Episodes Archive

Our Latest Show September 18, 2014

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

After September 11, 2001, Richard Rodriguez traveled to the Middle East to explore his kinship, as a Roman Catholic, with the men who stepped onto airplanes and turned them into weapons of terror. What he learned illuminates some of the deepest paradox and promise of the world we inhabit. He is an especially intriguing conversation partner for right now — a life and mind straddling left and right, religious and secular, immigrant and intellectual. At the Chautauqua Institution, we mine his wisdom on the emerging fabric of human identity.

Episode Archive

December 2012

December 27, 2012

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.

December 20, 2012

The coming stage of evolution, Teilhard de Chardin said, won't be driven by physical adaptation but by human consciousness, creativity, and spirit. We visit with his biographer Ursula King, and we experience his ideas energizing New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson.

December 13, 2012

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.

December 06, 2012

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 2012

November 29, 2012

Robi Damelin lost her son David to a Palestinian sniper. Ali Abu Awwad lost his older brother Yousef to an Israeli soldier. But, instead of clinging to traditional ideologies and turning their pain into more violence, they've decided to understand the other side — Israeli and Palestinian — by sharing their pain and their humanity. They tell of a gathering network of survivors who share their grief, their stories of loved ones, and their ideas for lasting peace. They don't want to be right; they want to be honest.

November 22, 2012

Courage is borne out of vulnerability, not strength. This finding of Brené Brown’s research on shame and "wholeheartedness" shook the perfectionist ground beneath her own feet. And now it’s inspiring millions to reconsider the way they live, parent, and navigate relations with members of the opposite gender.

November 15, 2012

Each of us, in our everyday interactions, chooses between letting technology shape us and shaping it towards human purposes, even towards honoring what we hold dear. Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, is full of usable ideas — from how to declare email bankruptcy to teaching our children the rewards of solitude.

November 08, 2012

What do a fiction writer and an astrophysicist have in common? Marilynne Robinson and Marcelo Gleiser connect the dots between the cosmos, our minds, and all the ways we discover the story of where we came from.

November 01, 2012

Joanna Macy is a philosopher of ecology, a Buddhist scholar, and an exquisite translator of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that poetry as a lens on her wisdom on spiritual life and its relevance for the political and ecological dramas of our time.

October 2012

October 25, 2012

A veteran Republican senator and Democratic economist are political bridge people who've brought differing approaches and shared love of country to generations of economic policy. In this tense political moment, they offer straight talk and wise perspective — and won’t let partisan gridlock have the last word. The final dialogue in our Civil Conversations Project.

October 16, 2012

A reframed, redemptive conversation about same-sex marriage with the subject before the Supreme Court. Coming to the gay marriage debate from two, predictable opposing directions, David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch both have an equal desire to strengthen the institution of marriage. They're now showing all of us another way forward in grappling with the future of marriage.

October 11, 2012

He is a genius of improvisation; a genre-bending vocal magician and conductor. And he sings the territory between music, mystery, and spirit. Who better to contemplate the human voice — its delights, its revelations, and its mystery — than Bobby McFerrin?

October 04, 2012

No issue is more intractable than abortion. Or is it? Most Americans fall somewhere between the absolute poles of “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” A Christian ethicist who advocates a "consistent ethic of life" and an abortion-rights activist reveal what they admire in the other side and discuss what’s really at stake in this debate.

September 2012

September 27, 2012

The light and smells in places like hospitals can often depress us. And, our favorite room at home keeps us sane. But why? Immunologist Esther Sternberg explains the scientific research revealing how physical spaces create stress and make us sick — and how good design can trigger our "brain’s internal pharmacies" and help heal us.

September 20, 2012

Two Christian leaders are working to restore Christian engagement in the world. Gabe Lyons and Jim Daly discuss how they who are reshaping their part in common life, and the common good. This often surprising conversation addresses subjects like gay marriage, abortion, and the strident reputation that Christian evangelicals have earned in the past decade.

September 13, 2012

Krista Tippett sits down with Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain. One of the world's great thinkers on the promise and perils of religion, they discuss how Jewish and other religious ideas can inform modern challenges. He says that the faithful can and must cultivate their own deepest truths — while finding God in the other.

September 06, 2012

Alain de Botton is a philosopher who likes the best of religion, but doesn’t believe in God. So he’s created “The School of Life,” a secular community in London. He explains why wisdom and ritual shouldn’t be reserved just for believers.

August 2012

August 30, 2012

An expansive reflection on work, education, and civic imagination with an esteemed researcher and teacher at UCLA and a poetic writer. We explore his perspective, through life and scholarship, on hard subjects that drive to the heart of who we are -- literacy, schooling, social class, and the deepest meaning of vocation.

August 23, 2012

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to CNN, Joanna Brooks has become a go-to voice during our national inspection of Mormonism in this presidential campaign. As Mitt Romney makes history, we revisit our personal and revealing conversation with the Ask Mormon Girl blogger. She opens a window on Mormonism as an evolving and far from monolithic faith.

August 16, 2012

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.

August 09, 2012

As the daughter of Johnny Cash, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash describes her life as "circumscribed by music." But, it's through her love of language and quantum mechanics that she's finding new sources of creativity and mathematical ways to think about the divine. The mother of five shares her perspectives on being present, Twitter as a "boot camp for songwriters," and how she wrestles with love and grief through her music.

August 02, 2012

The second show from our recent trip to Istanbul. We meet a Dominican friar whose Christianity is inspired by the mystical tradition of Islam. And, an Eastern Orthodox bishop is creating what he calls a “dialogue of life” as a religious minority in this crucible of the ancient church.

July 2012

July 26, 2012

Krista Tippett speaks with Jane Gross, creator of The New York Times’ New Old Age blog. As she learned by taking care of her mother during her final years, we’re living longer and dying more slowly. Gross shares her wisdom about the new relationship between children and parents, and the changing way we think about the far shore of aging.

July 19, 2012

Terry Tempest Williams is a naturalist and writer, a biologist by training with a literary mind, who comes from a long Mormon lineage in Utah. She draws political, spiritual, and creative inspiration from her experience of the interior American West. She offers stories of neighborly collaboration that turns into environmental protection, and the value that comes from vitriolic disagreement inside families.

July 12, 2012

There's a country between Europe's debt crisis and the Arab Spring, where democracy is valued and the economy is growing. It's Turkey. Mustafa Akyol gives a fresh perspective on this new model of religion and democracy.

July 05, 2012

Dan Barber is a celebrated young chef — but his passionate ethics and intellect have made him much more. He's out to restore food to its rightful place vis-à-vis our bodies, our ecologies and our economies. And he would do this by resurrecting our natural insistence on flavor.

June 2012

June 28, 2012

Krista Tippett speaks with philosopher Jacob Needleman. As new democracies are struggling around the world, it’s easy to forget that U.S. democracy was shaped by trial and error. A conversation about the “inward work” of democracy — the conscience that shaped the American experiment.

June 21, 2012

David Sloan Wilson believes that evolution is not just a description of how we got here. He says it can also be a tool kit for improving how we live together. He’s taken what he’s learned in studying evolution in animals and is now applying it to the behavior of groups in his hometown of Binghamton, New York. His goal is to help people behave pro-socially — at their best, and for the good of the whole.

June 14, 2012

Neuroscientist Richard Davidson is revealing that the choices we make can actually “rewire” our brains. He’s studied the brains of meditating Buddhist monks, and now he’s using his research with children and adolescents to look at things like ADHD, autism, and kindness.

June 07, 2012

Sylvia Earle has done something no one else has — walked solo on the bottom of the sea, under a quarter mile of water. She tells what she saw — and what she has learned — about the giant, living system that is the ocean. And, she explains why seeing a shark is a sign for hope.

May 2012

May 31, 2012

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.

May 24, 2012

Michael McCullough describes science that helps us comprehend how revenge came to have a purpose in human life. At the same time, he stresses, science is also revealing that human beings are more instinctively equipped for forgiveness than we've perhaps given ourselves credit for. Knowing this suggests ways to calm the revenge instinct in ourselves and others and embolden the forgiveness intuition.

May 17, 2012

Sarah Kay says that listening is the better part of speaking. A spoken word poet who’s become a role model for teenagers around the world, she shares how she works with words to make connections — inside people and between them.

May 10, 2012

Silence is an endangered species, says Gordon Hempton. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth, as he knows it, is a "solar-powered jukebox." Quiet is a "think tank of the soul." We take in the world through his ears.

May 03, 2012

An unusual take on the mind-body connection with author and yoga teacher Matthew Sanford. He's been a paraplegic since the age of 13. He shares his wisdom for us all on knowing the strength and grace of our bodies even in the face of illness, aging, and death.

April 2012

April 26, 2012

What if we understand death as a developmental stage — like adolescence or mid-life? Dr. Ira Byock is a leading figure in palliative care and hospice in the United States. He says we lose sight of "the remarkable value" of the time of life we call dying if we forget that it's always a personal and human event, and not just a medical one. From his place on this medical frontier, he shares how we can understand dying as a time of learning, repair, and completion of our lives.

April 19, 2012

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.

April 12, 2012

The poet Christian Wiman is giving voice to the hunger for faith — and the challenges of faith — for people living now. After a Texas upbringing soaked in a history of violence and a charismatic Christian culture, he was agnostic until he became actively religious again in his late 30s. Then he was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable blood cancer. He's bearing witness to something new happening in himself and in the world.

April 05, 2012

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.

March 2012

March 29, 2012

The best way to nurture children's inner lives, Sylvia Boorstein says, is by taking care of our own inner selves for their sake. At a public event in suburban Detroit, Krista Tippett draws out the warmth and wisdom of the celebrated Jewish-Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist. And, in a light-hearted moment that is an audience pleaser, Boorstein shares what GPS might teach us about "recalculating" and our own inner equanimity.

March 22, 2012

How do we prime our brains to take the meandering mental paths necessary for creativity? New techniques of brain imaging, Rex Jung says, are helping us gain a whole new view on the differences between intelligence, creativity, and personality. He unsettles some old assumptions — and suggests some new connections between creativity and family life, creativity and aging, and creativity and purpose.

March 15, 2012

Kevin Kling is part funny guy, part poet and playwright, part wise man. Born with a disabled left arm, he lost the use of his right one after a motorcycle accident nearly killed him. He shares his special angle on life's humor and its ruptures — and why we turn loss into story.

March 08, 2012

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.

March 01, 2012

Are we in the matrix? Physicist James Gates reveals why string theory stretches our imaginations about the nature of reality. Also, how failure makes us more complete, and imagination makes us more knowledgeable.

February 2012

February 23, 2012

"There's no question about the reality of evil, of injustice, of suffering, but at the center of this existence is a heart beating with love."

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on how his understanding of God and humanity has unfolded through the history he's lived and shaped.

February 16, 2012

A kind of archeologist of the human voice, singer and composer Meredith Monk says that "the voice could be like the body" — flexible and fluid with practice. Through music as through meditation, the longtime Buddhist practitioner pushes the boundaries of what we can do without words.

February 09, 2012

Can journalism be a humanitarian art? New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has learned that reportage can deaden rather than awaken the consciousness, much less the hearts, of his readers. He shares his wide ethical lens he's gained on human life in our time — both personal and global.

February 02, 2012

For Black History Month: a MacArthur "genius" who's unearthing an especially painful chapter of the American experience — the intersecting history of African-Americans and Native Americans, and the little-known narratives that Cherokee landowners held black slaves. Even with history this difficult, Tiya Miles shows us the possibility of stretching the canvas of the past wide enough to hold both hard truths and healing.

January 2012

January 26, 2012

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.

January 19, 2012

We’re used to hearing about Detroit as a symbol of economic collapse. With the recent news coverage of city's financial crisis and declaration of bankruptcy, we travel to a city of vigor where joyful, passionate people are reimagining work, food, and the very meaning of humanity. The Chinese-American philosopher and civil rights legend Grace Lee Boggs is the heart and soul of this largely hidden story, which holds lessons for us all.

January 12, 2012

What happens when people transcend violence while living in it? John Paul Lederach has spent three decades mediating peace and change in 25 countries — from Nepal to Colombia and Sierra Leone. He shifts the language and lens of the very notion of conflict resolution. He says, for example, that enduring progress takes root not with large numbers of people, but with relationships between unlikely people.

January 05, 2012

As the daughter of Johnny Cash, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash describes her life as "circumscribed by music." But, it's through her love of language and quantum mechanics that she's finding new sources of creativity and mathematical ways to think about the divine. The mother of five shares her perspectives on being present, Twitter as a "boot camp for songwriters," and how she wrestles with love and grief through her music.