Episodes Archive

Our Latest Show October 08, 2015

When we talk about the relationship between colleges and the world, we tend to focus on economics. But what is the place of institutions of higher education in the communities they inhabit? How can and should they nurture students as citizens and leaders for the emerging 21st century world? Two visionary college presidents of two very different institutions take up these questions with Krista at the American Council on Education's 97th Annual Meeting.

Episode Archive

October 2015

October 08, 2015

When we talk about the relationship between colleges and the world, we tend to focus on economics. But what is the place of institutions of higher education in the communities they inhabit? How can and should they nurture students as citizens and leaders for the emerging 21st century world? Two visionary college presidents of two very different institutions take up these questions with Krista at the American Council on Education's 97th Annual Meeting.

October 01, 2015

The wise linguist and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson explores the matter of life as an improvisational art, at every age. As the daughter of the iconic anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, she’s had an ability to move through the world as both an original observer and a joyful participant. She’s composed a life that is far more settled but always in dialogue with the memory of her brilliant, globe-trotting, unconventionally-coupled parents.

September 2015

September 24, 2015

More than 30 objects on the moon are named after the Jesuits who mapped it. A Jesuit was one of the founders of modern astrophysics. And four Jesuits in history, including Ignatius of Loyola, have had asteroids named after them – Brother Guy Consolmagno and Father George Coyne being the two living men with this distinction. In a conversation filled with friendship and laughter, and in honor of the visit of Pope Francis to the U.S., we experience the spacious way they think about science, the universe, and the love of God.

September 17, 2015

The High Holy Days create an annual ritual of repentance, both individual and collective. Louis Newman, who has explored repentance as an ethicist and a person in recovery, opens this up as a refreshing practice for every life, even beyond the lifetime of those to whom we would make amends.

September 10, 2015

Ellen Langer is a social psychologist who some have dubbed “the mother of mindfulness.” But she defines mindfulness with counterintuitive simplicity: the simple act of actively noticing things — with a result of increased health, competence, and happiness. Her take on mindfulness has never involved contemplation or meditation or yoga. It comes straight out of her provocative, unconventional studies, which have been suggesting for decades what neuroscience is pointing at now: our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. What makes a vacation a vacation is not only a change of scenery — but the fact that we let go of the mindless everyday illusion that we are in control. Ellen Langer has shown it’s possible to become physiologically younger through a changed frame of mind; to find joy in what was experienced as drudgery by renaming it as play; and to induce weight loss by substituting the label “exercise” for labor.

September 03, 2015

“I grew up a witness” Mike Rose writes, “to the intelligence of the waitress in motion, the reflective welder, the strategy of the guy on the assembly line. This then is something I know: the thought it takes to do physical work.” In all our debates about standardized testing and the information economy, the value of learning to work and the future of liberal arts education, we may risk too narrow a view of the way the physical, the human, and the intellectual blend in all kinds of learning and in all work that matters. Mike Rose’s expansive wisdom could enlarge our civic imagination on big subjects at the heart of who we are — schooling, social class, and the deepest meaning of vocation.

August 2015

August 27, 2015

Chinese-American philosopher and civil rights legend Grace Lee Boggs turned 100 this summer. She has been at the heart and soul of a largely hidden story inside Detroit’s evolution from economic collapse to rebirth. We traveled in 2011 to meet her and her community of joyful, passionate people reimagining work, food, and the very meaning of humanity. They have lessons for us all.

August 20, 2015

Few features of humanity are more fascinating than creativity; and few fields are more dynamic now than neuroscience. Rex Jung is a neuropsychologist who puts the two together. He's working on a cutting edge of science, exploring the differences and interplay between intelligence and creativity. He and his colleagues unsettle long-held beliefs about who is creative and who is not. And they're seeing practical, often common-sense connections between creativity and family life, aging, and purpose.

August 13, 2015

We were made and set here, the writer Annie Dillard once wrote, "to give voice to our astonishments." Katy Payne is a renowned acoustic biologist with a Quaker sensibility. And she’s found her astonishment in listening to two of the world’s most exotic creatures. She has decoded the language of elephants and was among the first scientists to discover that whales are composers of song.

August 06, 2015

The Irish poet and philosopher John O'Donohue was beloved for his book Anam Ċara, Gaelic for "soul friend," and for his insistence on beauty as a human calling. 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 — intertwine in human experience. His voice and writings continue to bring ancient mystical wisdom to modern confusions and longings.

July 2015

July 30, 2015

Genetics describes DNA sequencing, but epigenetics sees that genes can be turned on and off and expressed differently through changes in environment and behavior. Rachel Yehuda is a pioneer in understanding how the effects of stress and trauma can transmit biologically, beyond cataclysmic events, to the next generation. She has studied the children of Holocaust survivors and of pregnant women who survived the 9/11 attacks. But her science is a form of power for flourishing beyond the traumas large and small that mark each of our lives and those of our families and communities.

