by Randy Kambic
Krista Tippett helps us ponder the meaning of life as host and executive producer of On Being, the award-winning weekly radio program and podcast produced in Minneapolis for more than 400 public radio stations. The bestselling author of Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit has been acclaimed for thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. Her latest book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, reflects upon how spirituality intersects with science, technology, health, art and politics.
This daughter of a Southern Baptist minister first launched her show, originally titled Speaking of Faith (also the title of her first book), on Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media in 2003. Today, Tippett continues to discuss faith, spirit, inner growth and what it is to be human with leading authors, thought leaders and pioneering change makers. She also hosts online classes and a blog.
How has On Being evolved to reflect existing dimensions of spirituality that have proven surprising?
I am fascinated with how spiritual life and religious identity have evolved in the last decade. This part of life is more fluid than it’s ever been in human history. We are the first generation that didn’t inherit religious identity like we do a hometown. We craft our spiritual lives and choose our faith, even if it’s the faith of our families.
In many that don’t claim a religious affiliation, especially Millennials, I encounter a spiritual curiosity and ethical passion akin to religion at its best. Because seekers dwell both inside and outside of traditions, my life of conversation stretches beyond boundaries in ways I did not expect when I began.
I also never imagined that I’d interview physicists, evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists exploring territory previously reserved for theologians and philosophers. Together, they are illuminating the ancient questions related to our place in the cosmos; the nature of human freedom and consciousness; even beauty and the reality of mystery.
Which guests do you feel have resonated the most with listeners and why?
A show that seems to have touched more people most deeply is my interview with the Irish poet, philosopher and author John O’Donohue just before he died in his early 50s. He radiated such an unusual combination of qualities: wisdom, tenderness and playfulness; mysticism, theology and a raw Celtic earthiness. He’s someone who could speak of God with great wildness, strangeness—and authority. He inspired with his vision of beauty as a human calling and somehow embodied it for the listener. I meet all kinds of people that keep that show on their playlist and listen again and again.
In general, my favorite guest is the most recent person interviewed. At the moment, it’s Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia co-founder, who stunned me with his insistence on kindness as the virtue that’s made this nonprofit’s ethos and accomplishments possible. Another is civil rights veteran Ruby Sales, who wisely works to uplift the human drama of our political/social moment, like the way we must come to be as articulate about what we love as about what outrages us.
How do you see people’s awakening sensibilities influencing local and global issues?
I am drawn to the notion that we are in the adolescence of our species. The globe right now is like a map of the teenage brain, prone to recklessness and destruction in places and simultaneously possessing vast potentials for creativity and advances. So many are relentless in telling the story of destruction that it seriously colors how we tell the story of our time. I stand among those shining a light on the abundant beauty, goodness and courage in our world so these become more visible and evident at a global level.
Are you optimistic about the future?
I am hopeful about the future. My life of meaningful conversation has led me to re-imagine the meaning of hope. It has nothing to do with wishful thinking, but rests on the lives of beauty and goodness I see everywhere I turn. It’s a choice—a more exacting and courageous choice than cynicism or resignation. The pain and fear alive in the world surface as anger and violence, and some of us are called to be calmers of fear.
We must create the world we want our children to inhabit and do so together. Hope isn’t an option on this path; it is one of our primary resources for getting there.
Randy Kambic is a freelance writer and editor in Estero, FL, and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings.