncertainty about the existence of God. Richard thinks faith itself is based on a contradiction: if we could prove our beliefs, we wouldn't need faith - or doubt.

Readings from St. Paul and F. Scott Fitzgerald explore the challenges of living with contradictions, and music from Robert Schumann, Steve Reich and Leonard Cohen show us how they can even be beautiful.

William Blake wrote "without contraries, no progression". Do we need to contradict ourselves to move forward?

Producer: Frances Beere

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

God Loves A Drunk20160828

Award winning poet Imtiaz Dharker examines the phenomenon of divine intoxication - being drunk on God.

It's an experience which causes an uncontainable release of energy and intoxication, one that has inspired writers for centuries. Imtiaz explains "Before I ever tasted it I understood the metaphor of wine and its powerful spell. It was in the Urdu poetry my parents listened to, the ghazals and Hindustani film songs with the recurring theme of 'nasha', intoxicating love."

Intoxication, especially when brought about by something as pure as love, offers us the chance to lose ourselves, to communicate with an elusive beyond. The imagery of intoxication flows through cultures, enriching art, songs and poetry. Drunkenness it transpires is not always frowned upon. At Purim, Jews are instructed to become inebriated, in memory of their deliverance through Esther. Dionysus offers liberation through wine, a release into exuberant fertility, music and dance.

Imtiaz draws upon the work of the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz and the Sufi poets who, despite being Muslims, used the metaphor of wine, taverns and heavenly barmaids to suggest a longing for God. Music featured includes Joni Mitchell, Jacques Brel and Richard Thompson.

Presenter: Imtiaz Dharker

Producer: Max O'Brien

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

God's Darling20060820

Rosemary Hartill explores the mysterious, playful, creative and cosmic figure of Sophia - Wisdom - in some of her many guises - Greek, Jewish and Christian.

How does Sophia combine the practical wisdom of women with the ability to guide and counsel with universal wisdom and mystical insight?

Gold20131027

Starting from her own conviction that nothing but gold would do for the necklace she bought herself to mark the birth of her son, the writer Lucy Mangan weaves a meditation on the value and the meanings that we invest in this precious element.

She draws on the poetry of Ted Hughes and Thomas Hood, writings by Hesiod and a 'gold rush' prospector, Sheldon Shufelt, and music by Richard Wagner and Stevie Wonder.

Produced by Alan Hall.

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Writer Lucy Mangan reflects on the value and the meanings we invest in gold.

Golden Apples Of The Sun20020818

Mark Tully investigates why the simple apple has acquired such powerful connotations of health and wholeness, sin and corruption, beauty and aspiration.

Good Will20161225

Mark Tully on the angels' message of goodwill at Christmas. Readings from Derek Jacobi.

According to the gospels, on the first Christmas Day, angels promised peace and good will on earth. The meaning of peace is clear, but what did they mean by good will and what do we understand it to mean today?

Mark Tully discusses the spiritual and religious idea of benevolence with academic, musician and priest June Boyce-Tillman and asks how we can show good will to those around us on a day which can be both joyful and stressful.

Derek Jacobi and Adjoa Andoh read from work by Archbishop Tutu and poets Mark Turbyfill and Karen Gershon, and there's music from Tchaikovsky, Ella Fitzgerald and The Van Dykes. Albert Finney sings as well.

Readers: Derek Jacobi and Adjoa Andoh

Presented by Mark Tully

Produced by Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Goodness And Belief20031019

Mark Tully considers whether there is any relationship between goodness and belief.

Does religious faith make people 'better' human beings and what, if any, are the differences between 'good' Believers and good Humanists?

Gossip And Whispers20141207

Psst... listen... John McCarthy considers the pleasures and perils of loose-tongued talk.

Psssst...listen... John McCarthy considers the pleasures and perils of loose tongued talk.

Gossip is one of the ways we make connections within our social groups but it can be hurtful and isolating for those being gossiped about. The sharing of secrets can reinforce the intimate bonds of friendship - or break them. And rumours, as they fly from ear to mouth to ear, can shift shape to become monstrous or hilarious.

The programme includes readings from works by Ted Hughes, Jen Hadfield and Elias Canetti and music by Tracey Thorn and The Inkspots.

Readings by Peter Marinker, Stella Gonet, Ted Hughes and Jen Hadfield.

Produced by Natalie Steed

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Grace20160703

Award-winning poet Michael Symmons Roberts explores the deep meanings of grace.

Award winning poet, Michael Symmons Roberts explores the deep meanings that lie behind the word 'grace' and how this and other words have lost some of their original power.

Roberts explains, "the poet Seamus Heaney once used the phrase 'the big lightening, the emptying out' to describe the thinning of our religious language, the loss of meaning in terms that once were common currency to describe theological ideas or mystical or spiritual experience".

Roberts laments the fact that words like water and wood at one time conjured images of the baptism and crucifixion of Christ, but are now more sterile and impotent. But 'grace' is his central theme and, through the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and RS Thomas and the insights of the great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he tries to restore some of the depth and wonder of a word which we have perhaps taken for granted.

Having a hit song using its most famous iteration has not helped. Roberts explains, "Amazing Grace is still one of our best known hymns...but in the course of more than two centuries of singing John Newton's story of salvation and rescue, some lines have survived better than others in retaining their power to communicate a shared experience. Anyone today could connect with the line 'I once was lost, but now am found'. But I suspect the same could not be said for 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, / And grace my fears reliev'd."

The music in the programme includes Judy Collins, Elbow and Jeff Buckley's famous song Grace.

Roberts concludes that it is the responsibility of all of us to restore the power of our language and generate new ways of talking about the human experience.

Presenter: Michael Symmons Roberts

Producer: Michael Wakelin

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Grandparents20140914

Mark Tully explores the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.

In a celebration of what it means to be a grandparent, Mark Tully examines the very particular relationship that exists between grandparent and grandchild.

This is obviously a two-way street, so this is a programme full of music and readings that explore the bridge between the generations from all points of view.

Here are evil grandmothers according to Rachmaninoff and inspiring ones from New York journalist Adriana Trigiani; we meet Victor Hugo, the doting grandfather, and Seamus Heaney, the devoted grandson; and musician Josef Suk plays the work of his revered grandfather.

The readers are Emily Raymond and Jasper Britton.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Guardian Angels20050130

Is there someone out there, seen or unseen, watching over us, protecting us? The idea is popular in both Islamic and Christian tradition.

Mark Tully investigates.

Happy Accidents20110320

Irma Kurtz considers how serendipity moulds our lives and influences our lives.

Irma Kurtz considers how serendipity influences and moulds our lives in 'Happy Accidents'.