July 23, 2015

Poetry is something many of us seem to be hungry for these days. We're hungry for fresh ways to tell hard truths and redemptive stories, for language that would elevate and embolden rather than demean and alienate. Elizabeth Alexander shares her sense of what poetry works in us — and in our children — and why it may become more relevant, not less so, in hard and complicated times.

July 16, 2015

She works at an emerging 21st century intersection of industry, social healing, and diverse contemplative practices. Raised Catholic with Joan of Arc as her hero, Mirabai Bush is one of the people who brought Buddhism to the West from India in the 1970s. She is called in to work with educators and judges, social activists and soldiers. She helped create Google’s popular employee program, Search Inside Yourself. Mirabai Bush’s life tells a fascinating narrative of our time: the rediscovery of contemplative practices, in many forms and from many traditions, in the secular thick of modern culture.

July 09, 2015

Rami Nashashibi uses graffiti, calligraphy, and hip-hop in his work as a healing force on the South Side of Chicago. A Palestinian-American, he started his activism with at-risk urban Muslim families, especially youth, while he was still a college student. Now he’s the leader of a globally-emulated project converging religious virtues, the arts, and social action. And he is a fascinating face of a Muslim-American dream flourishing against the odds in post-9/11 America.

July 02, 2015

They are partners in music and in life — recovering something ancient and deeply American all at once, bringing both beauty and meaning to what they play and how they live. Béla Fleck is one of the greatest living banjo players in the world. He’s followed what many experience as this quintessential American roots instrument back to its roots in Africa and taken it where no banjo has gone before. Abigail Washburn is a celebrated banjo player and singer, both in English and Chinese. Experience our public conversation with them on stage before an adoring crowd at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee.

June 2015

June 25, 2015

“Race is a little bit like gravity,” john powell says: experienced by all, understood by the few. He is an esteemed legal scholar and thinker who counsels all kinds of people and projects on the front lines of our present racial anguish and longings. Race is relational, he reminds us. It’s as much about whiteness as about color. And it largely plays out, as we’re learning through new science, in our unconscious minds. john powell is steeped in this new learning and offers it to us, as a form of everyday power, to animate our belonging to others that is already real. But we must claim it.

June 18, 2015

The Hubble Space Telescope, which turns 25 this year, has brought the beauty of the cosmos into our lives. Mario Livio works with discoveries it makes possible, studying things like dark energy, extrasolar planets, and white dwarf stars. He's fascinated with the enduring mystery of mathematics, the language of science. He describes the cosmic puzzles that accompany our greatest scientific advances.

June 11, 2015

She became a national figure as the face of the Nuns of the Bus. Sr. Simone Campbell is a lawyer, lobbyist, poet, and Zen contemplative working on issues such as “mending the wealth gap,” “enacting a living wage,” and “crafting a faithful budget that benefits the 100%.” She is a helpful voice for longings so many of us share, across differences, about how to engage with the well-being of our neighbors in this complicated age.

June 04, 2015

Pico Iyer is one of our most eloquent explorers of what he calls the "inner world" — in himself and in the 21st century world at large. The journalist and novelist travels the globe from Ethiopia to North Korea and lives in Japan. But he also experiences a remote Benedictine hermitage as his second home, retreating there many times each year. In this intimate conversation, we explore the discoveries he's making and his practice of "the art of stillness.”

May 2015

May 28, 2015

The philosopher and Catholic social innovator Jean Vanier is a teacher of the wisdom of tenderness. The L’Arche movement, which he founded, centers around people with mental disabilities and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. We experience how Jean Vanier brings the most paradoxical religious teachings to life: that there’s power in humility, strength in weakness, and light in the darkness of human existence.

May 21, 2015

Movies, for some of us, are a form of modern church. The Argentinian composer and musician Gustavo Santaolalla creates cinematic landscapes — movie soundtracks that become soundtracks for life. He's won back-to-back Academy Awards for his original scores for Brokeback Mountain and Babel. We experience his humanity and creative philosophy behind a kind of music that moves us like no other.

May 14, 2015

She has called Brain Pickings, her invention and labor of love, a “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness.” What Maria Popova really delivers, to hundreds of thousands of people each day, is wisdom of the old-fashioned sort, presented in new-fashioned digital ways. She cross-pollinates — between philosophy and design, physics and poetry, the intellectual and the experiential. We explore her gleanings on what it means to lead a good life — intellectually, creatively, and spiritually.

May 07, 2015

It is a story of our time — the new landscape of living longer, and of dying more slowly too. Jane Gross has explored this as a daughter and as a journalist, and as creator of the New York Times’ “New Old Age” blog. She has grounded advice and practical wisdom about caring for our loved ones and ourselves on the far shore of aging.

April 2015

April 30, 2015

He’s been called a post-millennial Schubert. Mohammed Fairouz has composed four symphonies and an opera while still in his 20s. He invokes John F. Kennedy and Anwar Sadat, Seamus Heaney and Yehuda Amichai in his compositions. He sees "illustrious language" as a form of music — and as a way, just maybe, to shift the world on its axis.

