On Being with Krista Tippett
On Being takes up the big questions of meaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers — some you know and others you'll love to meet. Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives — updated every Thursday. Hosted by Krista Tippett. Discover more at onbeing.org. On Being Studios is the producer of On Being, Becoming Wise, Creating Our Own Lives, and more to come.
The civil rights icon Ruby Sales names "a spiritual crisis of white America" as a calling of this time. During the days of the movement, she learned to ask the question, "Where does it hurt?" It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now, but it gets at human dynamics that we are living and reckoning with. A probing conversation at a convening of 20 theologians seeking to reimagine the public good of theology for this century.
The band Cloud Cult is hard to categorize — both musically and lyrically — though it’s been called an “orchestral indie rock collective.” Less in question is the profound and life-giving force of its music. Cloud Cult’s trajectory was altered the day its co-founder and singer-songwriter, Craig Minowa, and his wife woke up to find that their two-year-old son had mysteriously died in his sleep. Live from our studios on Loring Park, we explore the art that has emerged ever since — spanning the human experience from the rawest grief to the fiercest hope.
Life as an improvisational art, at every age. This idea animates the wise linguist and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, whose book "Composing a Life" has touched many. Since her childhood as the daughter of the iconic anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, she’s had an ability to move through the world as both an original observer and a joyful participant. Now in her 70s, she’s pondering — and living — what she calls the age of "active wisdom." She sees longer life spans creating a new developmental stage for our species.
Steeped in cutting edge research around the social lives of networked teens, danah boyd demystifies technology while being wise about the changes it’s making to life and relationship. She has intriguing advice on the technologically-fueled generation gaps of our age — that our children’s immersion in social media may offer a kind of respite from their over-structured, overscheduled analog lives. And that cyber-bullying is an online reflection of the offline world, and blaming technology is missing the point.
A French-born Tibetan Buddhist monk and a central figure in the Dalai Lama's dialogue with scientists, Matthieu Ricard was dubbed "The Happiest Man in the World" after his brain was imaged. But he resists this label. In his writing and in his life, he explores happiness not as a pleasurable feeling but as a way of being that gives you the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life and that encompasses many emotional states, including sadness. We take in Matthieu Ricard's practical teachings for cultivating inner strength, joy, and direction.
Forms of religious devotion are shifting just like every institution right now. But there’s a new world of creativity towards crafting spiritual life while exploring the depths of tradition. Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is a fun and forceful embodiment of this evolution. Born into an eminent and ancient rabbinical lineage, as a young adult he moved away from religion towards storytelling, theater, and drag. Today he leads a pop-up synagogue in New York City that takes as its tagline, “everybody-friendly, artist-driven, God-optional.” It’s not merely about spiritual community but about recovering the sacred and reinventing the very meaning of “we.”
We explore a topic our listeners have called out as a passionate force and a connector across all kinds of boundaries in American culture: running. Not just as exercise, or as a merely physical pursuit, but running as a source of bonding between parents and children and friends; running as an interplay between competition and contemplation; running and body image and survival and healing.
In life, in families, we shine a light on the past to live more abundantly now. In this conversation at the Citizen University annual conference, historian Annette Gordon-Reed and painter Titus Kaphar lead us in an exploration of that as a public adventure. She is the historian who introduced the world to Sally Hemings and the children she had with Thomas Jefferson, and so realigned a primary chapter of the American story with the deeper, more complicated truth. He collapses timelines on canvas, and created iconic images after Ferguson. Both are reckoning with history in order to repair the present.
The renowned actor as you’ve never heard him before. He has appeared in over 100 films, including Apocalypse Now. He’s best known on television as President Bartlet in The West Wing. But Martin Sheen, born and still legally named Ramón Estévez, has had another lesser-known life as a spiritual seeker and activist. He returned to a deep and joyful Catholic faith after a crisis at the height of his fame in mid-life. He’s been arrested over 60 times in vigils and protests. “Piety is something you do alone,” he says. “True freedom, spirituality, can only be achieved in community.”
A philosopher’s questioning and a scientist’s eye shape Enrique Martínez Celaya’s original approach to art and to life. A world-renowned painter who trained as a physicist, he’s fascinated by the deeper order that “whispers” beneath the surface of things. Works of art that endure, he says, possess their own form of consciousness. And a quiet life of purpose is a particular form of prophecy.
Humor lifts us up but it also underscores what’s already great; it connects us with others and also brings us home to ourselves. And like everything meaningful, it’s complex and nuanced — it can be fortifying or damaging, depending on how we wield it. But as a tool for survival, humor is elemental. We explore this idea with a rabbi who started out in drag, comedians, an NPR host, writers of sci-fi/fantasy, social commentary, and the TV show Veep.
“My mom has a very dark sense of humor. I think that's how I learned how to recycle pain.”
Hari Kondabolu is not your average stand-up comedian. He has a Masters in Human Rights and worked as an immigrants rights organizer — all of which you hear in his writing. His jokes simultaneously bring about discomfort and a nod of the head, without sounding preachy. He uses comedy as a coping mechanism for addressing complex issues of race, identity, and ethnicity post 9/11.