Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Lent Talks; TED Radio Hour

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Lent Talks; TED Radio Hour

Article excerpt

Perhaps surprisingly, in these secular times, Radio 4 keeps up its annual (and very Reithian) tradition of holding a series of esoteric talks about faith and belief to mark the Christian season of Lent, those 40 days of preparation and penitence leading up to the events of Holy Week. In the first of this year's Lent Talks (produced by Christine Morgan), the psychotherapist Anouchka Grose talked about the role of the unconscious in our behaviour and the peculiar tendency of human beings to repeat experiences they claim not to enjoy. You could say that unconsciously we influence our own fate, and that however hard we might try to tame our own impulses we are always liable to be thrown off-course.

We are pushed at times to act, says Grose, by forces inside us that can at times appear to go against who we consciously think we are. This behaviour is coded into us by the stories we grow up with, those early experiences of expectation and judgment. Our 'cunning unconscious minds' bring about certain situations without our being consciously aware of ever having taken action. Free will becomes illusory. 'Where we think we are in control we're not, and where we think we're not in control, we are.'

Grose spoke for only 15 minutes but in that time took us through so many huge questions. What do we mean by destiny? How much can we control what happens to us? Are there bigger forces at work within us? This was a pure audio experience. No intrusive backing music needed. Just the human voice, speaking one-on-one about those discomfiting questions, those fears and insecurities which usually we keep hidden even from ourselves, dreading what answers we might find. Yet, says Grose, it's precisely within such doubt we may find a kind of certainty. In the ungraspable, the unknowable, lies buried some strange comfort.

Believers and doubters were also the theme of the first programme in the new series of the TED Radio Hour on Radio 4 Extra. Guy Raz, of America's NPR (the national syndicate of 900 publicly funded radio stations), threaded together talks given at events organised by TED (the 'non-profit, non-partisan' outfit dedicated to Technology, Entertainment and Design). The session began with a talk given by the evangelist Billy Graham in 1998, decades after the height of his fame when he toured the world on a mission to bring Christianity to the masses while at the same time offering spiritual counselling to a string of American presidents. We heard him talking on the phone to Lyndon Johnson, for example, in October 1964 about wanting to ask God how to deal with the Russians and the Chinese. …

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