This propensity for finding something unexpected and useful while searching for something else entirely can be related to science, geography and of course, love.

Serendipity differs from mere coincidence - it doesn't knock at the door and you can't go out to look for it.

We know now that the early explorers who voyaged before there were maps and navigational equipment were masters of serendipity.

We will hear a letter from Christopher Columbus which reveals very clearly that America was a serendipitous discovery which came about while the explorer was actually looking for a route to the Indies.

Presented by Irma Kurtz

Produced by Ronni Davis

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Happy Talk20080210

Mark Tully asks if happiness can be taught.

Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, is confident that it can, and in 2006 happiness and well-being psychology was added to the College curriculum.

More recently, Education Secretary Ed Balls announced that such lessons will be introduced in all state secondary schools.

So what secrets can teachers share to help students enjoy a happy and contented life?

Hard Wired For Belief20060611

Mark Tully explores the growing conviction among some scientists that human beings are hard-wired to believe in - what Professor Robert Winston has called - The Divine Idea.

Despite firm predictions to the contrary and all that science, consumerism and political ideologies have thrown at it, Faith has not withered away.

Harmony20131117

Mark Tully appreciates harmony in the company of pianist and composer David Owen Norris.

Mark Tully pulls up a piano stool and tries to understand the concept of harmony in the company of pianist and composer David Owen Norris, who suggests that it has more to do with mathematics than melody.

We might think that it is obvious what is harmonious and what is not, but our sense of musical harmony has developed over time - as David Owen Norris illustrates at the keyboard with the help of excerpts from Claude Debussy and Barbara Streisand.

But are we born with a sense of harmony? Do other cultures have a different appreciation of harmony? And just how did Beethoven manage to turn the chord of C Major into dissonance?

Producer: Adam Fowler.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Harvest Festival20080921

Mark Tully talks to Prof Michael Northcott about the broken relationship between food production and consumption.

At this harvest-tide, why will so many of us feel only guilt amid the cornucopia of cheap industrial foods in our supermarkets? How can we recover our sense of food as an elemental collaboration between humanity and the Creator?

Healing Moments20160515

Academic Dr Sarah Goldingay explores the spiritual aspects of healing. Sarah's research into the healing experience has led her to the realisation that the process involves far more than our bodies alone.

For Sarah, healing is about our emotions, our sense of self, the landscape and community we were born into. It's about our very soul.

In this episode of Something Understood, stories from patients Sarah has interviewed reveal the importance, when healing, of a deep connection to something other than ourselves - to our doctor, the landscape around us and to the divine.

With poetry from Christopher Southgate, who examines the feeling of loss following the death of a loved one, and readings from Navajo surgeon Lori Arviso Alvord, the programme dissects what could be called "healing moments" - moments where the connection between healer and patient becomes imbued with a transcendent power.

Presenter: Dr Sarah Goldingay

Producer: Max O'Brien

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Academic Dr Sarah Goldingay explores the spiritual aspects of healing.

Hearing And Listening20050814

Mark Tully considers the distinction between hearing and listening and realises that the way we respond to things often matters more than the thing itself.

Heat20130804

Mark Tully considers the metaphorical and spiritual significance of heat.

Mark Tully considers the power of heat, arguably one of the most powerful metaphorical symbols in both religious and secular literature.

The source of life, it also has enormous destructive power. A spiritual and physical purifier, it is also a force for retribution and punishment. Commonly used in sacred works as a religious trial, it also symbolises passion, emotion and lust in secular writing.

In the middle of summer, as some people yearn for more heat while others try their best to avoid it, Mark Tully investigates these many contradictions in the company of writers as varied as Rudyard Kipling, Frances Bellerby and the contemporary poet Brendan Kennelly. There is music from Franz Liszt, Alexander Scriabin and Ella Fitzgerald.

The readers are Mark Quartley and Monica Dolan.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Heaven In Ordinary20170305

Writer and priest Malcolm Doney finds surprising delights when taking a closer look at things we often take for granted.

According to Malcolm the familiar can too easily be ignored and subsequently disregarded. He warns that we are in danger of treating our surroundings like a 'blandscape'. For Malcolm there are valuable lessons to be learnt by immersing oneself in the local. This might all sound a bit parochial, but there's another way of looking at it. Malcom explains that if we celebrate the familiar, if we move our attention from the general to the specific, it can open up a whole universe.

Familiarity and routine can be associated with drudgery, but Malcolm draws upon the example of the Christian monastic tradition's Liturgy of the Hours, in which each day is divided into sessions of prayer from Matins and Lauds, to Vespers and Compline. These services provide structure, focus and rhythm they're, landmarks which anchor and support the spiritual development of the believer.

The programme features poems from Seamus Heaney and Norman MacCaig and extracts from authors Xavier de Maistre and Linda Sonna. Music featured includes Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze and Breathless by the jazz trumpeter Matthew Halsall.

Presenter: Malcolm Doney

Producer: Jonathan O'Sullivan

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Writer and priest Malcolm Doney explores the wonder in his everyday surroundings.

Henry David Thoreau20120506

Mark Tully assesses Henry David Thoreau's influence, 150 years after his death.

Mark Tully assesses Henry David Thoreau's influence, 150 years after his death. Advocate of the simple life, champion of emancipation, and fervent opponent of government interference in the lives of citizens, Thoreau's 19th century ideals have inspired civil rights leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King.

Mark Tully looks not just at Thoreau's famous writings expressing his remarkable affinity with the American outdoors, but at his political activism too, and the legacy it has left around the world. From tax avoidance, to his opposition to slavery, Thoreau was an ardent supporter of the ordinary person. His passionate ideas inspired thinkers and humanitarians, as well as generations of writers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and WB Yeats.

Musicians and composers too, were moved to pay tribute to Thoreau and the programme includes works by such diverse fans as Charles Ives and Pink Floyd.

In asking what we can learn today from the writer of the American classic Walden, Mark Tully reassesses Thoreau's message for the 21st century.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Here Be Dragons20150802

Mark Tully investigates the fascinating power of dragons in eastern and western culture.

'Here Be Dragons' is the traditional description of any creature or place that remains unexplained. It conjures images of batwinged, eagle footed reptilian firebreathers destroying all before them. It also brings to mind extraordinary beauty and ethereal power.

In a programme that contrasts good and bad dragons, West and East, fact and fantasy, we hear from Seamus Heaney and Lam Sik Kwan, George Elgar and Margaret Toms, John Milton and Marianne Moore. A geographical and cultural feast in celebration of the greatest mystical animal of all.

The readers are Polly Frame, Peter Marinker and Francis Cadder.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique Broadcasting Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Heresy20160612

Poet Michael Symmons Roberts reflects on heresy from Utopia to the Sex Pistols.

