How Can We Think Through the Hard Questions and Do It Better?

Sunday, March 19, 2017 - 6:50 am
A child watches a drop of water.

How Can We Think Through the Hard Questions and Do It Better?

Glenn Beck recently invited Krista to appear on his radio program on the conservative digital network TheBlaze. He opened by asking Krista how she thinks the White House and the press corps can end their war with each other. She responded:

“I think we don’t all have to become foot soldiers in that war, right? I don’t know how that war will end, but it’s a very small slice of what’s happening in the world and what matters for how we create the world we want our children to inhabit. And I’m not fighting it. … I’m choosing to get out of reactive mode and into building mode and healing mode. And I think that’s a choice everybody can make.”

She’s right. We don’t have to slip into these warring, contrarian modes of being, states where we choose binaries over complexity. And this means engaging difference and entering into challenging conversations with openness and hospitality. Our columnists’ essays this week offer lenses on how to think through hard questions and do it better.

What Our Columnists Are Thinking

(Chris McGrath / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Parker Palmer | The Discipline of Recognizing What’s True and Beautiful

It’s so easy to be cynical and jaded nowadays, to choose negativity in response to the ugliness in the news. Parker invokes, so beautifully, the words of Mary Oliver, inviting us to seek delight in plain sight:

“Becoming keenly and consistently aware of what’s good, true, and beautiful demands a discipline: we must open our eyes, minds, and hearts, and keep them open.”

(Jim Watson / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Courtney Martin | What Was Your First Question?

“Hearing about Dorothy Day’s first, big question got me wondering about my own. What is the question that I asked as a little girl and have never stopped asking? How has asking that question defined, even if unconsciously, the choices I’ve made, the things I’ve created, the legacy I will leave behind?”

Courtney’s inquiry surfaced examples of “first questions” from Oprah, Susan Cain, and Krista. She’d love to read about your first questions — share them with her?

(Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Omid Safi | Our Solidarity Must Be Built from the Ground Up

#IAmAMuslimToo and kindred movements are a source of great hope for Omid. And yet, he writes, “we have to ask for more.”

“What is required ultimately is to become participants in creating a different America, an America that does not yet exist. That will be a just and beautiful America, one in which we are not an empire, and do not seek to dominate the world, but take a humble place alongside other nations.”

What We’re Reading and Listening To
Kind World Podcast | When the Parachute Failed
A single act of kindness can have a lasting impact on someone’s life. Nowhere does this become clearer than when you listen to this powerful story of a parachute instructor who sacrificed himself to save a stranger. Listening to this WBUR production will stop you in your tracks. I promise. (h/t to my colleague Lily Percy for sharing!)

The Poetry Foundation | The God Who Loves You
I turn to this poem by Carl Dennis on occasion to help reacquaint me with gratitude. It offers up new meaning each time I read it, and I hope it will for you, too.

The Wall Street Journal | Middlebury’s Statement of Principle
A recent incident at Middlebury College pitted students against visiting speaker and social scientist Charles Murray, ending in an altercation. Two Middlebury professors found the students’ acts unacceptable and penned a remarkable document listing core principles to live by. It begins:

“Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected. Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge. The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.”

Our Guest Editor of the Week

(Christopher Polk / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Anita Little | Let It Be Glorious: Sunday Night Worship with Chance and Beyoncé

Beyoncé and Chance the Rapper’s performances at the Grammys prompted the senior editor of Religion Dispatches to write this whip-smart piece on “Christianity hiding in plain sight” within American pop culture:

“My summer days and nights were punctuated by Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ and Chance’s ‘Coloring Book.’ I liked the albums not only for their lyricism and rhythm but also for their exaltation of blackness; ‘Lemonade’ as a meditative ode to black womanhood and ‘Coloring Book’ as a carefree expression of black boy joy. When I listen to these albums, it feels like church, it feels like home.”

Thank you for all the generous criticisms and lovely affirmations. We welcome your feedback at any time. You can reach me at or via Twitter. My handle is @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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