On Being Tumblr

On Being Tumblr

On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Music and metaphysics from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Yeah, that’s right, the Indigo Girls get down to some serious talk about God and religion, spirituality in performance and the lost art of protests songs.

Do the Heagle.
Our technical director Chris Heagle does a lot of dancing in the minutes before the interview when the host and guest take their seats. Mic positioning, sound checks, water ready… just a few of the things our resident expert makes perfect in a quiet, frenzied pace before Krista Tippett sat down with poet Marie Howe at the College of Saint Benedict.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Do the Heagle.

Our technical director Chris Heagle does a lot of dancing in the minutes before the interview when the host and guest take their seats. Mic positioning, sound checks, water ready… just a few of the things our resident expert makes perfect in a quiet, frenzied pace before Krista Tippett sat down with poet Marie Howe at the College of Saint Benedict.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor


We release the unedited interviews of all our produced one-hour shows. Time constraints are often a good thing, helping us prune the tree to a more perfect form. But, it doesn’t come without a cost.

Sometimes we have to kill our darlings, and leave them strewn on the cutting room floor. And this conversation with Maria Tatar is a great example of editorial decisions made with a direction in mind. Listen to this unedited interview, and I think you’ll find it an entirely additive experience.


Yes, I do believe @KristaTippett’s yoga classes are paying off in our editorial sessions at On Being. (at Minnesota Public Radio - American Public Media)


Yes, I do believe @KristaTippett’s yoga classes are paying off in our editorial sessions at On Being. (at Minnesota Public Radio - American Public Media)


Christian Wiman: A Twitterscript

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor


Desmond Tutu, the Embodiment of the Qualities of the God He Preaches: Compassion, Justice, Patience, Surprise, and Humor

by Krista Tippett, host

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Closes His Eyes After His Interview with Krista TippettPhoto by Trent Gilliss

Desmond Tutu had long been at the top of my list of people I wanted to interview. I met him in the woods of southern Michigan in 2010, where he was beginning a few days of retreat. He was visibly tired, yet utterly delightful and larger than life. And passion overtook his tiredness as soon as we began to speak about the history he has helped to shape and how he has found meaning within it.

Desmond Tutu’s intellectual intensity and spiritual gravity are tempered by a mischievous wit and a raucous laugh. All of these qualities are abundant in conversation with him, and they infused one of the first stories he told me about his path to political resistance — his realization at some point that “if these white people had intended keeping us under, they shouldn’t have given us the Bible.”

He tells me of preaching and speaking with mature women who were generically called “Annie” by their white employers and grown men forever called “boy” — and handing them the “dynamite” of the Bible as they headed out of church and back into the world. When someone asks you who you are, he recalls telling them, you can say, “I am a God-carrier.” This kind of inner liberation, one life at a time, yielded eventually to an outer upheaval of one of the most entrenched governments of social brutality in modern memory.

As I finally approached this opportunity to speak with Desmond Tutu, I was also deeply aware that South Africa’s transformation, like its previous status quo — like life itself — has been dynamic, not static. The extraordinary accomplishment of a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy has not led to the easy eradication of social and racial inequity.

Violent crime has assumed epic proportions. And, as Desmond Tutu puts it, he has been reminded that original sin doesn’t discriminate on a racial basis — South Africa’s new generations of black leadership are not immune from corruption both personal and political. As he has watched the aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he has realized ever more deeply that this was not a closed effort in time, but the origination of a national project that will be the work of generations.

One of his most sobering learnings in that light has been, he says, how “damaged” non-white South Africans were as they entered a new era — and damaged not merely by 50 years of apartheid, but by 300 years of colonialism, which distorted their very sense of themselves. He shares a stunning, saddening story of getting on a plane to Nigeria and seeing, to his great pride, that it was being flown by two black pilots — a first in his lifetime. When awful turbulence hit, he found himself reflexively wishing there were white men in that cockpit to lead them to safety. From such self-knowledge and personal suffering, Desmond Tutu has created a life of deep wisdom and healing, which he extends to all he meets.

At one and the same time, this is a human being overflowing with delight and a kind of infectious spiritual glee. I have never heard anything quite so joyful, or so moving, as the description Desmond Tutu gives me of voting for the first time at the age of 63, comparing it to falling in love — of being transformed from a cipher to a person. And just as vulnerably and powerfully, he reflects on the limits of politics, which turn out to be even more exacting than the decades of struggle that political freedom entailed.

He describes this in theological terms as a movement from being “free from” to being “free for.” He continues to long for a South African society defined not merely by equality under law but by true human flourishing. And the last few centuries of Europe’s history of world war, tyranny, and the Jewish Holocaust, he says — breaking into his raucous laughter even as he makes a deadly serious point — give him great hope for Africa’s eventual progress.