The poet Michael Symmons Roberts explores the subject of heresy and puts some surprising names under the spotlight including the Sex Pistols and that unlikely heretic George Herbert. Michel explains, "I'd always thought that John Donne was the metaphysical poet who really 'wrestled with God', but now I think it's George."

He starts his journey though by referencing the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moore's Utopia, "a remarkable vision, progressive and impressive in its openness to different beliefs" and tries to square the author of that with the more familiar Thomas More we know through dramas like Wolf Hall. "...maybe those two Thomas Mores are like before and after shots, with the seismic events of the reformation, Luther's challenge to historic orthodoxy, causing More's radical change of heart."

But a main focus of Michael's thinking are the various witch trials and witch hunts that take him through the heart wrenching Salem witch trials, the injustice inflicted on Isobel Gowdie and the extraordinary visions of Margery Kempe, "she was accused of Lollardy, of siding with the heretical anti-clerical reform movement known as the Lollards, and she made some pretty powerful enemies, like the then Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel. But it's safe to say that her legacy is a lot more impressive than Thomas Arundel's." Michael's journey is accompanied by the music of James MacMillan, Aaron Copland and Radiohead whose recent release, "Burn the Witch" begins the programme.

Presenter: Michael Symmons Roberts

Producer: Michael Wakelin

A TBI Media Production for BBC Radio 4.

High Flight20141123

Kester Brewin reflects on our yearning to fly.

Inspired by memories of a childhood visit to the cinema to see Star Wars, Kester Brewin reflects on our yearning to fly - or, in the words of World War Two pilot John Magee, to slip 'the surly bonds of earth, And dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings'.

He talks with the philosopher Simon Critchley and draws on writings from Revelations, Julian Barnes, Clive James and a recently deceased friend.

With music by Arvo Pärt, Bonnie Prince Billy and Jeff Buckley.

Readers: Felicity Finch, Ella Kenion and Sam West.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

His Ancient Tenderness20030601

Mark Tully explores the meaning of tenderness as a rarely considered aspect of the nature of God.

In a newly discovered poem by Siegfried Sassoon, the war poet writes of the prayer of the wounded on the battle field, to know 'a little of His ancient tenderness'.

How does God show his tenderness, and how is divine tenderness reflected in human life and relationships?

Holding Hands20130616

John McCarthy considers the significance of holding hands as an act of trust and love.

John McCarthy reflects on the significance of holding hands as an act of trust, commitment, unity and love between fellow human beings.

John interviews retired academic physician Professor Tony Pinching who had major involvement with HIV/AIDS and CFS/ME patients. Tony talks about the significance of the first handshake when a doctor meets a patient for the first time, and also about the special place holding hands can have at the end of a patient's life.

Ambassador Mart Tarmak describes the peaceful protest of 1989, which became known as the Baltic Way, when around two million people joined hands to form a human chain spanning 600 kilometres across the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As the people held hands, they sang. These countries were granted their independence from the Soviet Union shortly afterwards.

The programme includes readings of poetry by Sarah Kay and Adrian Mitchell, and Sharon Olds' poem True Love. There's music from Stream of Sound, Ray Charles and Nina Simone, and John Martyn sings May you Never.

Readers: Rachel Atkins and George Irving

Produced by Rosie Boulton

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Holding On To Our Dreams20161023

Mark Tully asks whether dreaming is a waste of our time or the root of our achievements.

The value of day dreaming is a vexed question. Joseph was a dreamer, but so was Billy Liar.

Mark Tully considers attitudes towards aspirations, dreams and ambitions and asks whether we need our dreams or whether they are merely a kind of self destructive escapism.

There are readings from the persecuted pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Indian teacher Krishnamurti and contemporary poet Jan Beatty - with music ranging from Hubert Parry to Linda Ronstadt and Roy Orbison.

The readers are Adjoa Andoh, Jonathan Broadbent and Francis Cadder.

Presenter: Mark Tully

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Holy Verses20130630

Mark Tully asks if the term 'religious poetry' is restrictive or helpful.

In a programme about the role of poetry in worship, Mark Tully examines the work of the poets John Donne, Kathleen Raine and W.H. Auden, amongst others.

In conversation with the poet Michael Symmons Roberts, he discusses the concept of 'religious poetry' asks whether the term, as TS Eliot claimed, suggests that it's 'like a variety of minor poetry'. He asks what poetry has to offer religion and what it means to poets with faith.

The programme includes music by Stravinsky, John Coltrane and Simon and Garfunkel.

The readers are Toby Jones, Frances Cadder and Harriet Walter.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Home From Home20120101

Irma Kurtz reflects on expatriation.

Expatriation has a long and sometimes tragic history. From the earliest times people have settled far away from their homelands, sometimes to escape persecution or famine, sometimes simply because other countries hold out the dream of a better life.

Now that the world has shrunk, thanks to planes and boats and trains, places that were not long ago ports of odysseys and mysteries became accessible to everyone with the price of a ticket.

The programme includes readings from the work of Primo Levi, Monica Ali and Henry James, and music composed by Bela Bartok, George Frederick Handel and Ferde Grofe.

The readers are Greg Hicks and Vaneeta Rishi.

Producer: Ronni Davis.

A Unique Production for BBC Radio 4.

Homecoming20121021

Mark Tully discusses the concept of divine comfort.

Mark Tully discusses a concept encapsulated in the words of Julian of Norwich - that "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Should we all be thinking about belief in a God, who ultimately always comforts us - the god St Paul describes as "the God of all comfort who comforteth us in all tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God"?

It would take courage and faith to trust in God the comforter because of course very often we go through travails which seem endless.

Mark talks to journalist Christopher Howse and introduces readings from Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with music ranging from Handel to Melody Gardot and REM.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Homesickness20090524

Mark Tully explores homesickness, a yearning more complex than nostalgia for homeland.

How true is it that all older people are homesick for the culture of their childhood? With Rabbi Lionel Blue

Hope Against Hope20061029

Although hope is one of the cardinal virtues, it can be hard to maintain in especially bleak circumstances.

Geoffrey Smith explores hope in extremis with help from the poetry of Thomas Hardy and George Herbert, the writings of Primo Levi and Loren Eiseley, and music ranging from Schubert to Big Bill Broonzy.

Hospitality20090405

For Palm Sunday, Mark Tully explores the deeper spiritual meaning of hospitality, with Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche community for adults with learning disabilities.

For Palm Sunday, Mark Tully explores the deeper spiritual meaning of hospitality.

Houses Of God20121202

Mark Tully explores the purpose of religious buildings in the modern world.

