I have news to share. In short, The On Being Project is expanding its imprint, and the On Being show is evolving with it…
It has been over two decades, spanning unimaginable arcs of happening, since I proposed what felt to many like an improbable undertaking. Could we pick up the big questions of meaning in public in conversations that transcend and reframe polarizing simplifications? Could we speak deeply about the life of the spirit, about theology and faith and moral imagination, on public radio no less? Could we draw out voices of lived wisdom and complex goodness and civilizational calling in a way that would rivet and nourish a muscular, reality-based hope — right alongside the riveting rupture that is the dominant story of this young century?
These animating questions led to Speaking of Faith and On Being and the larger On Being Project. We have come to understand ourselves, in recent years, as a “media and public life organization” with a mission of social healing in everything we do. Now, in a transforming world, we are asking anew how we can be most deeply of service, and what is distinctly our work to do. One of our answers is the creation of a Lab for the Art of Living, which will expand the On Being universe with an ecosystem of offerings, drawing on what is emergent as well as the riches of our content across time. Moving forward, we will also immerse ourselves in more focused innovation in public life engagement, curating hard, “quiet conversations” as well as not-so-quiet convenings, both physical and digital.
To make this wider creativity and accompaniment possible, we are ending On Being’s run as a weekly public radio show in the U.S. at the end of June. In October, we will begin a new rhythm of production of the show as a seasonal podcast. To be clear: On Being is not ending, and this transition from weekly to seasonal doesn’t mean that we’ll be offering less. We will be offering more of the touchpoints and active resources and community that our beautiful, far-flung listeners have asked for time and again, and never with more urgency than now.
For me personally, this is an energizing and necessary transition. I happily turned 60 in 2020. After living on the deadlines involved in hosting and executive producing 52 weeks of programming a year for close to 20 years, it is time for me to create a more sustainable flow of life and work, and to be differently present to this moment in the life of the world. I am so excited about the space and time this move will open for writing and for being out in the world in public engagement and for renewed creative energy in and beyond my life of conversation.
These two decades have been, all along, a great adventure of learning and evolution — of listening to our guests while listening to our listeners and to the world, and letting that change us. I didn’t expect, in the early years, that exhilarating conversations with scientists would be part of this. Now I see that neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists and technologists and physicists have stepped onto the frontier of advancing the ancient, abiding questions of what it means to be human, and how we want to live, and who we will be to each other. I did not expect poets and poetry to be a beating heart of this work. But I see alive in our world now what I first experienced in divided Berlin — how poets across cultures and generations always rise up when official language fails us and we are called anew to reach across the mystery of ourselves and the mystery of others. Owning the power of our words to build up, or to harm, has become an existential challenge for our species.
Now I see too that the vast challenges before our species — ecological, racial, geopolitical, societal — make the question of what it means to be human inextricable from the question of who we will be to each other. You might say of On Being’s ongoing evolution that we are, as our friend Rilke counseled, “living into” those intertwined questions, and more dynamically tending the interplay between inner life, outer life, and life together.
There is more to be said and experienced, and The Pause will be a place for that to unfold. We intend, as our friend John O’Donohue counseled, to cross this threshold worthily and to make the months ahead a celebration. THANK YOU for being part of our universe, for helping us get to this moment, and for listening and engaging across the years. I hope you will keep living the questions with us, as we together meet the world in its evolution, its pain, and its promise.
We’ve heard so often across the years that people “discover” On Being not by buzz, but by passage from one human being to another — sometimes as a lifeline, and often across generations. Perhaps, in the spirit of what brought us this far, you’d share the Project with one other person as we mark two decades of On Being and remember forward in the months to come. We can’t wait to share more about what’s ahead. So: watch this space. In the immediate period, we have compiled this FAQ for questions that this letter might have raised for you.
I send this with a heart full of gratitude, expectancy, and love.