A podcast helping people heal old wounds
During the long, slow days of the pandemic, I started listening to all kinds of podcast while I was doing dishes or physical therapy. Now, I actually look forward to those tasks because I get to hear my “stories” (much the way I imagine a family in the 1930s might have eagerly gathered around the radio). Podcasts are a reminder that the world goes on even in the strangest of times. They are also a link to the world—to the irrepressible humanity and messiness and tenderness of it—when I feel most isolated.
I’ve cycled through many phases in my listening, but my current favorite is Heavyweight, hosted by Jonathan Goldstein (formerly of This American Life). Goldstein’s mission is to help people heal old wounds, to lift whatever “heavy weight” they’ve been carrying. In a style that is endearingly nerdy and self-deprecating, Goldstein casts himself as a semi-competent guide, leading others toward resolution and catharsis.
Sometimes guests are his friends—like the friend who is fixated on having lent (and lost) a CD box set to Moby, before he was famous—and sometimes they are people who have reached out with surprisingly moving stories. There is the young woman searching for the stranger who clandestinely helped her get on birth control as a teenager, or the mother of a convict on death row offering forgiveness to one of the jurors who put him there and now regrets it. I’ve cried into my dishes many times. This may sound like serious stuff, but the show is never self-serious, which rescues it from becoming cheesy. And each episode has a satisfying arc; it doesn’t always resolve the way you think it will, but that’s part of the fun.
Heavyweight makes me feel like people are fundamentally good and, binge-listening to episode after episode, the cumulative lightening of so many people’s burdens seems to somehow vicariously lighten my own.