Mark Tully talks to the Archbishop of Westminster, in Westminster cathedral, as part of an exploration of the contemporary purpose of church buildings.

What is the true function of buildings dedicated to God? Churches were originally built to "His greater glory" but arguably we build them far less now and preserve them far more. Has our relationship with houses of God changed?

Mark Tully visits Westminster Cathedral and, in conversation with Archbishop Vincent Nichols, discusses the tension between honouring God through the creation of beautiful spaces and the duty expressed by all the major faiths to do charitable work.

With readings reflecting the building of great churches and mosques, as well as humble churches and chapels, and music from Brahms, Bruckner and Morton Feldman, Mark examines the benefits and the beauty of religious buildings. The readers are Toby Jones and Emily Raymond.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Humility20130421

Classical scholar and Anglican minister Teresa Morgan reflects on humility.

Classical scholar and Anglican minister Teresa Morgan reflects on the concept of humility and whether or not it remains relevant today.

With readings from Aesop, Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens, alongside music by Aretha Franklin, James Vincent McMorrow and Hubert Parry.

Producer: Eleanor McDowall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Hunger For The New20160327

On an Easter Day in early spring, Mark Tully looks at our appetite for embracing the new.

A Hunger for the New - or "the life value of everlasting change" - is said to be one of the few constants in life. In the week following the vernal equinox and on an Easter Day coinciding with the first weeks of Spring, the human appetite for new adventures, new environments - even new objects or technologies - is piqued.

Mark Tully examines the hunger for new experiences of all kinds with readings from the work of American adventurer John Krakauer, the great German playwright Bertolt Brecht, and novelist and poet Helen Dunmore.

There's music too from Arvo Part, Tracey Chapman and Leos Janacek.

The readers are Polly Frame, Francis Cadder and Jasper Britton.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Hymns20110612

Mark Tully explores the history and enduring power of hymns.

On the 150th anniversary of the first nation-wide hymn book, 'Hymns Ancient and Modern', Mark Tully explores the history and enduring power of hymns.

He talks to pianist and church organist David Owen Norris about why some of those hymns- like 'Abide with Me'- have proved so popular.

With readings by Jeanette Winterson, John Betjeman , Hilary Mantel and D.H.Lawrence, and music by Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and the Huddersfield Choral Society.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

I Am20150412

John McCarthy considers the phrase 'I Am' as a means of exploring identity.

John McCarthy is joined by Christian theologian Paula Gooder to consider the phrase "I Am" as a means of exploring and asserting identity.

They begin with God's assertion of His name in Exodus chapter 3 "I am that I am", and follow this phrase into Jesus' "I Am" statements in the New Testament, such as "I am the bread of life" and "I am the light of the world".

The programme moves on to consider Descartes' use of the phrase "Cogito ergo sum" and John Clare's poem "I Am".

John also explores the South African phrase Ubuntu which translates as "I am because we are" or "I am what I am because of who we all are". Finally, John notes the recent taking up of the "I Am" phrase in the slogan "Je suis Charlie".

The programme includes readings from works by Anne Holm, Mary Oliver and James Weldon Johnson, as well as two specially commissioned poems by Gregory Leadbetter and Sibyl Ruth. There's music by Chris Wood, Blind Gary Davis, Gounod and Ben Glover.

Readers: Hayley Doherty and Fraser James

Produced by Rosie Boulton

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

I Don't Believe In Being Lost20101128

Broadcaster Anita Rani explores the significance of being lost, physically and spiritually

Broadcaster Anita Rani explores the significance of being lost, both physically and spiritually.

Drawing on a broad range of music and texts, from the Qawwali of Sufi Islam to the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, Anita illustrates the importance of losing oneself in culture and spirituality.

In some ways, Anita doesn't believe in being lost if there's a map, a signpost or even a person to ask, it's possible to get where you need to be.

On another level we are all incredibly lost throughout our lives.

From birth until death there's no plan and no map, just meanderings and different destinations.

How does this feeling of being lost manifest itself in our existence, physically, mentally and spiritually?

Anita reflects on the nature of being lost with Reverend Peter Owen Jones, priest, award-winning television presenter and author, described by the Times as "the bravest vicar in Britain".

Peter has journeyed deep into the wilderness in the footsteps of St Anthony.

In a hermit's cell in the heart of the Egyptian Sinai Desert, he lived alone.

The experience, he says, withered his illusions and allowed him to see things as they really are.

Producer: Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

I Got Rhythm20061231

Piers Plowright explores his sense of the need for order, pattern and tradition in human lives.

As one uncertain year ends and another begins, his search for stability takes in the work of poets WB Yeats and Philip Larkin and a community of Cistercian monks.

The programme also features music from Bach, Bob Dylan and Havergal Brian, readings from DH Lawrence and Scott Fitzgerald, and an interview with veteran broadcaster and campaigner Studs Terkel.

I Have A Dream20031102

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" So wrote Robert Browning, but how true is this? Is ambition essential for true fulfillment in life, or is it in fact a flaw in the human condition? The Asian poet and academic Roshan Doug explores the positive and negative aspects of ambition.

I Sat Down And Wept20160313

Samira Ahmed explores the ambiguous power of tears in myth and music.

Weeping is a pivotal act in cultures across the world and throughout history.

The Israelites recalling the promised land by the River Euphrates; Niobe condemned to eternal mourning for her lost children, transformed into a rocky waterfall; Picasso's Dora Marr transformed into the iconic weeping woman, the embodiment of suffering in wartime; King Lear railing against his treacherous tears that "un -man him".

Writers, theologians, scientists, psychologists have been fascinated for centuries by tears and what they reveal about human emotion and human experience.

Tears are paradoxical - they are produced by laughter and by sadness, are understood as both a sign of weakness and of strength and, perhaps most confusingly, are used as evidence of the veracity of an experience or of the falseness of a witness, who weeps 'crocodile tears'.

Weeping is powerful, endlessly fascinating to many, but still not fully understood.

Samira Ahmed considers some for the ways tears have been represented in culture, music and religion. She discusses masculinity, politics and tears with poet Andrew McMillan. She explores different culturally acceptable ways of grieving. In the wake of public displays of mourning for public figures, such as Princess Diana and David Bowie, has the UK moved from having a stiff upper lip to a teary eye?

The programme includes writing by Lewis Carroll, John Donne and William Shakespeare, poetry by Grace Nichols and Les Murray, and music by Nick Cave, and Debussy.

The readers were Rachel Atkins and Peter Marinker

Producer: Lucy Dichmont

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Samira Ahmed considers some for the ways tears have been represented in culture, music and religion. She discusses masculinity, status and tears with poet Andrew McMillan. And, in the wake of public displays of mourning for public figures, such as Princess Diana and David Bowie, has the UK moved from having a stiff upper lip to a teary eye?

