A faith-based, peer-led, story-driven, stigma-breaking mental health podcast that explores the question, “What does healing mean to you?”
HAIKAST X – The Democracy Experience
I ran for City Council earlier this month. On the Sunday before the election, I decided to walk the outdoor labyrinth and then I went home to write, rather than continuing to seek, knock, and ask my way into office. This is an edited version of what I wrote while in that moment:
Beautiful fall day in early November. After 3 months of knocking on over 1,000 doors, I find myself sitting on my front porch, compelled to capture this moment of tension, 48 hours before the final votes are cast.
I’ve never run for a political office. This year, I finally succumbed to the drumbeat of people telling me that I have the right personality and patience to do the job.
This is what I have come to understand - people care deeply for their neighbor, but aren’t sure what is best for others. In that quandary, some think that people should trust in self organization and caring for each other, free from the restrictions or requirements of a governmental authority. Others see the mounting needs of others in society and see great value in a public institution that cares for those who struggle.
I believe that humans have the capability and responsibility to organize effective governance so that the plight of poverty is diminished in civilization. But we must be actively engaged in our democracy to make this aspiration possible.
I am at peace with my participation in this democratic process. I entered this campaign focused on meeting my neighbors, sharing my story of developing my leadership sensibilities during the city’s flood recovery, and focusing on affordable housing, the mental health matters initiative, supporting Nexus Park and the associated economic development around the area, and meaningful participation in the local climate alliance. I’m committed to the work of Landmark Columbus for preserving our cultural heritage and advancing design principles in our civic life.
Getting votes can have a corrupting influence on the imagination. It’s easy to weigh every decision as an opportunity to gain as many votes as possible. And if not careful, it’s easy to start objectifying and stereotyping people in the process. Asking yourself, who should I and who should I not care about in this time-constrained endeavor to win?
At some point about a month ago, I let go of the pressure to win and focused on the process. It is more about paying attention to democracy and less about politics. To care about people voting and wanting to be educated about the issues. This does not need to be a popularity contest.
When people talk about democracy dying, I think it’s because we have turned our minds towards the abstractions of national politics and not towards the relationships that can be formed between voters and their elected officials. It is easier to have that relationship building value in a city election. I’ve been able to meet a large percentage of the people who live in this neighborhood. I have the experience of listening to and caring for all of the perspectives that have been expressed to me along the way. People have respectfully disagreed with me. Some have not been able to engage in conversation at all due to my party affiliation. Others have been willing to listen to change their mind. I’ve had big smiles and high fives and invites into homes.
I grew up in this district on Woodfield Place, went to school, bought my first home, attended church, and settled into this home with Jen for the past 11 years in this district. I raised my children here. It’s been an honor to meet so many people who create the fabric of my existence. Who help keep me safe, who provide joy with their house decorations, who work to make this community better.
I’m unconventional - more of an artist than an economist. I would like to think that I have the best designed signs among all the candidates. I’m not the best public speaker and I still get butterflies every time I think about knocking on doors.
HAIKAST IX – Labyrinth Love
I dedicate this Haikast to my wife, Jennifer Anne Riddle, for our 11 year wedding anniversary!
I asked Jen to marry me in the center of a labyrinth on a cold February afternoon. The previous week was Valentine’s Day and she was clearly upset that I did not pop the question during dinner in downtown Indianapolis. She didn’t know that I was waiting for Ash Wednesday the following week.
I first met Jen in Boston in 2009. She was one of my sister’s roommates. When I went to cheer on my sister in the Boston Marathon, the all women’s Christian household where Suzanne lived allowed an exception to have a guy stay overnight since I was a family member.
I was dating at the time, so I didn’t think beyond the budding of a platonic relationship. Besides, I have never had much of a radar for flirtation. We did share great conversations about Jack Kerouac, the band U2, the NFL, and my endeavor to write a book about the Columbus flood recovery. We even shared an ice cream cone. Platonically.
It was about a year later when she called me randomly after the Indianapolis Colts lost the Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints. She called again a month later when the Duke Blue Devils beat the Butler Bulldogs in the NCAA basketball championship. At that point, I was single and surprised by what became clear, after the second call, that these were not random conversations.
We quickly jumped to topics with a little more spiritual depth.
Independently, in that spring of 2010, we both decided to give up all liquids except water for Lent. She was doing it for a ministry called Blood:Water mission. I was doing it because I realized that I had become entirely too dependent on daily coffee. This opened up our conversations of shared journeys.
You may say that we entered the labyrinth together that spring.
Two years later, when we were walking a real labyrinth together - on the threshold of the marriage proposal - we had been through a lot. She moved to Columbus and transferred to Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis to complete her Masters of Divinity degree. We broke up twice as I navigated the nagging suffering of post-divorce life and introducing my children to her. We lived through me having a major depressive episode. It wasn’t a straight shot to the altar. I don’t think life ever is as linear as we want it to be.
Labyrinths have been around a long time. If you dive into the history, you’ll discover that many ancient cultures spread across the globe have iconography related to labyrinths. Coins from Greece in the 5th century BC included labyrinth images. It is thought that the labyrinth has been part of human civilization for over 4,000 years.
If you are not familiar with labyrinths - or perhaps only associate the term with David Bowie’s film from the 1980s - there is a very strong distinction from a maze. People get lost in mazes in a series of dead ends with only one way through. If doing a maze on paper, you may need to erase your path a few times before successfully finding your way out.
You will not get lost in a labyrinth or need to retrace your steps. While the traditional labyrinth, codified in the 13th century floor of a French cathedral, may seem intimidating with 11 concentric rings leading to a circle in the middle - it is not a place of dead ends. You will find your way to the center - to what some labyrinth aficionados describe as the womb. A safe place to reflect before reentering the world.
Labyrinths are the home of spiritual ritual. On that Ash Wednesday with Jen, I chose the labyrinth walk as a sign that we would never face a dead end. We might not be able to anticipate the twists and turns, but we would do it together, we will find the center.
As we walked out, we headed inside the church on the property. We walked out with ash on our foreheads, a sign that sacrifice and mourning is part of this life.
Episode 61 – Earleybird Steps Up to Associate Producer; Hope for Troubled Minds Release November 1
There is much good news from Delight in Disorder Ministries. Kevin Earleybird Earley has been appointed Associate Producer for Revealing Voices. He will also serve as co-host. This episode is a sneak preview of some of what lies ahead. The long-anticipated, eagerly awaited book Hope for Troubled Minds: Tributes to People with Brain Illnesses and Their Loved Ones will be released November 1. The 300+ page book is filled with letters, poems, and song lyrics from over 100 contributors. Until October 1, 2023, pre-orders for books signed by Tony Roberts can be placed at this link:https://delightindisorder.org/hftm-preorder/ The photo was taken by mental health advocate Linda Mimms at the 25th Anniversary Gala of Treatment Advocacy Center.
HAIKAST VIII – Gardening 201
It’s hard to accurately describe how big my parents' garden was when I was a child. I remember many summer days working with them to dig rows, plant seeds, weed and harvest. It was home to many vegetables, most notably the corn that my dad loved to grow and the green beans that I wasn’t as fond of. But just as the corn towered over my single digit self, the garden also spread wide to be as big as any that I knew. To my eye, perhaps only my dad’s parents' garden in rural Green County, Indiana was larger.
Whatever the dimensions, it was large enough to plant in me a seed of understanding and a desire to want to have my own garden.
I am excited that this year I only spent $10 on my entire vegetable garden thanks to a combination of saving seed packets from last year, harvesting my own seeds, trading plants with friends, getting seeds from the public library seed share program, and allowing volunteer plants to find their way. A package of brussel sprout plant plugs and a seed pack of green beans was my only expense for a massive harvest this year. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more involved with plants I have become, the less I have had to spend on their cultivation.
