Episodes Archive

Our Latest Show September 11, 2014

The first in a four-part series, "The American Consciousness."

Imani Perry is a scholar of law, culture, race — and hip hop. She acknowledges wise voices who say that we will never get to the promised land of racial equality. She writes, “That may very well be true, but it also true that extraordinary things have happened and keep happening in our history. The question is, how do we prepare for and precipitate them?” We took her up on this emboldening question at the Chautauqua Institution, on the cusp of yet a new collective reckoning with the racial fabric of American life.

Episode Archive

December 2009

December 31, 2009

Americans are religious and non-religious, devout and irreverent. But in astonishing numbers, across that spectrum, most of us say that we pray. We explore the subject of prayer, how it sounds, and what it means in three different traditions and lives.

 

 

December 24, 2009

Considered by some to be a living saint, Jean Vanier created L'Arche, a model of community for people with mental disabilities that celebrates power in smallness and light in the darkness of human existence. The French Canadian philosopher and Catholic social innovator speaks about his understanding of humanity and God that has been shaped by Aristotle, Mother Teresa, and people who would once have been locked away from society.

December 17, 2009

As some Lakota make an annual pilgrimage on horseback to Wounded Knee in memory of Sitting Bull's death, we'll pull out some of the lesser known threads of the legacy of this complex leader and American icon. And we'll explore why his spiritual character has animated his own people in the last three decades more openly than at any time since his death in 1890.

December 10, 2009

A conversation about climate change and moral imagination with a leading environmentalist and writer who has been ahead of the curve on this issue since he wrote The End of Nature in 1989. We explore his evolving perspective on human responsibility in a changing natural world.

December 03, 2009

Rabbi Heschel marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr., famously reporting that he felt like his legs were praying. Heschel practiced what he called “radical amazement” in his work with religious others. “The opposite of good is not evil,” he said, “it is indifference.”

November 2009

November 26, 2009

Kate Braestrup is a chaplain to game wardens, often on search and rescue missions, in the wilds of Maine. She works, as she puts it, at hinges of human experience when lives alter unexpectedly — where loss, disaster, decency and beauty intertwine. Hear her wise and unusual take on life and death, lost and found.

November 19, 2009

What Adele Diamond is learning about the brain challenges basic assumptions in modern education. Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization, and reflection. What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our minds.

November 12, 2009

A renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher shares his thoughts on the meaning of happiness, and how he understands spirituality as "contemplative science."

November 05, 2009

Karen Armstrong speaks about her progression from a disillusioned and damaged young nun into, in her words, a "freelance monotheist." She's a formidable thinker and scholar, but as a theologian she calls herself an amateur — noting that the Latin root of the word "amateur" means a love of one's subject. Seven years in a strict religious order nearly snuffed out her ability to think about faith at all. Here, we hear the story behind Armstrong's developing ideas about God.

October 2009

October 29, 2009

Using stem cells, Doris Taylor brought the heart of a dead animal back to life and might one day revolutionize human organ transplantation. She takes us beyond lightning rod issues and into an unfolding frontier where science is learning how stem cells work reparatively in every body at every age.

October 22, 2009

The idea of reciting an unchanging creed sounds suspicious to modern ears. But the late, great historian Jaroslav Pelikan illuminated ancient tradition in order to enliven faith in the present and the future. He insisted that strong statements of belief will be necessary if pluralism in the 21st century is to thrive. We take in his moving, provocative perspective on our enduring need for creeds.

October 15, 2009

We shine a light on two young leaders of a new generation of grassroots Muslim-Jewish encounter in Los Angeles. They're innovating templates of practical relationship that work with reality, acknowledge questions and conflict, yet resolve not to be enemies — whatever the political future of the Middle East may hold.

October 08, 2009

One of today's most influential spiritual teachers shares his youthful experience of depression and despair — suffering that led him to his own spiritual breakthrough, and ultimately, freedom and peace of mind. He also explicates his view of what he calls "the pain body" — the accumulated emotional pain that may influence us and our relationships in negative ways. And Tolle talks about spirit and God, and what those concepts mean to him.

