Pursuing deep thinking and moral imagination, social courage and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.

The On Being Project is a nonprofit media and public life initiative. We make a public radio showpodcasts, new ways to experience poetry, and tools for the art of livingSix grounding virtues guide everything we do. We explore the intersection of spiritual inquiry, science, social healing, and the arts.  The Wisdom app, launched in July 2021, is our newest offering: teaching, practice, and a community of accompaniment for rising to the highest callings of this moment in the life of the world.

Our New Home for Poetry

We’ve made our poetry collection more accessible and inviting. Explore all the ways poetry is manifest in our work — including interviews with poets, recorded readings with poets, episodes of Poetry Unbound, and discussions about poetry’s contribution to the common good.

Experience it here.

A love poem with a playful title that sounds like an ad from a travel agent unfolds into a poem about choosing to stay at home. Imtiaz Dharker’s husband died in the years between this poem’s setting and its publishing. The poem, too, moves from long lines across the page into shorter and shorter lines. In sensuality, locality, intimacy, and simplicity, this poem is all about the man she loved, and moves from noise to focus: “You Are / Here” its final lines assert.

The life of a sugar worker is the center of this poem: a worker whose body and person bear the imprint of that industry, with its demands and smoke and exhaustion. The worker in question is the poet’s father, and No’u Revilla brings us into a consideration of how he takes pride in work that depleted him, how he needed to find ways to recover from work that exhausted him, how in his body he carries the story of Hawai’i and its indigenous people.

We’re in a time as thick with uncertainty as with possibility. Many of us are still, and again, exhausted — and yet opening, fitfully, to what we’ve learned and have been called to at this moment in the life of the world. Toward nourishing that, the second offering in our new series, The Future of Hope, with social creative Darnell Moore in conversation with filmmaker dream hampton. The influence they wield spans hip-hop to Netflix to the Oscars; from the Movement for Black Lives to Surviving R. Kelly.

It is an honor to enter this tender, intimate conversation between two dear friends. In them we experience a muscular hope in justice oriented toward redemption — and calling out in a spirit of “calling in.”

In a slight change to the normal format, host Pádraig Ó Tuama speaks with the poet Jake Skeets who reads his poem “Daybreak,” a poem combining Diné language with English, a poem rich with observation: of land, of growth, of memory, of place. Land is not just a tool to use for food, nor is it a blank space for human projection. In this poem, Jake Skeets reflects on an ethical engagement with land: an engagement that sees land as itself, not just for its uses.

In a fantastical poem about the future, Tishani Doshi explores the present. She imagines a future where agriculture, forestry, and cultivation are things of the past, distant memories learned by humans existing on other planets, or on intergalactic spaceships. That distant future is reflecting on how it should have learned from the grass, abundant, generous, sustainable. This poem of dystopian magic-realism is more real than magic, offering advice on thriving, while noting the knife-edge of self-destruction so familiar to human behavior.

“I grew up a witness,” Mike Rose wrote, “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.” Mike Rose died in August, yet the particular way he saw the world resonates more than ever before as our debates about the future of school and work only intensify. He argued with care and eloquence that we risk too narrow a view of the way the physical, the human, and the cognitive blend in all kinds of learning and in all kinds of labor. Mike Rose’s intelligence would enlarge our civic imagination on big subjects at the heart of who we are — schooling, social class, and the deepest meaning of vocation.

In a poem considering trees, Jason Allen-Paisant opens up many associations with trees: in a woodland, there’s a dead tree, from which new forms of life are finding sustenance. He, a Black man in the woods, is aware of people looking suspiciously at him. The poem reflects on how trees were used for building the ships of enslavers, who considered countries and people their property. In light of this, he shares a nature poem about all the things that nature holds.

In a short poem recalling a childhood response to grief, Jacob Shores-Argüello brings us into the fantasy world of a child: leaving an ill adult in a hospital bed, he and his cousin take to the mountains, turn magically into bears, and begin tearing holes in the earth for rest while the world continues below. Are they escaping? Or playing with rage? This extraordinary poem is a thing of wonder and survival.

Priya Parker has become the voice of what it means to gather in this world we inhabit now. She is helping remake the “how” of coming together — and more importantly, the “why.” Long before the pandemic, she points out, we had fallen into rote forms for staff meetings, birthday parties, conferences, shared meals. Virtual or physical, this time of regathering offers a threshold we can decide to cross with imagination, purpose, and joy. This is a conversation with so much to walk away from and put immediately into practice.

In a poem of four stanzas, Margaret Atwood traces bread from its growth in bone-nurtured soil, to the warm ovens of baking, to the table, to the mouth of one person, then the hands of someone breaking bread for many. From the cow-dung in the earth to the salt of the hands of the person kneading the bread, this poem is like a meditation on the material reality of what nurtures the body and what nurtures the soul, and is a secular examination of what breaking bread might mean.

One of the great challenges of life is to learn to be alone peaceably, at home in oneself. The pandemic forced many of us inside both physically and emotionally, even if we were not home on our own. We’ve been forced to work out the difference between loneliness and solitude. With teachers across the ages, and drawing on his life from monasticism to marriage, Buddhist writer and scholar Stephen Batchelor teaches how to approach solitude as a graceful and life-giving practice.

The Civil Conversations Project

Speaking together differently in order to live together differently.

We have always grown through listening to our listeners and the world. We have been building The Civil Conversations Project since 2011. We honor the power of asking better questions, model reframed approaches to debates, and insist that the ruptures above the radar do not tell the whole story of our time.

Featured Starting Point

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Libraries

Our Libraries are thematic collections of writings and episodes from the On Being archive dating back to 2003. Wander the rows and scan the shelves.

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