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An irreverent conversation about hope between journalist Wajahat Ali and theologian Kate Bowler. They speak to this moment we’re in through the friendship they found on the edge of life and death that is cancer — Wajahat through his young daughter; and Kate with a stage 4 diagnosis at the age of 35 that she’s chronicled in a beloved memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved). Their conversation is rich with practical wisdom for facing uncertainty and mortality, losses we did not foresee, and new beginnings we would not have chosen.

This is the first in a new series, The Future of Hope — a beautiful array of voices, former guests on this show, having the conversations they want to be hearing in this time.

An extraordinary conversation with the late congressman John Lewis, taped in Montgomery, Alabama, during a pilgrimage 50 years after the March on Washington. It offers a special look inside his wisdom, the civil rights leaders’ spiritual confrontation within themselves, and the intricate art of nonviolence as “love in action.”

Lennon Flowers and Rev. Jennifer Bailey embody a particular wisdom of millennials around grief, loss, and faith. Together they created The People’s Supper, which uses shared meals to build trust and connection among people of different identities and perspectives. Since 2017, they have hosted more than 1,500 meals. In the words they use, the practices they cultivate, and the way they think, Flowers and Bailey issue an invitation not to safe space, but to brave space.

Editor’s note: The original title of this episode was “An Invitation to Brave Space,” taken from the name of a poem credited to Micky ScottBey Jones that is read at the end of this conversation. We have changed the title because it was revealed in June 2021 that Micky ScottBey Jones plagiarized the majority of “An Invitation to Brave Space” from an untitled poem written by Beth Strano. According to The People’s Supper and Faith Matters Network, Micky initially said the poem was “inspired by the words of an unknown author” before later claiming sole authorship. At the time of this note, she is participating in a transformative justice process with Beth Strano.

Applied philosopher Jonathan Rowson insists on holding a deeper appreciation for how our inner worlds influence our outer worlds. His research organization, Perspectiva, examines how social change happens across “systems, souls, and society.” “If we can get better and more nimble and more generous about how we move between those worlds, then the chance of creating a hope that makes sense for all of us is all the greater,” he says. We engage his broad spiritual lens on the great dynamics of our time, from social life to the economy to the climate.

We still work with the old idea that we should check the messy parts of ourselves at the door of our professional lives. But Jerry Colonna says doing so cuts us off from the source of our creativity. “The result is that our organizations are actually less productive, less imaginative; not just poor workplaces for individuals to be, but poor places for collaboration … and spontaneity and laughter and humor.” Colonna is a former venture capitalist who now coaches CEOs. He says undoing the old model starts with radical self-inquiry and asking ourselves questions like “Who is the person I’ve been all my life?” — and that it’s only after we sort through the material of our personal lives that we can become better leaders.

We Americans revere the creation of wealth. Anand Giridharadas wants us to examine this and how it shapes our life together. This is a challenging conversation but a generative one: about the implicit moral equations behind a notion like “win-win” — and the moral compromises in a cultural consensus we’ve reached, without reflecting on it, about what and who can save us.

Tracy K. Smith has a deep interest in “the kind of silence that yields clarity” and “the way our voices sound when we dip below the decibel level of politics.” She’s a welcome voice on the little leaps of the imagination that can restore us. She’s spent the past year traversing our country, listening for all of this and drawing it forth as the U.S. Poet Laureate. Krista spoke with her at the invitation of New York’s B’nai Jeshurun synagogue, which has been in communal exploration on creating a just and redeemed social fabric.

“The incredible ripple effect of being at peace with our vulnerability in any situation is that it means that you have to develop compassion for yourself.”

On how vulnerability can bring us closer to ourselves and each other.

Living the Questions is an occasional On Being segment where Krista muses on questions from our listening community.

“However seriously we must take what’s happening in the world and what the headlines are reflecting, it is never the full story of our time. It’s not the last word on what we’re capable of. It’s not the whole story of us.”

On seeking hope and joy in troubling times.

Living the Questions is an occasional On Being segment where Krista muses on questions from our listening community.

If you want to lead others, learn to be alone with your thoughts. A penetrating contemplation of what great leadership requires: a steady independence of mind that only comes with solitude.

No challenge before us is more important — and more potentially life-giving — than that we come to see and know our fellow citizens, our neighbors, who have become strangers. Journalist Anand Giridharadas and Whitney Kimball Coe of the Rural Assembly have two very different histories and places in our life together. But they are both stitching relationship across the ruptures that have made politics thin veneers over human dramas of power and frailty, fear and hope. We spoke at the Obama Foundation’s inaugural summit in Chicago.

A wildly popular blogger, tech entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley influencer, Anil Dash has been an early activist for moral imagination in the digital sphere — an aspiration which has now become an urgent task. We explore the unprecedented power, the learning curves ahead, and how we can all contribute to the humane potential of technology in this moment.

“The soul is contained in the human voice,” says David Isay, founder of StoryCorps. He sees the StoryCorps booth — a setting where two people ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask each other — as a sacred space. He shares his wisdom about listening as an act of love, and how eliciting and capturing our stories is a way of insisting that every life matters.

Forgiveness is not easily granted. But, summoning the deepest compassion for ourselves and others may allow both parties to move on without bitterness. Through the bittersweet story of her friend, Sharon Salzberg imparts a lesson about the shifting course of relationships and a path to peace.

Michael McCullough describes science that helps us comprehend how revenge came to have a purpose in human life. At the same time, he stresses, science is also revealing that human beings are more instinctively equipped for forgiveness than we’ve perhaps given ourselves credit for. Knowing this suggests ways to calm the revenge instinct in ourselves and others and embolden the forgiveness intuition.