This same long, indeed biblical view of time animates Desmond Tutu’s lifelong insistence that “God is in charge.” He believes as passionately now as he did decades ago that evil, injustice, and suffering will not have the last word. Though he does, he jokes, often ask God if he would please make it a little more obvious that He is in charge.

In the end, Desmond Tutu is the embodiment of the qualities of God he preaches: compassion, a fierce love of justice, divine patience, a capacity to surprise, and a wicked sense of humor. His 21st-century stature as one of the leading clerics of the Anglican church born in England — which was implicated in every one of the 300 years of South Africa’s collective trauma — is another divine irony.

"At the center of this existence is a heart beating with love," says Desmond Tutu. "You and I, and all of us, are incredible… We are, as a matter of fact, made for goodness." Such statements fly in the face of reality as defined by newspaper headlines. But we can only wonder at them, ponder them, and honor them from the mouth of this man, who knows evil and injustice as intimately as he seems to know the mind and heart of God.

"Man is his own most vexing problem." —Reinhold Niebuhr (Taken with instagram)

"Man is his own most vexing problem." —Reinhold Niebuhr (Taken with instagram)

On Being in Detroit
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A few days before the holiday break, we flew to the Motor City for an interview with Grace Lee Boggs at the Boggs Center in East Detroit. The 96-year-old philosopher and activist did not disappoint, and neither did some of the wonderful people and projects happening there. Look for our show “Becoming Detroit” this coming Thursday, January 19.
Along the way, we stopped by to see our good friend Mikel Ellcessor, the general manager of WDET at Wayne State University, and couldn’t resist having Krista pose with this massive wall sign in the lobby. This public radio station is doing some pretty interesting on-the-ground reporting and community building; check ‘em out online or on the radio, if you’re in the area.

On Being in Detroit

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

A few days before the holiday break, we flew to the Motor City for an interview with Grace Lee Boggs at the Boggs Center in East Detroit. The 96-year-old philosopher and activist did not disappoint, and neither did some of the wonderful people and projects happening there. Look for our show “Becoming Detroit” this coming Thursday, January 19.

Along the way, we stopped by to see our good friend Mikel Ellcessor, the general manager of WDET at Wayne State University, and couldn’t resist having Krista pose with this massive wall sign in the lobby. This public radio station is doing some pretty interesting on-the-ground reporting and community building; check ‘em out online or on the radio, if you’re in the area.


Did Elites Help Cultivate the Local Foods Movement?

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

When we first released "Driven by Flavor," some listeners were rankled by Dan Barber’s assertions. In the video clip above, the Blue Hill chef argues that “elites” deserve recognition for catalyzing sweeping changes in our collective food consciousness:

"It has been a movement that’s pretty much started with the people who can afford to pay for this kind of food. Do I think that’s unfortunate? I really don’t … a lot of great movements in this country, including women’s suffrage, including the civil rights movement, started with elites and ended up becoming mass movements through powerful ideas."

What do you think? Are elites the chicken or the egg here? Or is there another way of understanding how the food revolution Dan Barber is a part of became so widely embraced?


Creating Civility: A Live Public Conversation with Krista Tippett!

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Creating Civility: A Public Conversation with Krista Tippett
photo: Arne Halvorsen/Flickr

what: Creating Civility: A Public Forum
when: Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
time: 7:00 p.m. CST
where: Being LIVE

We’d like to invite you to join us tonight online for a somewhat impromptu event in Minnesota Public Radio’s UBS Forum. We’re approaching the evening as a kind of experiment, an occasion to learn and to plant some seeds for new vision and new ways of living together with our confusions, our strengths, and our differences. Tragic events in Tucson created a window for concern about the fabric of our common life, but that concern predated those events and has relevance and urgency far beyond them.

Many of the hardest political and social chasms right now will not be resolved quickly. So the question we’re asking is:

How do we find new ways to speak and listen to each other, to live forward together, even as we hold passionate disagreements?

This has been the animating question that has emerged in the Civil Conversations project we started on the radio and online back in the fall. What happens among us tonight will inform that project moving forward.

Bring your questions for and about our common life, and submit them through our Facebook chat box next to the video window or using this form. Krista will bring her questions too. And she’ll share some of what she’s learned in her conversations of recent weeks. We’re looking forward to the adventure!

We’ll be streaming live video of the forum and also giving you the chance to bring your questions and your intention in the UBS Forum (7pm). For those of you who can’t make it, not to worry. We’re recording the event, and video will be immediately available for playback afterward. And, we’ll continue to send real-time updates when the stream goes live on our Facebook page and through our Twitter stream. Keep an eye out!