The programme includes writing by Lewis Carroll, Charles Darwin, and Shakespeare, poetry by Grace Nichols and Les Murray, and music by Nick Dave and Henry Purcell

I Want To Be Left Alone20080330

Mark Tully considers our need for privacy and how we balance this with our responsibilities to others.

I Wish You Enough20071230

Mark Tully considers blessings - what do we wish for other people and why? Is there any evidence to suggest that blessings attract the good things invoked or are they simply empty, superstitious and outdated verbal habits?

If Not Together20061105

Mark Tully talks to Abbot Christopher Jamison of Worth Abbey about the essential meaning and nature of community.

Why was St Benedict so adamant that staying the course with other people is essential to the spiritual path, and what might this say to our transient and individualistic lives today?

If Only We Could Bottle It20090517

Felicity Finch reflects on those moments when we feel more truly alive than seems possible

Felicity Finch reflects on those indefinable moments when we feel more completely alive than seems possible.

As an actress, it is something she strives to capture in performance, but in everyday existence these moments of oneness, where an individual is in harmony with surroundings and other people, tend to come spontaneously and unannounced.

With readings from Federico Garcia Lorca and John Burnside and music by Chick Corea and Northumbrian pipers.

Ignorance20140817

Mark Tully invites us to accept our own ignorance as a first step towards greater wisdom.

Mark Tully invites us to accept our own ignorance as a first step on a voyage of discovery, taking his lead from Socrates' well known thought that, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

He also quotes from Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist David Gross, who says that "there is no evidence that we are running out of our most important resource - ignorance." Mark discusses this importance of ignorance to science with Stuart Firestein, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, who feels that knowledge is followed by ignorance, rather than vice versa, and that facts are not always the most reliable part of scientific advances.

On a more personal level, the programme considers how we might be more tolerant of the world views and beliefs of others, by understanding the limits of our knowledge and realising that we, too, will always be ignorant.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

I'm A Number, Not A Man20120226

Jo Fidgen explores how modern society challenges our sense of self.

In a society based on managerial principles, is it possible that our numbers count more than our names?

Jo Fidgen explores challenges to our sense of self.

She talks to an American man known as Benjaman who was found suffering from amnesia with no personal identification on him and, without a social security number, no means of re-engaging with society. And she also references the writings of, among others, WH Auden, George Orwell and Jose Saramago, with music by Erik Satie, the Kinks and Shostakovich.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Image And Identity20160619

Priest Joanna Jepson examines the construction of image and the search for identity.

Priest and former chaplain at the London College of Fashion Joanna Jepson examines the ways in which we seek to construct our image while searching for our true identity.

We cast our gaze back to the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were naked and harmonious, at ease with their identities before the fall, and we explore the fallout that followed the consumption of the forbidden fruit.

Joanna argues that, in a culture of consumerism, the market forces exploit our craving to create and recreate our images of ourselves through fashion and other material goods. She explains that "the noise of marketing strategies urge us; drive, goad, beguile and coax us to build our identity in the image of their narrow ideals of beauty, success and happiness. And all the time it pulls us out of ourselves. We are left feeling incomplete, inadequate, discontented, stuck in a cycle of exhausting comparisons. It diminishes us."

Joanna contrasts this situation with the lives of a group of contemplative nuns with whom she spent time when she was 21. She reveals that living with the nuns taught her to "come home to herself" and to learn the true meaning of the saying "beauty comes from within".

Presenter: Joanna Jepson

Producer: Max O'Brien

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Immortality20170108

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand explores our fascination with immortality, its significance within both the scientific and faith communities and the desirability of life eternal.

According to Shoshana, our yearning for immortality shapes the world and drives civilisation. She examines the desire to leave a legacy that motivates writers, artists and musicians. The music of Mozart is described as "a gift to the world", his enduring cultural impact allowing him to achieve a form of immortality.

Shoshana suggests that a longing for immortality may be fuelling our current obsession with celebrity culture as we strive for the fame that will ensure that we're not forgotten. However, the fiction of neuroscientist David Eagleman warns us that eternal life through fame may not be as desirable as we first imagine.

Drawing upon the work of gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, Shoshana discusses the latest scientific research into "age-reversal" and "life extension". She goes on to examine the different approaches to immortality in several faiths including Christianity, Hinduism and her own Jewish tradition.

The programme draws to a close with a striking conclusion - that mortality is not a punishment to humankind, but a gift. For Shoshana, our mortality is a vital catalyst that encourages us to seize the day.

Drawing upon a wide range of music, Shoshana introduces us to the haunting Jewish prayer for the dead, El Malei Rachamim, and picks out blues singer Washington Phillips' stunning recording of What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? Readings include the philosopher Stephen Cave and the poet Robert Frost.

Presenter: Shoshana Boyd Gelfand

Producer: Max O'Brien

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Impermanence20140420

Melissa Viney reflects on the impermanence of things.

Melissa Viney considers how we can be challenged by - as well as take comfort from - the impermanence of things.

With reference to the writings of Raymond Carver, Thich Nhat Hanh and William Blake, music by Emily McGuire and Michael Zev Gordon and audio archive of the playwright Dennis Potter.

Produced by Alan Hall

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

In Conversation20041003

Mark Tully considers the arguably vital importance of conversation - of talking with each other in a way which is significantly different from discussion or debate.

What conditions are required for true conversation to take place, and what transformations are possible when it does?

In My Room20170101

"Memory is sticky" says author and screenwriter Dr. Frank Cottrell Boyce in his reminiscences of his childhood. "I worry about what will happen in the future when our reading and our music comes digital and non-stick."

In a whimsical and intensely personal reflection, Cottrell Boyce indulges in the music, poetry and prose that made and makes him tick. He does all this sat in his boyhood bedroom, in the house where his parents still live, and where he visits each week to look after them.

He remembers moving out of Liverpool city centre - destroyed by the Blitz - to a new housing estate where his hopes and dreams were forged and where, inspired by the moon landings, he became certain that one day he and his brother would be camping there.

There is much in this programme about the meaning of "home" and the journey to get there, and he pays tribute to his mum and dad for creating a home out of the bricks and mortar in to which they moved. "They created rhythms and rituals that seemed as unalterable and ancient as weather... the walk to school, the Friday night chippy supper, Saturday Grandstand, Sunday mass and of course that great litany - with its contradictory mixture of reassuring rhythm and emotional unpredictability... the football scores as read by Len Martin".