For people who did not grow up around the cycle of planting and harvesting, I can imagine that gardening may seem like a risky gamble into struggling with unkempt weeds and frustrating neighbors. Depending on your property, a garden can be a public hobby and, if you aren’t sure of your motivations or confident in what you are doing, may invite embarrassment at the site of perceived failure when the harvest doesn’t seem worth the effort.
What I can tell you is this - the more that I have gardened, the more I realize that I don’t do the gardening for my diet, property value, public relations with my neighbors, or to fill my time.
I garden for the plants and for the non-human life that benefits from the presence of diversity on my property.
Yes, all of the former that I mentioned are definitely benefits for me as well.. I will be the first to raise my hand to say that a late spring harvest of salad greens or a long awaited late summer watermelon are among the most savory and sweet moments of my year.
In the garden, beyond the abundance of harvest, there is also death. The use of herbicides, forgetting to water during dry spells, the mildew that may get hold of my squash before maturity, and all kinds of other unforeseen events may create less than ideal conditions of growth. The natural lifecycle of plants and insects, and, of course, rabbits’ appetites, will inevitably dash one’s ideal harvest dreams. I have more than once accidentally pulled a maturing desirable plant in my hasteful weeding endeavor on a hot summer evening. It doesn’t take too long to cope with death in the garden - both intentional and unintentional.
This seasonal lifecycle welcomes my presence in this entire drama, especially with native plants. The ultimate goal of a balanced, thriving environment around my home is my care and attention. That is why I do my best to restrain myself from pulling plants that migrate to parts of my yard where they were not originally planted. Rather than dumping fertilizer at a fixed location, I let them show me where they want to grow. I figure that they know better than I do what conditions work best for them - small changes in sunlight, moisture, soil type and neighboring plants play a big role in what will thrive and what will falter. Knowing this, I do my best to work with the plants to let them exert their preferences, rather than me enforcing mine.
I have a perhaps too cautious concern for the use of fertilizers and anything that ends with the suffix “-ide”, so I rely on my time to be the best determiner of what grows and what dies. So I watch, learn, and plan for the introduction of new plants and successional plantings to keep the bees busy.
HAIKAST VII – Opening
My basement stairs now have the “Rips Room” letters that I, Eric Rippy Riddle, inherited from my grandfather, Amos Harlen Rippy. The letters hung in the same formation from his home in Tell City, IN throughout my young life. It is an honor to walk down my stairs and remember the familiar walk down my grandparents basement steps.
My grandfather was a quiet man. Growing up, the things that I most identified with my grandfather were:
His stable presence in all of my big life’s moments
He worked most of his life at the Tell City Chair Company
He owned a golf cart at his local course and played all the time
He absolutely loved St. Louis Cardinals baseball
He was responsible for hanging the witty sayings and announcements with the black plastic letters on the church sign
He stopped smoking in the early 1980s when I asked him why he smoked (I have little recollection of this, but it was often stated at family gatherings)
He was in the Air Force in World War 2
The family called him “Pop”. His friend’s called him “Rip.”
In 2013, Pop was my last grandparent to die. I was close to all 4 of my grandparents, but Pop’s quiet nature was overshadowed by my grandmother who showered love, attention, and lots of cookies on me. His quiet presence was one of solidarity, but not as much what I would call intimacy. It felt like there was something that I didn’t know about him and wasn’ sure how to find out.
The funny thing is that I did not cry at the funerals of my other grandparents. I also did not speak at those funerals. I did both the day Pop was buried.
