Vincent Harding was wise about how the vision of the civil rights movement might speak to 21st-century realities. He reminded us that the movement of the ’50s and ’60s was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society. He pursued this through patient-yet-passionate cross-cultural, cross-generational relationships. And he posed and lived a question that is freshly in our midst: Is America possible?
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On Being with Krista Tippett
Our flagship show — conversations about the big questions of meaning, since 2003.
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Books that fortify the young also have a power to help heal adults; so, too, does this conversation with writer Jason Reynolds. He is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature of the Library of Congress and author of a new companion to Ibram X. Kendi’s history of racism, Stamped From the Beginning, for young readers.
June 18, 2020
This History is Long; This History Is Deep
Go to the doctor and they won’t begin to treat you without taking your history — and not just yours, but that of your parents and grandparents before you. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson points this out as she reflects on her epic work of narrative nonfiction, The Warmth of Other Suns. She’s immersed herself in the stories of the Great Migration, the movement of six million African Americans to northern U.S. cities in the 20th century. The book is a carrier of histories and truths that help make sense of human and social challenges at the heart of our life together now.
You can’t think about something if you can’t talk about it, says Eula Biss. The writer helpfully opens up lived words and ideas like complacence, guilt, and opportunity hoarding for an urgent reckoning with whiteness. This conversation was inspired by her 2015 essay in The New York Times, “White Debt.”
The best laws and diversity training have not gotten us anywhere near where we want to go. Therapist and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem is working with old wisdom and very new science about our bodies and nervous systems, and all we condense into the word “race.” Krista sat down with him in Minneapolis, where they both live and work, before the pandemic lockdown began. In this heartbreaking moment, after the killing of George Floyd and the history it carries, Resmaa Menakem’s practices offer us the beginning to change at a cellular level.
With our colleague Lucas Johnson, Krista talks through the question of what questions matter for this moment. Can anyone use the word “we”? And how to begin walking forward?
We often explore on this show the places in the human experience where ordinary language falls short. The poet Gregory Orr has wrested gentle, healing, life-giving words from extreme grief and trauma. And right now we are all carrying some magnitude of grief in our bodies.
Moral reckonings are being driven to the surface of our life together: What are politics for? What is an economy for? Jacqueline Novogratz says the simplistic ways we take up such questions — if we take them up at all — is inadequate. Novogratz is an innovator in creative, human-centered capitalism. She has described her recent book, Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, as a love letter to the next generation.
May 14, 2020
Samar Jarrah, Wajahat Ali, Sahar Ullah, et al.
This year Muslims are experiencing a Ramadan like no other. The month is usually a period of both intimacy and great community. Now Muslims are improvising, as in many places the rituals of Ramadan must be experienced at home or online. This show, recorded in 2009, grew out of an invitation to Muslim listeners to reflect on what it means to be part of what often is referred to in the abstract as “the Muslim world.” We received responses from all over the world and were struck by the vivid stories about Ramadan itself, across a remarkable spectrum of life and spiritual sensibility.
In this “spiritual book club” edition of the show, Krista and musician/artist Devendra Banhart read favorite passages and discuss When Things Fall Apart, a small book of great beauty by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön. It’s a work — like all works of spiritual genius — that speaks from the nooks and crannies and depths of a particular tradition, while conveying truths about humanity writ large. Their conversation speaks with special force to what it means to be alive and looking for meaning right now.
Krista interviewed the writer Ocean Vuong on March 8 in a joyful room full of podcast makers at On Air Fest in Brooklyn. None of us would have guessed that within a handful of days such an event would become unimaginable. So this conversation holds a last memory before the world shifted on its axis. More stunning is how exquisitely Ocean Vuong spoke on that day to the world we have now entered — its heartbreak, its poetry, and its possibilities of both destroying and saving.
To a question from listener Vanessa Parfett in Melbourne, Krista reflects on “Zoomzaustion” and relearning the primacy of our bodies. Also, how this helps explain poetry’s rise in our midst, and can make us more whole.
One of the great challenges of life is to learn to be alone peaceably, at home in oneself. And now, by way of a virus, we have been sent inside physically and emotionally, even if we’re not home on our own. We’re forced to work out the difference between isolation and loneliness or solitude. With teachers across the ages and drawing on his life from monasticism to marriage, Buddhist writer and scholar Stephen Batchelor teaches how to approach solitude as a graceful and life-giving practice.
April 16, 2020
Wendell Berry and Ellen Davis
The Art of Being Creatures
In this intimate conversation between Krista and one of her beloved teachers, we ponder the world and our place in it, through sacred text, with fresh eyes. We’re accompanied by the meditative and prophetic poetry of Wendell Berry, read for us from his home in Kentucky: “Stay away from anything / that obscures the place it is in. / There are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places. / Accept what comes of silence.”
To a question from listener Elena Rivera of Colorado Springs, Krista reflects on seeing this as a collective moment of transition (which is always stressful in human life) and ponders what we might integrate into the people we become on the other side of it. “To really, actively, accompany each other in holding that question — that might be a spiritual calling but also a civilizational calling for this very extraordinary transition,” she says.
April 9, 2020
How to Be Grateful in Every Moment (But Not for Everything)
We’re in a season of renewal in the natural world and in spiritual traditions; both Easter and Passover this year are utterly transformed. It’s drawing us back to the wisdom of Br. David Steindl-Rast, who makes useful distinctions around experiences that are life-giving and resilience-making yet can feel absurd to speak of in a moment like this. A Benedictine monk for over 60 years, Steindl-Rast was formed by 20th-century catastrophes. He calls joy “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” And his gratefulness is not an easy gratitude or thanksgiving — but a full-blooded, reality-based practice and choice.
In Leanne O’Sullivan’s poem “Leaving Early,” the poet writes to her ill husband, entrusting him into the care of a nurse named Fionnuala. As the novel coronavirus sweeps the globe, many of us can’t physically be there for loved ones who are sick. Instead, it is the health care workers — and all involved in the health care system — who are tirelessly present, caring for others in spite of exhaustion and the risk it brings to their own wellbeing.
We offer this episode of Poetry Unbound in profound gratitude toward all who are working in health care right now.
Ai-jen Poo is a next-generation labor organizer who co-founded a beautiful and muscular movement with caregivers and those who employ them: the National Domestic Workers Alliance. For over two decades, she has been reinventing policy and engaging a deep conversation that has now met its civilizational moment. This conversation was recorded before “coronavirus” was a word we all knew. But the many dimensions of the crisis now upon us have revealed Ai-jen Poo and her world of wisdom and action as teachers for our life together, in and beyond it.
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The Pause is our Saturday morning newsletter, a gathering of threads from the far-flung, ongoing conversation that is The On Being Project. Stay up to date with our latest podcasts, writings, live events, and more.
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