On Being Foundations

A special, four-part series
“Each of the four offerings is short, less than 15 minutes — more wisdom and practice than podcast episode, and meant to be interactive. Before you sit down or step out to listen, grab something to write with.”
Krista Tippett


Getting Started

Listen here, on Apple or Spotify.


On Being Foundations are words and ideas – ways of seeing the world and walking through it – that have emerged through 20 years of conversations which have come into conversation with each other and the life of the world. Think of these as tethering understandings towards our shared callings for inner life, presence to the world, and life together:

  • Seeing the generative story of our time
  • Living the questions
  • Taking a long view of time, and becoming “critical yeast”
  • Calling, and wholeness

Every session comes with an invitation that you can weave through the ordinary interactions of your life, your every day. You’ll find notes beneath each session posted on this page, with prompts to support that.

As you move through this, let us hear from you: [email protected]

Let the adventure begin.


Foundations 1: Seeing the Generative Story of Our Time

Listen here on Apple or Spotify.


We are fluent in the story of our time marked by catastrophe and dysfunction. That is real, and it is grave — but it’s not the whole story of us. Here’s what this phrase — the generative story, the generative narrative of our time — is insisting on: that there is also an ordinary and abundant reality of learning and growth that is happening, of dignity and care and social creativity and evolution. 

The great challenges of this century call us to rise to our highest human capacities. They need the landscape of generative people and projects to act like an ecosystem: sharing what we are learning, joining our vulnerabilities, and joining our flourishing.

Calling out this reality, naming that there is a generative story of our time, is in fact a way to begin.

Consider picking up a journal, or something to record with, when you sit down or step out to listen. Take it, and the prompts below, as a companion in listening and your life beyond listening.

How would you start to tell the generative story of the world you can see and touch?
Set out to become alert and somewhat reverent of what is good and life-giving in the ordinary encounters of your days: what you read, what you focus on, what you look for and notice in people close to you, and also what you notice in strangers. Let that shape the larger picture of the world that you’re working with.


Foundations 2: Living the Questions

Listen here on Apple or Spotify.


It is a deep truth in life, as in science, that we are shaped as much by the quality of our questions as by our answers. Those moments in our lives when a new question rises up in us, stops us in our tracks, are pivot points. They are openings for discovery and new possibility to break in. Yet it’s easy to forget this in a world that is in love with the form of words that is an opinion and the way with words that is an argument.

The notion of revering the power of questions — holding them, loving them, living them — is inspired by a phrase of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. It has become a discipline woven all the way through Krista’s way of seeing the world and the community of conversation and living that is On Being. And it is as relevant as ever before in the post-2020 world. All of the great challenges before our species — ecological, racial, economic, political — are vast, aching, open questions for which we will not have anything like shared answers anytime soon. The deep wisdom behind the notion of living the questions offers both nurture and pragmatic instruction for meeting the callings before us — towards inner grounding, presence to the world, and the possibility of recreating our life together.

Consider picking up a journal, or something to record with, when you sit down or step out to listen. Take it, and the prompts below, as a companion in listening and your life beyond listening. Also: you might invite someone, or a few others, to join you.

Turn some curiosity and reverence to the questions that are alive in you, as questions for both yourself and for the world.
Take up living the questions as a practical and spiritual discipline. Formulate a pivotal question that is rolling around in your life, at that boundary between what is personal and what is public and civilizational. Write it down, hone it, and make a commitment to take it as a companion and guide. Keep it over your shoulder, in your ear, as you move through your life for the time ahead. And find some ritual for staying attentive to what it invites you to see and to move away from and to move towards.


If you are faithful to living a question, it will be faithful back to you.


Foundations 3: Taking a Long View of Time, and Becoming “Critical Yeast”

Listen here on Apple or Spotify.


There is no subject more intriguing than time, and time is so much stranger and more dynamic than the clocks, deadlines, goals, and schedules we live by. In this third offering of ways of seeing and living that have emerged across two decades of On Being, we explore manifold understandings of how time works, and how change happens, that animate lives of wisdom and grace. Deep time. Kairos time. The “200-year present.” The quality of “critical yeast” before and after critical mass.

We step into this mystery: a long view of time has a power to replenish our sense of ourselves and the world. It renews us to turn back to the raw materials of our lives in the here and now.

Consider having a journal nearby as you listen. Return to the prompts below, if you’re so inclined, and take them as companions in pondering and living in the days ahead. Maybe invite someone(s) to join you.

Map your 200-year present as an entry point to sinking into time’s capaciousness. It begins with the year of the birth of the oldest person you knew when you were a child, and joins with the hundredth birthday of the youngest person you have held in your arms. For most of us, that’s going to be about two centuries that touch our lives directly and that we directly touch.
What does it mean, might it mean, for you to be critical yeast in your world of friendship, work, kinship, community? Live the question. Are you part of yeasty “small groups of people in unlikely combinations, in a new quality of relationship”? Where to begin?


This is all another way to talk about planting and growing the generative story of our time: in a noisy, hyper-reactive world, fermenting a “quiet before.”


Foundations 4: Calling and Wholeness

Listen here on Apple or Spotify.


The language of vocation comes from the Latin “vocari”: “calling.” It is a word we use often at On Being as a pointer for the way forward. In Western culture, vocation has long been equated with work and with job title. But each of us is called not merely to be a professional, but to be a friend, neighbor, colleague, family, citizen, lover of the world. We are called to creativity and caring and play and service for which we will never be paid — or never be paid enough — but which will make life worth living. And each of us imprints the people in the world around us, breath to breath and hour to hour, as much in who we are and how we are present as in whatever we do.

Just as there are callings for a life, there are callings for our time. Every surface of fracture in our world notwithstanding, for us all of life is being revealed in its insistence on wholeness: the organic interplay between our bodies, the natural world, the lives we make, the worlds we create. It is the calling of callings to make that vivid and practical and real, starting inside ourselves and with the lives we’ve been given.

Consider picking up a journal, or something to record with, when you sit down or step out to listen to this episode. Take it, and the prompts below, as a companion in listening and your life beyond listening. Also: you might invite someone(s) to join you.

Begin to make a list, to muse and write about what in your life is in the category of vocation — your multitudinous callings as a human being. Perhaps as a professional person, but also as a friend, colleague, family, citizen, creative, lover of the world. How would you begin to name and work through your calling for our time?
Open wide your imagination, your heart, your energy, your will, to the possibility of wholeness. Walk through your days looking around for and making note of emergent visions and practices of wholeness and wisdom even amidst fracture.


Every surface of fracture in our world notwithstanding, all of life is being revealed in its insistence on wholeness.