His funeral is easily the most memorable for me. I remember standing on the cemetery hillside, listening to the playing of Taps and getting an overwhelming feeling of what I can only describe as being opened. I was compelled to begin writing poetry that I described as “openings”. I wrote this after Pop’s funeral:
Today, Pop was buriedNext to my mother’s motherSunny, windy on top of Tell CityMy son watched the old man fold the flagRed, White, Blue describedI stood in the tent, feeling an openingA generation is goneMy mom, dad, aunt, and uncle said their goodbyeAt the church, I took the KleenexAnd mumbled through 8 tissuesI said death is a mythand my grandfather is alive
Pop lived 68 years after he flew over Tokyo in 1945. It took me until 2022 to realize that my grandfather was part of Operation Meetinghouse. The air raids over Tokyo on March 9th and 10th in 1945 are considered the deadliest air raid in human history. With a firestorm that killed nearly 100,000 people, the napalm burned a quarter of Tokyo to the ground. While the atomic bombs get the attention, it was the Operation Meetinghouse air raid that my grandfather participated in that took the most human life.
His generation fought the most lethal war in human history. Pop embodied the conflict that horrifies and amazes all who study that time in human history. I can not imagine the psychological anguish - whether felt or stuffed into his unconscious that he must have experienced. I wish I could have known more and spoken to him about that time in his life.
I wept the day I pieced together the dates of Operation Meetinghouse with what my brother had discovered in Pop’s journals. While it did not feel like a family secret, this realization was an unearthing of family history that has been life altering to me. It feels like a lost treasure with a key that could only truly be opened by talking to Pop. I think part of my emotional reaction is not being able to talk to him about the experience. I am not sure how this has shaped me or how this knowledge will play a role in my life. It is real and painful and unforgettable. When he died, and I felt opened, maybe it was a way of passing on a desire for my generat...
Episode 60 – Earleybird’s Substantial Interview
Technical producer Kevin Earleybird Earley is our guest host for this episode of Revealing Voices. He interviews fellow creative and long time friend Substantial.
Prince George’s County, Maryland-born MC, producer, artist, and educator, Substantial, debuted in 2000 collaborating with the late Japanese producer Nujabes, who later worked on the popular show Samurai Champloo. Legendary rapper and activist, Chuck D of Public Enemy referred to Substantial as “One of the great MCs of our time.” His soulful and introspective brand of Hip Hop music has received critical acclaim from Ebony.com, The Source Magazine, HipHopDX, DJBooth.net, and Okayplayer.com. His music videos have appeared on MTV, VH1, and BET.
Substantial has performed in nearly 20 countries and has collaborated with artists such as Kool Herc, L Universe better known as Verbal (M-Flo), Oddisee, and more. Substantial has licensed music to major brands such as Ford Motor Company, Bentley Motors, and UBER and also had his music featured in films and television shows such as Kevin Hart’s Laugh at My Pain, Kill Me 3 Times starring Simon Pegg, Daytime Emmy nominated show Tough Love and it’s spin-off series Pillow Talk. Substantial has appeared in the documentaries, Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme and Give Back. He has also written and performed original songs for games such as PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends Bang Bang, Arknights, Tree of Savior, and Renaine. Substantial is also a two-time Hollywood Music in Media Award nominee.
Earleybird and Substantial discuss taking a leap of faith, challenges for mental healthcare in minority communities, and the inspiration of music and the creative process.
Powerful Insight From Transcending Struggles
The high intelligence and unique wisdom of these two podcasters regarding mental illness comes from continual work on their own personal journey and from continual listening to and learning from people with severe mental illness. They also seek wisdom from family and community figures who care for people with mental illness, so they are perfectly suited to hold these regular discussions about this complex and often misunderstood part of human life.
Thank you Tony E Roberts
As a co-host of the show, I want to tank Tony for being an excellent partner in brainstorming, production, vision and overall professionalism in this endeavor. I hope to keep Revealing Voices going a long time with my Faithful Friend!
I appreciate Eric and Tony’s air of authenticity and genuine passion for mental health awareness. They integrate faith in a natural way that emphasizes the holistic journey which I appreciate because I largely attribute my own faith in Christ to my healing journey. That being said, they do a great job of making the material inclusive to those who do not hold the Christian faith. Well done!