October 01, 2009

Language is a carrier of human identity. It is a vehicle by which we understand and express our very sense of self. Novelist and translator David Treuer is helping to compile the first practical grammar of the Ojibwe language. He describes an unfolding experience of how language forms what makes us human. Some memories and realities, he has found, can only be carried forward in time by Ojibwe.

September 2009

September 24, 2009

Nine Muslims, in their own words, reveal a creative convergence of Islamic spirituality and American identity that is unfolding, largely unnoticed, in the United States. A lawyer turned playwright, a teacher who's a lesbian, a retired federal prosecutor — all giving shape to the nature and meaning of Muslim identity, and sharing how tricky it can be to unravel Islamic religious tradition from the many cultural traditions.

September 17, 2009

The late Irish poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue, is beloved for his book Anam Ċara, Gaelic for "soul friend," and for his insistence on beauty as a human calling and a defining aspect of God. In one of his last interviews before his death in 2008, he articulated a Celtic imagination about how the material and the spiritual, the visible and the invisible worlds intertwine in human experience.

September 10, 2009

Sixteen Muslims, in their own words, speak about the delights and gravity of Islam's holiest month. Through vivid memories and light-hearted musings, they reveal the richness of Ramadan — as a period of intimacy, and of parties; of getting up when the world is quiet for breakfast and prayers with one's family; of breaking the fast every day after nightfall in celebration and prayers with friends and strangers.

September 03, 2009

Yoga has infiltrated law schools and strip malls, churches and hospitals. This 5,000-year-old spiritual technology is converging with 21st-century medical science and with many religious and philosophical perspectives. Seane Corn takes us inside the practicalities and power of yoga. She describes how it helps her face the darkness in herself and the world, and how she’s come to see yoga as a form of body prayer.

August 2009

August 27, 2009

We explore the complex ethics of global aid with a young writer from Kenya, Binyavanga Wainaina. He is among a rising generation of African voices who bring a cautionary perspective to the morality and efficacy behind many Western initiatives to abolish poverty and speed development in Africa.

August 20, 2009

Our guest has grappled with large moral and religious questions on and off the page. We discover what she discerned -- in the act of creating a new universe -- about God and about dilemmas of evil, doubt, and free will. The ultimate moral of any life and any event, she believes, only shows itself across generations. And so the novelist, like God, she says, paints with the brush of time.

August 13, 2009

President Obama has cited Reinhold Niebuhr's teachings as significant in shaping his ideas about politics and governance. In a public conversation, we discuss the great public theologian's legacy and ideas — and what influence they may play in the future of American politics.

August 06, 2009

James Prosek is an artist, fly-fisher, author, and environmental activist who has always, as he puts it, found God "through the theater of nature." From a young age he has been fascinated by trout and now eel - which he sees as "mystical creatures" - and he's captured them literally and artistically, by way of both angling and paint. We explore the sense of meaning and mystery he has developed along the way, including his concern with how we humans limit our sense of other creatures by the names we give them.

July 2009

July 30, 2009

As the global economic crisis began to unfold this past fall, we wanted to respond immediately, in our way. We began to conduct an online conversation parallel to but distinct from our culture's more sustained focus on economic scenarios. For in each of our lives, whoever we are, very personal scenarios are unfolding that confront us with core questions of what matters to us and what sustains us. We made a list of our guests across the years who we thought might speak to this in fresh and compelling ways.

July 23, 2009

We explore human and spiritual aspects of economic downturn with a wise public intellectual of our time, the Quaker author and educator Parker Palmer. He works with people from all walks of life at the intersection of spiritual, professional, and social change, and stresses the need to acknowledge the inner life of human beings as a source of reality and power.

July 16, 2009

Diane Winston appreciates good television, studies it, and brings many of its creators into her religion and media classes at the University of Southern California. In what some have called a renaissance in television drama, we examine how TV is helping us tell our story and work through great confusions in contemporary life. And, we play clips from The Wire, House, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica.

July 09, 2009

In a few breathtaking months, we've culturally moved from seeing Wall Street as an icon of thriving civil society to discussing its workings with book titles like House of Cards and Animal Spirits. As part of our ongoing Repossessing Virtue series, we look at what science is learning about trust, fair play, and empathy — and what these qualities have to do with human character and economics.

