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In our world of so much suffering, it can feel hard or wrong to invoke the word “joy.” Yet joy has been one of the most insistent, recurrent rallying cries in almost every life-giving conversation that Krista has had across recent months and years, even and especially with people on the front lines of humanity’s struggles.

Ross Gay helps illuminate this paradox and turn it into a muscle.

We are good at fighting, as he puts it, and not as good at holding in our imaginations what is to be adored and preserved and exalted — advocating for what we love, for what we find beautiful and necessary. But without this, he says, we cannot speak meaningfully even about our longings for a more just world, a more whole existence for all. To understand that we are all suffering — and so to practice tenderness and mercy —  is a quality of what Ross calls “adult joy.” Starting with his cherished essay collection The Book of Delights, he began to accompany many in an everyday spiritual discipline of practicing delight and cultivating joy.

In this all-new episode, Krista engages biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus in a second, urgent conversation, alongside creative biomimicry practitioner Azita Ardakani Walton. Together they trace precise guidance and applied wisdom from the natural world for the civilizational callings before us now.

What does nature have to teach us about healing from trauma? And how might those of us aspiring to good and generative lives start to function like an ecosystem rather than a collection of separate, siloed projects? We are in kinship. How to make that real — and in making it real, make it more of an offering to the whole wide world?

Krista, Azita, and Janine spoke at the January 2024 gathering of visionaries, activists, and creatives where Krista also drew out Lyndsey Stonebridge and Lucas Johnson for the recent episode on Hannah Arendt. We’re excited to bring you back into that room.

The years of pandemic and lockdown are still working powerfully on us from the inside. But we have trouble acknowledging this, much less metabolizing it. This conversation with Christine Runyan, which took place in the dark middle of those years, helps make sense of our present of still-unfolding epidemic distress — as individuals, as communities, as a species. She has cultivated a reverence for the human nervous system. She tells truths about our bodies that western medicine itself is only fitfully learning to see. This quiet conversation is not just revelatory, but healing and calming. It holds startling prescience about some of what we’re navigating now. And it offers self-compassion and simple strategies for finding ease within ourselves — and with each other — as we live forward from here.

Here is a stunning sentence for you, written by Lyndsey Stonebridge, our guest this hour, channeling the 20th-century political thinker and journalist Hannah Arendt: “Loneliness is the bully that coerces us into giving up on democracy.” This conversation is a kind of guide to generative shared deliberations we might be having with each other and ourselves in this intensely fraught global political moment: on the human underlay that gives democracy its vigor or threatens to undo it; on the difference between facts and truth — and on the difference between violence and power. Krista interviewed Lyndsey once before, in 2017, after Hannah Arendt’s classic work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, had become a belated runaway bestseller. Now Lyndsey has published her own wonderful book offering her and Arendt’s full prescient wisdom for this time. What emerges is elevating and exhilaratingly thoughtful — while also brimming with helpful, practicable words and ideas. We have, in Lyndsey’s phrase, “un-homed” ourselves. And yet we are always defined by our capacity to give birth to something new — and so to partake again and again in the deepest meaning of freedom.

Hannah Arendt’s other epic books include The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which she famously coined the phrase “the banality of evil.” She was born a German Jew in 1906, fled Nazi Germany and spent many years as a stateless person, and died an American citizen in 1975. This conversation with Lyndsey Stonebridge happened in January 2024, as part of a gathering of visionaries, activists, and creatives across many fields. Krista interviewed her alongside Lucas Johnson, a former leader of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation who now leads our social healing initiatives at The On Being Project.

In this concluding episode of “Poems as Teachers,” our special miniseries on conflict and the human condition, host Pádraig Ó Tuama says the poems discussed in this offering are a different kind of teacher: “not as teachers that give us rules to follow — more so teachers that share something of their own intuition.” And for a final reflection, he offers Kai Cheng Thom’s “trauma is not sacred,” which speaks directly, fiercely, and lovingly to the pain, scars, and violence that we humans carry and inflict upon one another.


This is the final episode of “Poems as Teachers,” a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.

We’re pleased to offer Kai’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

Being right may feel good, but what human price do we pay for this feeling of rightness? Yehuda Amichai’s poem “The Place Where We Are Right,” translated by Stephen Mitchell, asks us to answer this question, consider how doubt and love might expand and enrich our perspective, and reflect upon the buried and not-so-buried ruins of past conflicts, arguments, and wounds that still call for our attention.


This is the sixth episode of “Poems as Teachers,” a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.

We’re pleased to offer Yehuda’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

There is an ecological transformation unfolding in the places we love and come from. On a front edge of this reality, which will affect us all, Colette Pichon Battle is a singular model of brilliance and graciousness of mind and spirit and action. And to be with her is to open to the way the stories we tell have blunted us to the courage we’re called to, and the joy we must nurture, as life force and fuel for the work ahead. As a young woman, she left her home state of Louisiana and land to which her family belonged for generations, to go to college and become a powerful lawyer in Washington, D.C. Then in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina made, as she has said, “a crack in the universe,” she returned home to a whole new life and calling. Colette Pichon Battle is a vivid embodiment of the new forms societal shift is taking in our world — led by visionary pragmatists close to the ground, in particular places, persistently and lovingly learning and leading the way for us all.

