An Interview with Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan is a pragmatic individual with a creative heart; a mix of business and poetry. He's in his early 30s, lives in the DC area with his wife and their toddler son.  

While he was working at Johns Hopkins University after college, Joe had the opportunity to get a graduate degree for free, with the tuition remission program that Johns Hopkins had. “What would I want to do that I would be afraid to pay for?” he asked himself. Instead of getting something like a law degree or business degree or something ridiculous, he said, forget it, “I’m gonna get my Master’s in Writing”  And so he did.  

Joe got a Master’s in Creative Nonfiction. This decision changed the trajectory of his life.

We talk transformation through literature and writing: “Books are my closest experience with that internal transformation that comes with searching for enlightenment in some ways, however you define enlightenment.”
We hear Joe struggles with a Catholic upbringing. What is the lingering inheritance of it?
His answer: GUILT.

“Faith has escaped me for a long time…That doesn’t mean that I don’t have faith that the arch of history bends toward justice…”

We hear his passion for creative education, for giving children space and tools to think critically and express their idea; that the need for this education is all the more important now.

Joe is the Chair of the Advisory Committee for Lit Net, a coalition of literary organizations organized to protect funding for the arts and literature in specific. #SavetheNEA

The sound quality isn’t great in one section (ok, it's horrible) where Joe offers what I think is just a gorgeous understanding of the complexity of humanity.  Critiquing the tendency of religions to divide and too narrowly define us, Joe says,

"It forces us to define ourselves in a way that exclusionary…Where I don’t see the world in a binary way. It’s not good versus evil. That is too simple. And maybe books taught me that too. That there are so many variances to how we see and view the world around us and its never so simple as that. And trying to make it so simple really does a disservice to the subtleties of the world which is what makes us special. You know, which is what makes humans fantastic creatures with the capacity to think and to feel and to express those subtleties in very different and exciting ways."

We also touch on the challenge of forming community in the absence of old forms - church, local school, community-based organizations - and in a transient work-centered culture such is the life of DC and many urban millennials.