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, and tools for the art of living. Six grounding virtues guide everything we do. We explore the intersection of spiritual inquiry, science, social healing, community, poetry, and the arts. We’re offering ongoing special content for this moment, including conversations about race and healing, “care packages” for care givers and uncertain times, and a new way to experience poetry.

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.

It’s pretty intriguing to follow poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s idea that most of us actually “think in poems” whether we know it or not. Rarely, as she points out, do you hear anyone say they feel worse after writing things down. That, she says, can be a tool to survive in hard times like these, to anchor our days and to get into a conversation and community with all of the selves that live on in each of us at any given moment — “your child self, your older self, your confused self, your self-that-makes-a-lot-of-mistakes.” We also hear her read her beloved poem “Kindness” and tell us the story behind it.

David Cronenberg’s The Fly tells the story of one man’s quest to develop teleportation — and everything that goes wrong along the way. The 1986 sci-fi horror movie stars Jeff Goldblum as Seth, the genius scientist, and Geena Davis as Ronnie, a journalist who falls in love with him. After an experiment goes awry, Seth begins a grisly transformation into a human-fly hybrid. Tony Banout, who works in interfaith dialogue, says he saw the movie as a cautionary tale about the dangers of an unchecked ego — and took lessons from it about grappling with death, decay, and grief.

So many of us have been getting through this year by watching movies at home by ourselves, or with friends on Zoom, inventing new ways to grieve and to hope, to keep ourselves laughing, all through the simple act of watching stories unfold on our screens. Movies have the power to unearth the many layers of our identities; to help us answer the question: Who am I? And that is what we trace, by way of a few beloved movies including The Color Purple, The Fly, and Blockers, in this episode.

Real Women Have Curves tells the story of a young Mexican American woman walking between two worlds, trying to please her immigrant family and be true to herself. Ana, played by America Ferrera, dreams of leaving Los Angeles and going to college. But even as she wants out, she yearns for her family’s blessing and acceptance. This in-betweenness — and Ana’s radical acceptance of her body as it is — was powerful to Virgie Tovar, a writer and body image activist. She says the movie showed her that she could ask for what her body needs, no matter its size.

There is a question rolling around even in the most secular of corners: What do religious people and traditions have to teach as we do the work ahead of repairing, renewing, and remaking our societies, our life together? Krista’s conversation this week with Rabbi Ariel Burger, a student of the late, extraordinary Elie Wiesel, delves into theological and mystical depths that are so much richer and more creative than is often imagined even when that question is raised.

The Way We Were is a quintessential breakup movie. Told across decades, it stars Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford as two wildly different people growing together before eventually growing apart. Writer Sophie Krueger says the 1973 movie has resonated differently over time. As a child, she idolized Streisand and loved her portrayal of an independent woman charting her own course. As an adult, she recognized the stakes of any romantic relationship — and how the differences that excite you initially can become irreconcilable.

PS (Movie friends — We’re hosting a live virtual event, and you’re invited! Join us for ‘Yentl’ Changed Me on Sunday, February 28th at 12 p.m. ET. Free tickets are available now.)

As people, and as a culture, Alain de Botton says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. His New York Times essay, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” is one of their most-read articles in recent years, and this is one of the most popular episodes we’ve ever created. We offer up the anchoring truths he shares amidst a pandemic that has stretched all of our sanity — and tested the mettle of love in every relationship.

The Color Purple is about the traumas and triumphs of a Black woman named Celie. Set in the Jim Crow South, the story radically centers complicated relationships between Black people, even as whiteness and racism loom in the background. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie adaptation of Alice Walker’s classic novel was released in 1985. Both tellings have been beloved companions to Danez Smith, a queer writer and performer. Smith says Walker’s story helped them embrace the messiness of life; “to let life exist best within that brilliant complication that lives somewhere between the joy and pain of a single experience.”

We’re increasingly attentive to the many faces of depression and anxiety, and we’re fluent in the languages of psychology and medication. But depression is profound spiritual territory; and that is much harder to speak about. This is an On Being classic. Krista opens up about her own experience of depression and talks with Parker Palmer, Anita Barrows, and Andrew Solomon. We are putting this out on the air again because people tell us it has saved lives, and so many of us are struggling in whole new ways right now.

As much as it is a coming-of-age story, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is also about the complicated relationship between a teenage daughter and her mother. Even as they argue, they want to connect; to be seen and understood as a complex and ever-evolving person by the other. Their on-screen dynamic resonated with writer Kyle Turner, who has had his own challenging relationship with his mother. He says Lady Bird helped him begin to develop compassion for her — and to explore the possibilities of expressing empathy.

The ornithologist Drew Lanham is lyrical in the languages of science, humans, and birds. He’s a professor of wildlife ecology, a self-described “hunter-conservationist,” and author of the celebrated book The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature. His way of seeing and hearing and noticing the present and the history that birds traverse —through our backyards and beyond —is a revelatory way to be present to the world and to life in our time.

This conversation is part of the 2021 Great Northern festival in On Being‘s hometown of the Twin Cities.

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

All Starting Points

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.

Explore all Libraries

Our Funding Partners