“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection ― or compassionate action.”—
—Daniel Goleman, from Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
"The human is matter at its most incendiary stage." ~Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955)
Where is technology taking us? Are we heading towards greatness, or just hyper-connected collapse? This challenge was foreseen a century ago by Teilhard de Chardin.
A world-renowned paleontologist, he helped verify fossil evidence of human evolution. A Jesuit priest and philosopher, he penned forbidden ideas that seemed mystical at the time but are now coming true — that humanity would develop capacities for collective, global intelligence, that a meaningful vision of the Earth and the universe would have to include “the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter.”
The coming stage of evolution, he said, won’t be driven by physical adaptation but by human consciousness, creativity, and spirit. It’s up to us. Krista Tippett visits with Teilhard de Chardin’s biographer Ursula King, and we experience his ideas energizing New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson.
“I think that slogan has been meant to serve and I think is serving a very important aspect of our attempt to get at humanity. You are challenging the very deep roots of the Black man’s belief about himself. When you say ‘black is beautiful’ what in fact you are saying to him is: man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being. … So in a sense the term ‘black is beautiful’ challenges exactly that belief which makes someone negate himself.”—
"That is what Steve diagnosed in us as our illness and black consciousness was meant to exorcise this demon, to make us realise that as he said, we were human and not inferior as the white person was human and not superior. I internalised what others had decided was to be my identity, not my God-given utterly precious and unique me."
"Steve Biko understood that to attain our freedom we had to rebel against the notion that we are a problem, that we should no longer merely cry out -Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house?, that we should stop looking at ourselves through the eyes of others, and measuring our souls by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity."
This week we feel especially privileged to do the work that we do. A brief post by our senior editor about the decision-making behind this week’s show and why it matters to us. From trentgilliss:
For those of you who don’t know, I edit and produce a national public radio show called On Being with Krista Tippett. It’s played on about 250 public radio stations at different times throughout the week. Part of my gig is deciding our programming line-up. Why do I tell you this?
About a week ago, we had a gap in our schedule and I suggested rebroadcasting our interview with Kate Braestrup, a UU chaplain who works with Maine’s game wardens on search-and-rescue missions and such events. She also lost a husband early in her life. For some, it seemed counter-intuitive to put a show on about death, loss, and grief during this festive time of year. But we know that the holidays can be a lonely time of despair, depression, and loss for many; I hoped our program could meet those people suffering in some minor way — and remind all of us the gift of grace and happiness during this season.
I never could’ve envisioned (nor wanted to) this horrifying scenario before us. And so I worried about the programming decision.
Well, my beloved wife Shelley and I just finished listening to the production on MPR News (yes, believe it or not, on the radio). Kate Braestrup’s stories and insights on love, death, and loss are profound — and more relevant than I could have ever imagined. It’s wise people like her who are most needed during our country’s darkest hours and brightest holidays. Bella and I cried a little; we danced.
This show doesn’t make sense of the tragedy in Connecticut; nothing can. But, Kate Braestrup offers a framing for how to think about love and tragedy, how we live forward. If you’re looking for something to listen to with your loved ones, listen to this show. And, if you do, please write me and share your thoughts. It would mean a lot to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or @trentgilliss.
We live in difficult times. Stories of corruption, violence and down right evilness surround us. Trying to make sense of this state, it sometimes seems easier to close it all out, becoming numb to our pain and the pain of others. Often we pretend things will somehow get better tomorrow.
Many of us come to this holiday season with fear. What do we say to our children and our friends when there is no money for the “things” they have come to expect from us? What do we do when we cannot buy our way out of pain?
Many of us have been chasing the American Dream, trying to consume our way to our image of the “middle-class American.” We have come to believe we are what we can buy.
Everywhere we look, corporations encourage us to value things over people. Over the last fifty years the average American family has spent more hours working, chasing an ever-decreasing paycheck to buy things. We use these things to replace the time we no longer spend with families and friends.
The holiday season, sacred to all faiths, has become nothing more than a hyped-up consumer season and a wretched time of the year for those with no money. As more people are thrown off state support for the barest of necessities, as foreclosures increase and unemployment checks decrease, people are turning against one another.
This season we have an opportunity to rethink our values and what it means to be a human being. Can we begin to look past the superficial ways we judge one another by what we wear, what kind of car we drive, or what church we go to? Can we learn to see each other in our hearts and not just with our eyes?
As a community we have a long history of transcending pain, of turning fear to hope and hope to action. We have learned to reach out to each other in service. We have known that a fragmented heart manifests a fragmented world. We have always made a way out of no way.
