Carlo Rovelli offers vast, complex ideas beyond most of our imagining — “quanta,” “grains of space,” “time and the heat of black holes” — and condenses them into spare, beautiful words that render them newly explicable and moving. He is the scientist behind the global bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, and for him, all of reality is interaction — an everyday truth as scientific as it is philosophical and political. This physicist’s way of seeing the world helps make sense of what he calls “the huge wave of happenings” that is the human self.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.