April 23, 2015

A passionate translator of the beauty and relevance of scientific questions, Margaret Wertheim is also wise about the limits of science to tell the whole story of the human self. Her Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles reveals evocative, visceral connections between high mathematics, crochet and other folk arts, and our love of the planet.

April 16, 2015

What would it take to make our national encounter with gay marriage redemptive rather than divisive? David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch came to the gay marriage debate from very different directions — but with a shared concern about the institution of marriage. Now, they’re pursuing a different way for all of us to grapple with the future of marriage, redefined. They model a fresh way forward as the subject of same-sex marriage is before the Supreme Court.

April 09, 2015

Steeped in the cutting edge of research around the social lives of networked teens, danah boyd demystifies technology while being wise about the changes it’s making to life and relationship. She has intriguing advice on the technologically-fueled generation gaps of our age — that our children’s immersion in social media may offer a kind of respite from their over-structured, overscheduled analog lives. And that cyber-bullying is an online reflection of the offline world, and blaming technology is missing the point.

April 02, 2015

A Jesuit priest famous for his gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, Fr. Greg Boyle makes winsome connections between service and delight, and compassion and awe. He heads Homeboy Industries, which employs former gang members in a constellation of businesses. This is not work of helping, he says, but of finding kinship. The point of Christian service, as he lives it, is about “our common calling to delight in one another.”

March 2015

March 26, 2015

From the moment of his diagnosis with ALS, Bruce Kramer began writing — openly, deeply, and spiritually — about his struggle, as he puts it, to live while dying. He died on March 23, 2015, while we were in production on this show. His words hold abiding joy and beauty, and reveal an unexpected view opened by this disease.

March 19, 2015

Alzheimer's disease has been described as "the great unlearning." But what does it reveal about the nature of human identity? What remains when memory unravels? Alan Dienstag is a psychologist who has led support groups with early Alzheimer's patients, as well as a writing group he co-designed with the novelist Don DeLillo. He's experienced the early stages of Alzheimer's as a time for giving memories away rather than losing them.

March 12, 2015

For several hundred years, much of scientific advance has been about exploring human beings, including their actions and choices, in terms of mechanism — our bodies, our brains, physical processes. Research psychologist Michael McCullough believes that understanding our minds as mechanistic creates moral possibility. He’s led groundbreaking studies on the evolution and cultivation of moral behaviors such as forgiveness and gratitude. Arthur Zajonc is a physicist and contemplative, who believes that the farthest frontiers of science are bringing us back to a radical reorientation towards life and the foundations for our moral life.

March 05, 2015

Eve Ensler has helped women all over the world tell the stories of their lives through the stories of their bodies. Her play, "The Vagina Monologues," has become a global force in the face of violence against women and girls. But she herself also had a violent childhood. And it turns out that she, like so many Western women, was obsessed by her body and yet not inhabiting it without even knowing she wasn't inhabiting her body — until she got cancer.

February 2015

February 26, 2015

In life as in song, Joe Henry says "we're really called not to dispel mystery but to abide it, to engage it." He brings an inward wisdom to the art and craft of making music. Cherished by fans and fellow musicians alike, he’s produced a dozen albums of his own and for an array of artists, including Ani DiFranco, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, and Billy Bragg. And, he’s written songs together with Rosanne Cash and Madonna. With Joe Henry, we probe the mystery and adventure of discovering life through music.

February 19, 2015

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.

February 12, 2015

In her TED talks that have been viewed by millions of people and the research she does for Match.com, Helen Fisher wields science as a sobering, if entertaining, lens on what feels like the most meaningful encounters of our lives. She is a leading anthropologist/explorer on the new frontier of seeing inside our brains when love and sex happen. And she reveals how we can take this knowledge as a form of power — to give conscious new meaning to the thrilling and sometimes treacherous human realms of love, sex, and marriage.

February 05, 2015

Often quoted, but rarely interviewed, Mary Oliver is one of our greatest and most beloved poets. At 79, she honors us with an intimate conversation on the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing.

January 2015

January 29, 2015

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.

January 22, 2015

The Vietnamese Zen master, whom Martin Luther King nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, is a voice of power and wisdom in this time of tumult in the world. We visited Thich Nhat Hanh at a retreat attended by police officers and other members of the criminal justice system; they offer stark gentle wisdom for finding buoyancy and “being peace” in a world of conflict, anger, and violence.

January 15, 2015

We take in the extraordinary wisdom of Congressman John Lewis, on what happened in Selma on Bloody Sunday and beyond — and how it might inform our common life today. A rare look inside the civil rights leaders’ spiritual confrontation with themselves — and their intricate art of nonviolence.

January 08, 2015

The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. Journalist and entrepreneur Courtney Martin and Quaker wise man Parker Palmer come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change.

January 01, 2015

Two legendary Buddhist teachers shine a light on the lofty ideal of loving your enemies and bring it down to Earth. How can that be realistic, and what do we have to do inside ourselves to make it more possible? In a conversation filled with laughter and friendship, Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman share much practical wisdom on how we relate to that which makes us feel embattled from without, and from within.