July 02, 2009

Who knew that we learn empathy, trust, irony, and problem solving through play — something the dictionary defines as "pleasurable and apparently purposeless activity." Dr. Stuart Brown suggests that the rough-and-tumble play of children actually prevents violent behavior, and that play can grow human talents and character across a lifetime. Play, as he studies it, is an indispensable part of being human.

June 2009

June 25, 2009

Xavier Le Pichon, one of the world's leading geophysicists, helped create the field of plate tectonics. A devout Catholic and spiritual thinker, he raised his family in intentional communities centered around people with mental disabilities. He shares his rare perspective on the meaning of humanity — a perspective equally informed by his scientific and personal encounters with fragility as a fundament of vital, evolving systems. Le Pichon has come to think of caring attention to weakness as an essential quality that allowed humanity to evolve.

June 18, 2009

Born in slavery, the Negro spiritual conveys a generous understanding of the nature of God and of human life. A celebration in word and song — through its hidden meanings, as well as its beauty, lament, and hope.

June 11, 2009

One of the world's leading experts on torture, Iranian-American political scientist Darius Rejali discusses, in particular, how democracies change torture and are changed by it. In the wake of Wikileaks revelations about torture in U.S.-occupied Iraq, we explore how his knowledge might deepen our public discourse about such practices -- and inform our collective reckoning with consequences yet to unfold.

June 04, 2009

Zen master and poet Thich Nhat Hanh was forcibly exiled from his native country of Vietnam more than 40 years ago. We visited the Buddhist monk at a Christian conference center in a lakeside setting of rural Wisconsin. Here, Thich Nhat Hanh offers stark, gentle wisdom for living in a world of anger and violence. He discusses the concepts of "engaged Buddhism," "being peace," and "mindfulness."

May 2009

May 28, 2009

The very words "faith-based" became controversial during the Bush administration, yet Barack Obama has retained the faith-based centers in 11 federal agencies that his predecessor created. And within weeks of assuming the presidency, he announced priority areas for his own White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships — including economic recovery and poverty reduction, abortion reduction, responsible fatherhood, and global interfaith dialogue. In a live, public conversation, we meet the 26-year-old political strategist, Pentecostal minister, and trusted associate of the president who will lead this charge.

May 21, 2009

We seek fresh insight into the history and the human and religious dynamics of Islam's Sunni-Shia divide. Our guest says that it is not so different from dynamics in periods of Western Christian history. But he says that by bringing the majority Shia to power in Iraq, the U.S. has changed the religions dynamics of the Middle East.

May 14, 2009

We're bringing the voices of our listeners into the conversation we've been building online and on-air since the economic downturn began last year. Many are grappling with the shame that comes in American culture with the loss of a job, and many are seeking community in old places and new. For some, economic instability — a kind of life on the edge — is not new. They've been cultivating virtues of patience, self-examination, service and good humor that might help us all.

May 07, 2009

More and more people in our time are disconnected from religious institutions, at least for part of their lives. Others are religious and find themselves creating a family with a spouse from another tradition or no tradition at all. And the experience of parenting tends to raise spiritual questions anew. We sense that there is a spiritual aspect to our children's natures and wonder how to support and nurture that. The spiritual life, our guest says, begins not in abstractions, but in concrete everyday experiences. And children need our questions as much as our answers.

April 2009

April 30, 2009

A remarkable Kenyan woman and environmentalist speaks from experience about the links between ecology, human flourishing, war and peace, and democracy. And she shares her thoughts on where God resides.

April 23, 2009

The 13th-century Muslim mystic and poet Rumi has long shaped Muslims around the world and has now become popular in the West. Rumi created a new language of love within the Islamic mystical tradition of Sufism. We hear his poetry as we delve into his world and listen for its echoes in our own.

April 16, 2009

Jon Kabat-Zinn has learned, through science and experience, about mindfulness as a way of life. This is wisdom with immediate relevance to the ordinary and extreme stresses of our time — from economic peril, to parenting, to life in a digital age.

April 09, 2009

An understanding of Easter from inside the Armenian Orthodox tradition that is at once mystical and literally down to earth. Vigen Guroian is a theologian who experiences Easter as a call to our senses. He is passionate about the meaning of grand ideas like incarnation, death, and eternity as revealed in life and in his garden.