In “Hebrews 13” by Jericho Brown, a narrator says: “my lover and my brother both knocked at my door.” The heat is turned on, scalding coffee is offered and hastily swallowed, and silence is the soundtrack. What an exquisitely awkward triangle it is, and what a human, beautiful, and loving shape that can be.


This is the fifth episode of “Poems as Teachers,” a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.

We’re pleased to offer Jericho Brown’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

In Mosab Abu Toha’s “Ibrahim Abu Lughod and brother in Yaffa,” two barefoot siblings on a beach sketch out a map of their former home in the sand and argue about what went where. Their longing for return to a place of hospitality, family, memory, friends, and even strangers is alive and tender to the touch.


This is the fourth episode of “Poems as Teachers,” a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.

We’re pleased to offer Mosab Abu Toha’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

We ask questions to find out the facts, but what if you can’t trust the answers, the questions, or the person who’s asking the questions? In Constantine P. Cavafy’s “Waiting for the Barbarians,” translated by Evan Jones, leaders exercise a sinister kind of violence — they’ve taken over people’s imaginations with showy displays of wealth and privilege, time-wasting ceremony, and fear coursing beneath it all.


This is the third episode of “Poems as Teachers,” a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.

We’re pleased to offer Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

As appealing as it may sound, is it really possible to live in a world completely free of conflict? No. And since differences and disagreements are inevitable and natural, Joy Harjo gives ground rules in “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.” Her call to us echoes across time and space — a call to listen, to humility, to justice, and to recognizing the land, the living, the dead, the not-yet-living.


This is the second episode of “Poems as Teachers,” a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.

We’re pleased to offer two sections of Joy Harjo’s longer poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

Host Pádraig Ó Tuama gives an overview of this Poetry Unbound mini season that’s devoted to poems with wisdom to offer about conflict and humanity. He also brings us Wisława Szymborska’s “A Word on Statistics,” translated by Joanna Trzeciak, which covers statistics of the most human kind — like the number of people in a group of 100 who think they know better, who can admire without envy, or who could do terrible things. Listen, and ask yourself: Which categories do I belong to? Which do I believe?


This is the introductory episode of “Poems as Teachers,” a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.

We’re pleased to offer Wisława Szymborska’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

In her writing, it is Kate DiCamillo’s gift to make bearable the fact that joy and sorrow live so close, side by side, in life as it is (if not as we wish it to be). In this conversation, along with good measures of raucous laughter and a few tears, Kate summons us to hearts “capacious enough to contain the complexities and mysteries of ourselves and each other” — qualities these years in the life of the world call forth from all of us, young and old, with ever greater poignancy and vigor.

A special two-month season of On Being starts May 9.

Freshly curated conversations from across the On Being archive. Big new conversations and extra offerings.

To be present to the suffering and sorrow of this world from a place of love.

To accompany each other in this — and accompany the young.

To honor the fragility of being human.

To keep our capacity for joy alive as a human birthright — and as fuel for resilience.

To grasp the relationship between violence and power.

To listen to our bodies, and metabolize the distress of our collective nervous system.

To practice the power of imagination and create new worlds and new ways of living.

To take the natural world as teacher and guide as we stand before the species-level shifts we’re called to.

To nurture hearts “capacious enough” for the complexities and mysteries of ourselves and each other.

Join us.

If your home were a museum — and they all are, in a way — what would the contents of your refrigerator say about you and those you live with? In his poem “Refrigerator, 1957,” Thomas Lux opens the door to his childhood appliance and oh, does a three-quarters full jar of maraschino cherries speak volumes.


We’re pleased to offer Thomas Lux’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

The word “flush” is a verb, as in an activity that we do umpteen times a day. It’s also an adjective that conveys abundance. Fittingly, Rita Wong’s poem “flush” offers a praise song to water’s expansive and unceasing presence in our lives — from our toilets to our teacups, from inside our bodies to outside our buildings, and from our soil to our skies.


We’re pleased to offer Rita Wong’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

Bro — this is definitely not the “Beowulf” that you read back in school. Maria Dahvana Headley’s gutsy, swaggering translation brings the Old English epic poem roaring into this century, showing you why this tale of fraught family ties, power plays and posturing, and mighty, imperfect people is as relevant as ever.


We’re pleased to offer Maria Dahvana Headley’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

A horse race from the 1980s may not seem like the obvious inspiration for a poem that celebrates so many of the things that make our lives worth living — good company (human and animal), good books, good food, and honest work — and that is just part of the surprise, delight, and surging joy of Michael Klein’s “Swale.”


We’re pleased to offer Michael Klein’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.

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