Living the Questions

An occasional, shorter-form On Being podcast extra, where we pick up questions alive in the world. Sometimes with special guests. Watch this space for ongoing innovation.

Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, who understood that when we are unable to live the answers to the questions in our midst, we are then called to hold, love, and live the questions. Our world is defined by raw, aching, open questions — personal, and civilizational — that we must live now if we hope to live our way eventually into new answers together.

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Our colleague Lucas Johnson catches up with one of his mentors, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons. Now a member of the National Council of Elders, she was a teenager when she joined the Mississippi Freedom Summer. She shares what she has learned about exhaustion and self-care, spiritual practice and community, while engaging in civil rights organizing and deep social healing. Dr. Simmons was raised Christian and later converted to the Sufi tradition of Islam.

Simple ways to understand our emotions, and treat ourselves kindly, amidst pandemic realities, and why loss without closure is so stressful — these are themes touched on in this personal “Living the Questions” conversation between Krista and Pauline Boss. She created the field of “ambiguous loss” within psychology and family therapy. This is a companion conversation to our longer On Being conversation with Pauline: Navigating Loss without Closure.

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.

Living the Questions is an occasional On Being segment where Krista muses on questions from our listening community. Submit your own at ltq@onbeing.org.

As Anna Bondoc from Los Angeles wrote to us: So many of us are raised to believe that hard work is what makes us valuable; many of our professions and even our identities as helpers are on hold. How does self-worth interact with just being when we feel we’re doing nothing? Krista reflects on the problem with the phrase “just being” — and how settling inside ourselves right now, and kindness towards ourselves, are gifts to the world we want to make beyond this crisis.

Living the Questions is an occasional On Being segment where Krista muses on questions from our listening community. Submit your own at ltq@onbeing.org.

“I am passionate about what I am passionate about. I’m scared about what I’m scared about, or I’m angry about what I’m angry about. And I know there are things I don’t understand, and I don’t want to stay this way forever, and I don’t want us to stay stuck here forever. So, I want to change and grow, and I invite you to be with me in that spirit too, and let’s see what happens.”

The word “civility” has been used to shut down righteous anger — but it can also open up possibility between us. Krista reflects on what civil engagement really looks like, and how it can challenge all of us to grow.

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

“Conversation is not just about words passing between mouths and ears. It’s about shared life. Listening is about bringing our lives into conversation.”

In the midst of public conversation around Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Krista reflects on what it really looks like to engage with one another across a moral issue with curiosity alongside our convictions.

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

“I think of this as the wisdom of young adulthood and of the teenage years: You have this sense of urgency about what is possible.”

On nurturing the voice and agency of young citizens — and the importance of fostering intergenerational friendships.

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.