April 02, 2009

The biblical Exodus story has inspired believers and non-believers, Jews and Christians — and more than a few Hollywood movies. But this is no simple story of heroes and villains; it is a complex picture of the possibilities and ironies of human passion and human freedom. If you're not familiar with Exodus, you're in for a deeply sensual experience; and, even if you're well-versed in the text, you just might be surprised.

March 2009

March 26, 2009

Alzheimer's disease has been described as "the great unlearning," a "disease of memory," a "demise of consciousness." But what does it reveal about the nature of human identity? What remains when memory unravels? And how might such insights help Alzheimer's sufferers themselves?

March 19, 2009

With an Argentinean scientist, we explore the human landscape of forensic sciences and its emergence as a tool for human rights. Doretti has unearthed bones and stories of the dead and "the disappeared" in more than 30 countries, including victims of Argentina's Dirty War, over two decades. She shares her perspective on reparation, the need to bury our dead, and the many facets of justice.

March 12, 2009

Dr. Sherwin Nuland died this week at the age of 83. He became well-known for his first book, How We Die, which won the National Book Award. For him, pondering death was a way of wondering at life — and the infinite variety of processes that maintain human life moment to moment. He reflects on the meaning of life by way of scrupulous and elegant detail about human physiology.

March 05, 2009

As the global economic crisis began to unfold this past fall, we wanted to respond immediately, in our way. We began to conduct an online conversation parallel to but distinct from our culture's more sustained focus on economic scenarios. For in each of our lives, whoever we are, very personal scenarios are unfolding that confront us with core questions of what matters to us and what sustains us. We made a list of our guests across the years who we thought might speak to this in fresh and compelling ways.

February 2009

February 26, 2009

One in ten Americans, and even more dramatically, about one in four women, will experience clinical depression at some point in their lives. We take an intimate look at the spiritual dimensions of this illness and its aftermath.

 

 

February 19, 2009

An astrophysicist who studies the shape of the universe, Janna Levin has also explored her science by writing a novel about two pivotal 20th-century mathematicians, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. Both men pushed at boundaries where mathematics presses on grand questions of meaning and purpose. Such questions, she says, help create the technologies that are now changing our sense of what it means to be human.

February 12, 2009

President Obama has cited Reinhold Niebuhr's teachings as significant in shaping his ideas about politics and governance. In a public conversation, we discuss the great public theologian's legacy and ideas — and what influence they may play in the future of American politics.

February 05, 2009

We'll take a fresh and thought-provoking look at Darwin's life and ideas. He did not argue against God but against a simple understanding of the world — its beauty, its brutality, and its unfolding creation.

January 2009

January 29, 2009

Our guest has grappled with large moral and religious questions on and off the page. We discover what she discerned -- in the act of creating a new universe -- about God and about dilemmas of evil, doubt, and free will. The ultimate moral of any life and any event, she believes, only shows itself across generations. And so the novelist, like God, she says, paints with the brush of time.

January 22, 2009

A few years ago, journalist Pankaj Mishra pursued the social relevance of the Buddha's thought across India and Europe, Afghanistan and America. He emerged with a startling critique of Western political economy that is even more resonant today as he pursued the social relevance of the Buddha's core questions: Do desiring and acquiring make us happy? Does large-scale political change really address human suffering?

January 15, 2009

Saint John's University and Abbey in rural Minnesota houses a monastic library that rescues writings from across the centuries and across the world. There are worlds in this place on palm leaf and papyrus, in microfilm and pixels. And the relevance of the past to the present is itself revealed in a new light.

January 08, 2009

Poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht says that as a scholar she always noticed the "shadow history" of doubt out of the corner of her eye. She shows how non-belief, skepticism, and doubt have paralleled and at times shaped the world's great religious and secular belief systems. She suggests that only in modern time has doubt been narrowly equated with a complete rejection of faith, or a broader sense of mystery.

January 01, 2009

Psychiatrist Robert Coles has spent his career exploring the inner lives of children. He says children are witnesses to the fullness of our humanity; they are keenly attuned to the darkness as well as the light of life; and they can teach us about living honestly, searchingly and courageously if we let them.

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