The programme features the music of David Bowie, Benjamin Britten, Paul Simon and the Magnetic North, with poetry from Les Murray, RS Thomas and Seamus Heaney. Cottrell Boyce wonders about the nature of memory and where home really is, concluding with St Augustine, that God has made us for himself "and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee."

Presenter: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Producer: Michael Wakelin

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Frank Cottrell Boyce sits in his boyhood bedroom and reflects on life and his journey home

In Praise Of Cities20030112

Fergal Keane explores the unique value of the city, from the bright lights to the murky backstreets, as a place where people and ideas fuse and progress.

In Praise Of Shadows20040111

Retired radio producer Piers Plowright uses Tanizakis eloquent and perverse essay on the Japanese sense of beauty to celebrate the magic of shadows.

In Search Of Bohemia20121216

Irma Kurtz reflects on her quest to find bohemia, with a small 'b'.

Irma Kurtz remembers her quest to find bohemia with a small 'b'.

The bohemians had a hunger for art, literature and changing the rules and Irma's personal odyssey in search of a non-materialistic and art-focused society took her from Greenwich Village in Manhattan to the Left Bank in Paris and finally to London's Soho.

She considers the historical background to bohemia and wonders if it exist today. If not, why not and are we the poorer without it?

To illustrate her journey, Irma draws on extracts from the work of Henri Murger, Dylan Thomas and Alan Ginsberg and the music of Claude Debussy, Giacomo Puccini and Juliet Greco.

The readers are Liza Sadovy and Col Farrell.

Producer: Ronni Davis

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

In Such A Hurry20070211

Rosemary Hartill wonders why we all seem to be in a perpetual hurry; why we seem to believe being busy is a virtue and why at least one writer believes almost all the wrongs he's ever made were due to hurry.

In The Company Of Children20111225

Mark Tully asks what we can learn by taking a child's eye view of Christmas.

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.", Matthew 19

It is an old saying that 'children make Christmas', but in this Christmas Day edition of Something Understood, Mark Tully considers what it is that we can all learn from that. He asks how a 'child-like' attitude to the celebrations of Christ's Nativity can help us get more from the day, both spiritually and socially.

In conversation with children's author Michael Morpurgo he discusses both the importance of Christmas traditions that are handed down the generations and what we can learn from children to make the idea of 'a season of peace and good will' more than just a well-meant form of words.

The programme includes contributions from children, including specially written verse and music and readings from successive younger generations, fictional and real, from the seventeenth century to the present. There's music from Debussy, Johnny Cash and The St. Petersburg Children's Choir and readings from Ronald Searle, Mary Haley Bell and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

The readers are Madeleine Southey, Samantha Bond, Gene Goodman and Jack Shepherd.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

In The Fullness Of Time And At The End Of The Day20121118

Irma Kurtz considers the origins and uses of cliches.

Irma Kurtz considers the origins and uses of clichés.

She finds that, although many of our most often used clichés originated with Shakespeare, newly minted clichés appear every day. She reflects that clichés can be convenient truisms that keep us linked to our heritage and community - but also potentially dangerous generalisations.

To help explain her thesis we hear readings from the works of Shakespeare, Bernard Levin and Daisy Ashford, and music from Ravel, Cole Porter and Frank Loesser.

The readers are Liza Sadovy and Col Farrell.

The producer is Ronni Davis.

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

In The Interest Of Boredom20140105

John McCarthy explores that most exasperating of moods, boredom.

The Desert Fathers complained of the 'noonday demon' that tempted them away from God. Pliny wrote of people ending their lives because of taedium. But it was Charles Dickens who gave it the name we use today: boredom. He called it the 'chronic malady' of modern life.

John McCarthy explores this most frustrating of moods, that strips the world of meaning and forces us to face ourselves. With readings from David Foster Wallace, Fernando Pessoa and Evagrius Ponticus, and music by Alain Chamfort, Shostakovich and Erik Satie.

Producer: Lucy Dichmont

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

In The Memory Of Love20020825

`In the Memory of Love'.

Fergal Keane explores romantic memories evoked by the music of Prokofiev and Dvorak and the literature of F Scott Fitzgerald and Thornton Wilder.

In The Midst Of Life We Are In Debt20071104

People have always generated wealth from others' need for money.

Judith French reflects on usury.

In The Slipstream Of God20160626

Mark Tully meets an artist and a scientist who argue that religion and science intertwine.

Mark Tully meets an artist and a scientist who argue that religion and science have always been entangled, and that our quest for knowledge follows in the wake of spiritual curiosity.

Andrew Briggs, Professor of Nanomaterials at the University of Oxford, and the artist, poet and writer Roger Wagner, renowned particularly for his religious paintings, explain to Mark why they believe that it's been religion which has led the seminal developments in our empirical understanding of the world we live in. Together they challenge the perception that the two disciplines are at loggerheads.

With the help of music from Beethoven and Charles Ives, and words from John Keats, George Herbert and Albert Einstein, Mark joins his guests in seeking the underlying principles which have bound religion and science together in the past, and might do so again in the future.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

In The World But Not Of The World20140615

John McCarthy shares experiences of being detached from everyday life.

He begins by noting the 500th anniversary of the death of Suster Bertken. She was a Dutch woman who volunteered to become an anchoress, bricking herself up in a cell underneath a church in Utrecht for 57 years. Suster Bertken's story leads John to consider other ways in which people feel compelled to withdraw from normal life, or find themselves cut off from the rest of society.

He goes to the Courtauld Gallery to talk with Consultant Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst David Morgan in front of Van Gogh's Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. They discuss the difficulty that very creative people sometimes seem to have in feeling comfortable in the world in which they find themselves. And they consider the need in many people to retreat, either as a way of re-fuelling or as a means of escape.

Tanya Marlow describes her experience of disconnection from life as a result of having ME. For the past 3 years, Tanya has spent 23 hours a day in bed, unable to walk down the road, play with her son or leave the house more than once a month. She has found a new world of connection through her online blog and considers her view of the world from her new found position in life.

The programme includes readings from works by Mary Oliver, Suster Bertken and Ko Un - and music by Laura Mvula, Gustav Mahler, Paddy McAloon, and Olivier Messiaen.

Readers: Michael Lumsden and Adjoa Andoh

Produced by Rosie Boulton

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Independently Dependent20140720

Felicity Finch reflects on independence and starting a relationship in later life.

Living alone, as a mature person, can result in creating an almost invisible protective guard and an apparent lack of any need to trust or be dependent on others. Then the promise of starting a new relationship throws into question all sorts of assumptions and expectations about oneself and about the other.

The actress Felicity Finch reflects on the idea of how to be independently dependent, with reference to the 'transparent' relationship of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre and the composer Johannes Brahms' life-long devotion to Clara Schumann, his musical mentor's concert-pianist wife.

