Episodes Archive

Our Latest Show September 25, 2014

The XIV Dalai Lama seems to many to embody happiness — happiness against the odds, a virtue that is acquired and practiced. Before a live audience in Atlanta, Georgia, Krista had a rare opportunity to mull over the meaning of happiness in contemporary life with him and three global spiritual leaders: a Muslim scholar, a chief rabbi, and a presiding bishop. An invigorating and unpredictable discussion exploring the themes of suffering, beauty, and the nature of the body.

Episode Archive

September 2014

September 25, 2014

The XIV Dalai Lama seems to many to embody happiness — happiness against the odds, a virtue that is acquired and practiced. Before a live audience in Atlanta, Georgia, Krista had a rare opportunity to mull over the meaning of happiness in contemporary life with him and three global spiritual leaders: a Muslim scholar, a chief rabbi, and a presiding bishop. An invigorating and unpredictable discussion exploring the themes of suffering, beauty, and the nature of the body.

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.

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.

September 04, 2014

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most famous musicians in the world. In this generous and intimate conversation, he shares his philosophy of curiosity about life and of performance as hospitality. With the Silk Road Ensemble, he traverses territory as vast and fluid as the world we inhabit.

August 2014

August 28, 2014

An enchanting hour of poetry drawing on the ways family and religion shape our lives. Marie Howe works and plays with her Catholic upbringing, the universal drama of family, and the ordinary time that sustains us. The moral life, she says, is lived out in what we say as much as what we do — and so words have a power to save us.

August 21, 2014

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.

August 14, 2014

The Brazilian lyricist Paulo Coelho is best known for his book, The Alchemist — which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 300 weeks. His fable-like stories turn life, love, writing, and reading into pilgrimage. In a rare conversation, we meet the man behind the writings and explore what he’s touched in modern people.

August 07, 2014

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.

August 06, 2014

He bestowed the title “Mahatma” on Gandhi. He debated the deepest nature of reality with Einstein. He was championed by Yeats and Pound to become the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath — a writer and a painter, a philosopher and a musician, and a social innovator — but much of his poetry and prose is virtually untranslatable (or inaccessibly translated) for modern minds. We pull back the "dusty veils" that have hidden his memory from history.

July 2014

July 31, 2014

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.

July 24, 2014

Sculptural artist Dario Robleto is famous for spinning and shaping unconventional materials — from dinosaur fossils to pulverized vintage records, from swamp root to cramp bark. He joins words and objects in a way that distills meaning at once social, poetic, and scientific. He reveals how objects can become meditations on love, war, and healing.

July 17, 2014

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.

July 10, 2014

One of the most extraordinary minds of American and global history, W.E.B. Du Bois penned the famous line that "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." He is a formative voice for many of the people who gave us the Civil Rights Movement. But his passionate, poetic words speak to all of us navigating the ever-unfolding, unfinished business of civil rights. We bring Du Bois' life and ideas into relief for the 21st century — featuring one of the last interviews the great Maya Angelou gave before her death.

July 03, 2014

For the Fourth of July, a refreshing reality check about the long road of American democracy. We remember forgotten but fascinating, useful history as we contemplate how we might help young democracies on their own tumultuous paths now.

June 2014

June 26, 2014

We tend to frame our cultural conversation about science and religion as a debate — two either/or ways of describing reality. With mathematician Jim Bradley and philosopher Michael Ruse, we trace a quieter evolution of science and religion in interplay — not a matter of competing answers, but of complementary questions with room for humanity, nuance, and humor.

June 19, 2014

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 12, 2014

The surprising psychology behind morality is at the heart of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s research. “When it comes to moral judgments," he says, "we think we are scientists discovering the truth, but actually we are lawyers arguing for positions we arrived at by other means.” He explains “liberal” and “conservative” not narrowly or necessarily as political affiliations, but as personality types — ways of moving through the world. His own self-described “conservative-hating, religion-hating, secular liberal instincts” have been challenged by his own studies.

June 05, 2014

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.

May 2014

May 29, 2014

Social psychologist Ellen Langer's unconventional studies have long suggested what brain science is now revealing: our experiences are formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. Naming something "play" rather than "work" can mean the difference between delight and drudgery. She is one of the early pioneers — along with figures like Jon Kabat-Zinn and Herbert Benson — in drawing a connection between mindlessness and unhappiness, between mindfulness and health. Dr. Langer describes mindfulness as achievable without meditation or yoga — as “the simple act of actively noticing things.”