This holiday season is an opportunity for all of us to dedicate ourselves to building authentic relationships with our families, our friends and our communities.
We may not have money for toys and trinkets but we can wrap our arms around our children and show them how to love. We may not be able to spend money, but we can spend time.
We can set aside time and talk to one other about our hopes and dreams. We can take time to reconnect across generations, sharing stories of family and friends that pass on the values and skills that have enabled us to endure for centuries.
We can ask ourselves what do we need to do to create peace in our homes, in our families and in neighborhoods? How do we decide what we need, not just what we want? How do we live more simply, to consume less and love more?
We are facing an economic and spiritual crisis that threatens our survival and our deepest humanity. But it also an opportunity. It is an opportunity to create a more just way of living. In earlier, more dangerous times we created families, villages, places of worship and respect for one another. We have that creativity within us still.
Let us all celebrate this holiday season through the eyes of a “beloved community,” turning away from wanting things to valuing people. We can turn to one another and ask what kind of community we can create together.
Gloria Lowe is founder and CEO of We Want Green, Too! Ms. Lowe was also a guest in our show "Becoming Detroit."
“Spiritual realization is relatively easy compared with the much greater difficulty of actualizing it, integrating it fully into the fabric of one’s daily life. Realization is the movement from personality to being, the direct recognition of one’s ultimate nature, leading toward liberation from the conditioned self, while actualization refers to how we integrate that realization in all the situations of our life.”—
Jonathan Tran has written a thought-provoking article for The Christian Century titled "The New Black Theology." For those of us not theologically trained or current in the art, this piece may seem too heavy-duty and inaccessible. But, there are some fresh ideas in her that are so thoroughly intriguing that you should read just to be aware.
In the past five years, three seminal works have been published that, according to Tran, “represent a major theological shift that will — if taken as seriously as it deserves — change the face not only of black theology but theology as a whole.”
I can see why too. These new theologians argue that “the sources of racism (and the resources for its repudiation) lie in Christianity’s failure to live into its Jewishness:”
"Key to both Carter’s and Jennings’s work is their deep concern with the Jewish identity of Jesus. In The Christian Imagination, Jennings insists that only by affirming Jesus’ Jewish body can one comprehend the meaning of salvation. Gentiles were baptized into Jesus’ Jewish body, which continues and fulfills (and never denies) God’s covenant with Israel. Engrafted into God’s salvation of the Jews, the gentiles were saved insofar as the Jews were saved. It was Christ’s unique human-divine personage that integrated gentiles into Israel’s covenant life with God.”
Or take the idea that “black theology” is finding its own theological roots not in sources outside of the Christian tradition but in orthodoxy itself:
"By rethinking the Enlightenment’s promises of enlightenment and rearticulating racial existence in the language of the church’s most sacred doctrines, black theology is now (or once again) making a case that cannot be denied. The debate is no longer fixed on racial identity politics (a quagmire from which none can escape); rather, it takes place on the level playing field of orthodoxy.
The new theology reminds us that it was a mistake to call black theology “black theology” in the first place. Consistency at least would have required that European theology equally bear the burden of qualifications (“colonizing theology”). To be sure, patronizing name-calling allowed black theology to develop its own voice in its own time, just as the segregated black church developed its own styles, saints and stories. But because the margins were managed by white theologians, those voices were heard by whites, and when heard they were regarded as less than equal and so were not allowed to challenge white hegemony and help white theology be anything other than white theology.
Accordingly, the new black theology is best described as the new theology, no (dis)qualifying adjective necessary. In it we see Christian theology at long last incarnating the material conditions whereby the good news becomes good news.
I’d love to produce a show on the subject and the evolution of “black” theology as it is traced from James Cone to these contemporary theologians. The embodiment of Jesus’ Jewishness as a way past, or into, race for Christians is one of those ideas that our contemporary culture and politics could stand to hear about.
I’d dig hearing how you read this. Perhaps you have some voices you’d recommend I look into for possible interviews with Krista Tippett. Drop me a line in the comments section or at email@example.com.
In light of the horrific stories coming out of Gaza and Israel, I’d encourage all of us to listen to this interview we did with two remarkable human beings: Robi Damelin, who lost her son David to a Palestinian sniper, and Ali Abu Awwad, who lost his older brother Yousef to an Israeli soldier.
Instead of clinging to traditional ideologies and turning their pain into more violence, they’ve decided to understand the other side — Israeli and Palestinian — by sharing their pain and their humanity. They tell of a gathering network of survivors who share their grief, their stories of loved ones, and their ideas for lasting peace. They don’t want to be right; they want to be honest. No more taking sides.