Produced by Alan Hall.

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Inebriate Of The Air20150621

Samira Ahmed celebrates the bright pleasure of midsummer.

Samira Ahmed celebrates the bright, airy pleasures of Midsummer.

"Inebriate of air am I,

And debauchee of dew,

Reeling, through endless summer days,

From inns of molten blue."

The longest day of the year has been marked, especially in Northern climes, with bonfires, games and songs. Many of these rituals have faded over time but the sense of exhilaration of light and air and richness of the natural world still resonates. In literature this time of year is often an associated with magic and love: think of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. There's a sense of possibility and optimism that might extend us beyond the mundane and, in the poem from which the title of this programme is taken, Emily Dickinson describes it as a kind of spiritual intoxication.

The programme also includes readings from the work of Tove Jansson and RS Thomas as well as a new commission from the poet Jen Hadfield who sends us a postcard from the "Simmer Dim" of Shetland inspired, in part, by the Nikolai Astrup painting, Vårnatt i hagen. It is the image used for this programme page and is provided by Kode Art Museums of Bergen (DAG FOSSE/KODE/SPAREBANKSTIFTELSEN DNB).

The readers are Samuel Barnett, Natasha Gordon and Jen Hadfield.

Producer: Natalie Steed

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Infinity20040404

Mark Tully explores some of the meanings of infinity.

Why was Blaise Pascal terrified of infinity, and how do mathematicians and theologians address the Infinite?

Inside A Tree20121125

Mark Tully asks why trees are so important to us.

Why is it that, from childhood onwards, we feel the urge to climb inside their hollow trunks or up into their branches? How does the world seem different from inside a tree?

From Herman Hesse to Seamus Heaney, writers, poets and composers have been inspired by the power and grandeur of trees. The Hindu sacred text, the Bhagavata Purana, celebrates the shade cast by trees and the many uses of their bark, wood, leaves and sap. Their age and majesty inspires respect and, as the Dalai Lama said, "trees echo the Buddha's words expressing his fundamental teaching of impermanence".

With professional tree climber James Aldred, Mark visits the ancient yew tree which stands in the corner of St George's Churchyard in Crowhurst, Surrey. Together they climb inside its hollow trunk to contemplate the protective, comforting presence of a living organism which has stood in one place for four thousand years.

James has climbed hundreds of trees all over the world, even slept inside them. He describes the connection he makes with them and the way each tree he meets seems to have a distinct personality. Being inside a tree is the closest he comes to prayer.

Producer: Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Inside Out20161106

Journalist Remona Aly uses music, prose and poetry to explore the experience of being both an insider and an outsider.

Having grown up in Britain as the child of Indian parents, Remona is familiar with the feeling of being on the outside. As a child she was the only brown girl in a white neighbourhood. She explains that, in Britain, she's still "not quite British enough" for some while, when visiting her relatives in India, she gets referred to as "the English one".

Muslims, Remona argues, have outsider blood flowing through their veins. The Prophet Muhammad himself was cast out from society in the land of his birth. Shunned and persecuted by his own people, he, along with a small band of early Muslims, became refugees, migrating from the trials of Mecca to the sanctuary of Medina in what is now Saudi Arabia. This experience of being an outsider, Remona explains, was vital to the leadership of the Prophet when he came to build a new community of followers.

According to Remona, the ability to traverse the worlds of the insider and outsider can be hugely beneficial. By embracing outsider status, we can step back from the action and gain crucial insights into the society to which we belong.

The programme features readings from psychologist Adrian Furnham and influential Muslim convert Leopold Weiss. Remona also draws upon the poetry of Rumi and the music of Yusuf Islam and Woody Guthrie.

Presenter: Remona Aly

Producer: Max O'Brien

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Inside The Institution20150809

Mark Tully discusses the impact and the power institutions have in people's lives.

Mark Tully discusses the impact and the power institutions have in our lives. From corporations, banks and armies to schools and hospitals, whatever we think of them, institutions are an enormous part of our lives. So how do they influence us and how should we live with them?

In conversation with Professor Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a leading researcher into mental health in the military, Mark Tully investigates the positive power of institutions as well as the dangers of institutionalisation.

There's music from Henry Priestland, the Buena Vista Social Club and the Band of the Grenadier Guards and readings ranging from Charlotte Bronte to screenwriter William Styron.

The readers are Polly Frame, Peter Marinker and Francis Cadder.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique Broadcasting Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Intimations Of Mortality20120826

Mark Tully investigates our attitudes to mortality, arguably the last taboo.

Death is a subject we are often reluctant to discuss. It is often considered morbid to do so. It has commonly been described as the last taboo. However, some argue that a sense of our own mortality plays a vital part in our understanding of life. Further, that demystifying the process of death can be essential to getting the most out of life.

Mark Tully considers the advantages of being open to the intimations of mortality which we may come across daily.

In conversation with Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger he discusses attitudes to risk, memento mori and living legacies. With readings from Virginia Woolf, Kabir and music by Nitin Sawnhay and Gustav Mahler, he asks whether being open to intimations of mortality can bring more to life.

The readers are Helen Ryan and Kenneth Cranham.

Produced by: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Into The Dark20130317

John Agard considers how darkness is represented in fairy tales, mythology and religions.

John Agard, who has recently received the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, offers some of his own work in a programme that reflects on the way we interpret lightness and darkness.

With reference to literature, mythology and religious thought, as well as music by Nina Simone, Johnny Cash and Richie Havens, he considers what it means to embrace the darkness.

Produced by Alan Hall

Into The Unknown20060528

Mark Tully considers the French medical scientist Claude Bernard's claim that we 'can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown'.

For some, perhaps, this might be a statement of the obvious, but the thought is deeply challenging given our hankering for the security of the known and the familiar.

Is it true that we can only learn by giving up the tried and tested?

Inventories For Life20150208

Samira Ahmed reflects on the lists people make and what they can reveal about our lives.

It could be said that humans are list-making beasts. Life is filled with them - shopping lists, to-do lists, guest lists, resolutions, inventories of things we desire, categories of favourite books or songs, tenets of faith, catalogues of things we want to do before we die.

Samira Ahmed delves into the secret life of lists and reflects on what they reveal about ourselves.

She takes her inspiration from a masterwork of list-making - the Pillow Book by Sei Shonagan, written in 11th century Japan - and considers how this writer's drive to itemise her cloistered world in minute detail reveals startling psychological depths that still resonate down the centuries.

Drawing on writers as diverse as Nora Ephron, Woody Guthrie and Michael Ondaatje, Samira considers the magic of a great list, where each individual item enhances the others - whether in a poignant list of longing written at the end of a foreshortened life, a jaunty jumble of new year's resolutions or a heap of entertaining insults.