May 22, 2014

Civil rights veteran Vincent Harding died this week at the age of 82. He had a long lens of wisdom on how social change happens. He believed America is still a developing nation when it comes to creating a multi-religious, multi-racial democracy. Vincent Harding spent recent decades bringing young people into creative contact with elders, civil rights veterans — offering experiences of them, as he said, not as figures in history books but "as living and lively and magnificent." We remember Vincent Harding and how he embodied that legacy and its wisdom for us.

May 15, 2014

The Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah is a rich, magnetic world of thought and teaching. It has resonance with modern understandings of reality — and describes a cosmic significance to the practical moral call to tikkun olam, "repair the world." Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is a long-time student and articulator of the mysteries and messages of Kabbalah. We speak with him in honor of the 20th-century historian Gershom Scholem, who resurrected this tradition from obscurity and made it accessible to modern people.

May 08, 2014

Fairy tales don't only belong to the domain of childhood. Their overt themes are threaded throughout hit TV series like Game of Thrones and True Blood, Grimm and Once Upon a Time. These stories survive, says Maria Tatar, by adapting across cultures and history. They are carriers of the plots we endlessly re-work in the narratives of our lives — helping us work through things like fear and hope.

May 01, 2014

Fundamental forces of physics somehow determine everything that happens, “from the birth of a child to the birth of a galaxy.” Yet physicist Leonard Mlodinow has intriguing perspective on the gap between theory and reality — and the fascinating interplay between a life in science and life in the world. As the child of two Holocaust survivors, he asks questions about our capacity to create our lives, while reflecting on extreme human cruelty — and courage.

April 2014

April 24, 2014

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.

April 17, 2014

"The soul is contained in the voice."

StoryCorps founder David Isay and Krista Tippett have an intimate conversation about their shared love of listening — and the importance of creating spaces to tell our stories to each other. For him, the spaces where two people ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask of each other are sacred. Listening, he’s learned, is an act of love. Eliciting and capturing our stories is a way of insisting that every life matters.

April 10, 2014

With a master of midrash as our guide, we walk through the Exodus story at the heart of Passover. It's not the simple narrative you've watched at the movies or learned in Sunday school. Neither Moses or Pharaoh, nor the oppressed Israelites or even God, are as they seem. As Avivah Zornberg reveals, Exodus is a cargo of hidden stories — telling the messy, strange, redemptive truth of us as we are, and life as it is.

April 03, 2014

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.

March 2014

March 27, 2014

"Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment."

Philosopher, historian, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht has traced how Western civilization has at times demonized those who commit suicide, at times celebrated it as a moral freedom. She proposes a reframed cultural conversation, based not on morality or rights but on our essential need for each other.

March 20, 2014

"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.

March 13, 2014

“Let's go back and look at our faith before it was reduced to a system, before it was reduced to a system of abstractions and beliefs. How can we rediscover our faith as a series of stories and as a series of encounters?”

Brian McLaren on the evolution of Christianity and the meaning of progressive Evangelicalism.

March 06, 2014

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.

February 2014

February 27, 2014

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?

February 20, 2014

The writers Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, social activist Dorothy Day, and the Trappist monk Thomas Merton — all four shared a complex Catholic faith. Paul Elie takes us on a kind of literary pilgrimage through a Catholic imagination that still resonates in our time.

February 13, 2014

The philosopher Simone Weil defined prayer as “absolutely unmixed attention.” The artist and self-described maker Ann Hamilton embodies this notion in her sweeping works of art that bring all the senses together. She uses her hands to create installations that are both visually astounding and surprisingly intimate, and meet a longing many of us share, as she puts it, to be alone together.

February 06, 2014

David Hartman died a year ago this week. The Orthodox rabbi was a charismatic and challenging figure in Israeli society, called a “public philosopher for the Jewish people” and a “champion of adaptive Judaism.” We remember his window into the unfolding of his tradition in the modern world — Judaism as a lens on the human condition.

January 2014

January 30, 2014

A thrilling, mind-bending view of the cosmos and of the human adventure of modern science. In a conversation ranging from free will to the meaning of the Higgs boson particle, physicist Brian Greene suggests the deepest scientific realities are hidden from human senses and often defy our best intuition.

January 23, 2014

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.

January 16, 2014

Wisdom for how we can move and heal our society in our time as the Civil Rights movement galvanized its own. Lucas Johnson is bringing the art and practice of nonviolence into a new century, for new generations. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons was an original Black Power feminist and a grassroots leader of the Mississippi Freedom Summer.

January 09, 2014

The word "Vodou" evokes images of sorcery and sticking pins into dolls. In fact, it's a living tradition wherever Haitians are found based on ancestral religions in Africa. We walk through this mysterious tradition — one with dramatic rituals of trances and dreaming and of belief in spirits, who speak through human beings, with both good and evil potential.

January 02, 2014

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.

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