Lists can also have a dark side - the focus of obsession, anxiety or regret. Samira considers how Erik Satie's compulsive list making might be reflected in his music. Lists can also be a source of pleasure, as can be heard in an archive interview with Judi Dench about her devotion to to-do lists.

There are readings from writers including Michael Donaghy, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Umberto Eco, with music by Artie Shaw, Nina Simone and The Divine Comedy.

Produced by: Caroline Hughes

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Is Art Good For Us?20161218

The poet Michael Symmons Roberts asks whether the arts are good for us.

The poet Michael Symmons Roberts explores the idea that the arts are good for us - body and soul - and considers whether they can be both tonic and threat to society.

He says, "Art is as various as we are, and its moral weight and status is unstable, unpredictable. In times when people are losing trust in politics and religion, art can start to look like a replacement. But if we put too much of our moral weight and hope into art, we imperil it, and it can imperil us too."

Some of the great Victorian philanthropists thought art would benefit society and used their wealth to make art freely available to the masses. Whether or not the original Turner paintings offered in a Manchester museum,improved the lives of the working class is not evidenced, but the continued idea that the arts are of moral benefit persists.

Roberts offers the example of Ken Loach's groundbreaking film Cathy Come Home as a sign that society can be improved through the arts - along with the way Bob Dylan and others used their music to effect social change in the US during the 1960s.

But he also strikes a note of caution. "The arts can act as the conscience of the state, a challenging force for good. But they can equally be used as an instrument of propaganda. Whenever I hear the arts per se being touted as a positive moral and political force in society, I start to feel uneasy." Using evidence of Nazi propaganda from the Second World War, he also points out that a love of art is not necessarily an indication of a healthy morality.

Roberts concludes that art is not per se a good thing for us, but that he "couldn't imagine, and wouldn't want to, a life without music or poetry or films or paintings".

Presenter: Michael Symmons Roberts

Producer: Michael Wakelin

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Is This The Way?20090104

Mark Tully considers many people's new-found reliance on 'sat nav'.

Mark Tully considers many people's new-found reliance on 'sat nav' and wonders what else we lose when we lose the ability to find our way through a landscape.

Joy20160605

Lord Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi, uses his debut presenting Something Understood to reflect on joy, through music, prose and poetry and some profound insights from his own life.

In a deep and moving programme Rabbi Sacks reflects on the difference between joy and happiness. The programme begins with a blast from Beethoven's great Choral Symphony and the final movement which uses the words of Schiller's Ode to Joy , Freude, schöner Götterfunken, "Joy, O wondrous spark divine." He goes on to point out the fact that Jewish history has not been obviously full of joy, but he uses two Psalms to illustrate the fact that despite suffering the Jewish faith is full of joy and the praise of God.

He ponders the uncertain world we live in and the anxiety it causes. Nevertheless he says "we are, in a world filled with beauty. Every breath we breathe is the spirit of God within us. Around us is the love that moves the sun and all the stars. We are here because someone wanted us to be."

Another aspect of the modern world, the 'selfie', prompts an insight inspired by Wordsworth's poem Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey. "The self is too narrow a place to find meaning and satisfaction...the power of joy is that it momentarily silences the self so that we can see into "the life of things" and hear the music of the universe."

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Lord Sacks, the former chief rabbi, reflects on the powerful human emotion of joy.

Jump!20111002

Cathy Fitzgerald explores the terror and sheer delight of taking a leap.

Cathy Fitzgerald explores the terror, bliss and sheer delight of taking a leap.

With readings from Jeanette Winterson, Maud Parrish and Hermann Hesse and music from Rodrigo y Gabriela, Harry Belafonte and Bernard Hermann, Cathy reflects on our fear of jumping into the unknown - and examines the strange and wonderful places we can land when we do decide to take the plunge.

Produced by Eleanor McDowall

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

Just Listen20130310

Mark Tully encourages us to do something that is not always easy, but often greatly appreciated: hold our tongues to better hear what others have to say.

In the process he admits that, in his own profession of journalism, listening skills are not always the ones most called upon; that you don't have to be able to hear in order to listen and that, for some, the pictures really are better on radio than television.

With music from the Taize Community, Rossini, Stravinsky and Britten, and featuring writing by Wallace Stevens, Rumi, and Sorley MacLean, this programme is an ample meal for the ears.

So - Just Listen!

The readers are Grainne Keenan and John McAndrew.

Producer: Adam Fowler

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Keeping The Past Alive20130707

Samira Ahmed considers the value of re-examining the past.

Samira Ahmed considers the value of reviving, re-examining and re-connecting with the past. She explores the significance of bringing back lost traditions, values, stories and memories in order to re-experience them in the present.

Brandyn Shaw is a young man who is recreating a 1930's life for himself in the 21st Century. He dresses in period clothes, sings Al Bowlly songs in 30's clubs and he even has an iron from the 1930's to get his shirts properly starched. For Brandyn, this is a life of escape into what he perceives as a gentler way of living.

So, can the past teach us lessons to address the challenges of the present? Or can it only offer moments of rose tinted, historical escapism?

The programme includes John Agard's poem John Edmonstone, Old Tongue by Jackie Kay and Nostalgia by Billy Collins. Plus music by Perotin, Joan Baez and Kate Rusby.

Produced by Rosie Boulton

A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.

Keeping Time20110501

Irma Kurtz reflects on clocks and our need to measure time.

The history of our clocks is practically as long as our history.

Other creatures seem content to hear and obey their inner clocks but from the early days - perhaps when we saw how our shadows changed throughout the day - we wanted desperately to attempt a hold on time.

In 'Keeping Time' Irma Kurtz reflects on clocks, the connection of timepieces to navigation and the way in which we make punctuality a virtue.

The readers are Liza Sadovy and Jonathan Firth.

Presenter: Irma Kurtz

Producer: Ronni Davis

An Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Keeping Up Appearances20140112

Mark Tully examines the human preoccupation with fashion.

Mark Tully examines the human preoccupation with fashion and the importance we so often attach to appearances. He asks why looking one's best can be so important on spiritual, domestic and social planes.

In a programme that touches on fashion as displayed on Neolithic statues, in the court of Louis XIV and on contemporary catwalks, Mark talks to fashion historian Dr. Chris Breward, Professor of Cultural History at Edinburgh University, and introduces readings from William Hazlitt, Pat Parker and Mary Quant.

He also plays music by court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, Peter Philips and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.

The readers are Adjoa Andoh and Michael Feast.

Producer: Frank Stirling

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Kindred Spi