Krista on Being

by Kate Moos, managing producer

As we began to spread the word to close friends about our name change from Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett to Krista Tippett on Being, we were invited to speak to an audience of colleagues here at American Public Media earlier this month. Our pal, Future Tense host John Moe, agreed to interview Krista and get at the basic questions: Why the change? Why Being? What does it all mean? In this video, our inimitable host takes on these questions with passion, intelligence, and grace.

We’ve heard from hundreds of you that the name change is a brilliant idea, a terrible idea, or something in between. Some who regret the change see the necessity for it. Some who love the old name acknowledge the new name is a better fit for the program content. Others says they need some time to think about it and adjust. For many, there is some sadness in losing the word “faith” in its robust and broadest meanings, and we acknowledge that loss. We’ve also heard you say you don’t quite get Krista’s name in front of Being. It’s there (especially during this transition) so you know that Krista Tippett remains central to this program and its vision. In general conversation on the radio and in other applications, the name of the program will most often be Being.

But we also want to reassure you that we are not losing faith in a programmatic sense. The name change is not a signal of a change in the editorial vision or content. As you will hear Krista relate in this video, the new name reflects an evolutionary change that has occurred over time. Being will remain the conversation about “religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas” you have come to know.


Archbishop Desmond Tutu Is “Mad About Mango”

by Colleen Scheck, senior producer

Last week, we somewhat subversively teased fans of our Facebook page with this status update:

"Krista and a few of us producers are off again for a face-to-face interview with one of the world’s greatest men. We’re keeping it a bit of a secret in consideration of his privacy during his respite, but video and audio are sure to come!"

Within minutes, we received many guesses, and it was Kim Connolly who correctly identified the mystery guest: Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We had the pleasure and honor of interviewing him while he was on retreat at the The Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We kept it quiet until now to respect his privacy until his departure.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Krista Tippett and a Bowl of Dried MangosArchbishop Desmond Tutu holds his gift of dried mango while speaking with Krista Tippett. (photo: Trent Gilliss)

As we prepared for this interview, I asked his assistant if the Archbishop had any preferences we should be aware of when he does interviews. She kindly indicated that he’s very flexible and added, “Should you wish to spoil him a bit, he is mad about dried mango.”

Krista Tippett Presents Archbishop Desmond Tutu with a Bowl of Dried Mangos(photo: Colleen Scheck)

So, when Krista sat down across from him to start the interview, the Archbishop spied the bowl of dried mango (unsulphurized!) next to her and commented on it, which you can hear in the audio clip above.

That humorous exchange began a sincere, reflective, and playful conversation between Krista and Desmond Tutu that we look forward to producing and sharing for the podcast and radio at the end of April — along with video of the complete, unedited interview.

(Full disclosure: The Fetzer Institute is an underwriter of Speaking of Faith.)


Producing a “LIVE” Event

Colleen Scheck, senior producer

We were pleased to see The Daily Beast featured the New York Public Library’s backstage clip of their event with Krista last week. It’s a short snippet, and, with a bit of prime-time drama-like production, it effectively captures the substance and tenor of the event.

We’d been in touch with Paul Holdengräber and Meg Stemmler at the NYPL for a few months to prepare for this live evening — including discussions about various formats and stage partners (such as Alan Alda, who couldn’t make it). While it came off seamlessly, there was a bit of last-minute heroics that made it all happen.

Archival audio clips of Albert Einstein and segments from Krista’s conversations with Paul Davies, Freeman Dyson, and Andrew Solomon were selected and pulled together minutes before the performance began. (Moments like that make me think of the famous frantic-run scene from Broadcast News when Joan Cusack’s character rushes a videotape to the studio for live broadcast, pushing people aside and sliding under an open file cabinet. Well, ok, so it wasn’t that dramatic.)

Krista Tippett, Andrew Solomon, and Paul HoldengräberIn the end, NYPL’s brilliant ideas were worth it. Hearing the voice of Einstein was a fun and compelling way to open this conversation about the intersection of science, theology, philosophy, and medicine that is the backbone of Krista’s new book. And a wonderful conversation it was between Krista, Andrew Solomon, and Paul Holdengräber — exploring that intersection on both richly intellectual and deeply personal levels.

With a full house in NYC of more than 500 people, we were also excited that over 5,700 others watched our live stream online — something we are doing more of so that we can include the many of you who aren’t able to attend in person. It’s only fair, right?

If you missed it, you can watch it here:

And, if you want to participate in our upcoming events in April, check out our SOF Live page. We’ll be live streaming video of Krista’s interview with NPR’s Michel Martin in Washington DC, and Krista will be giving a solo performance in a gorgeous venue in Philadelphia where she’ll be playing clips and answering questions.


Approaches to the Question “Is Religion Potentially Dangerous?”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

In "No More Taking Sides" Krista describes her conversation with Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, who both have lost a loved one in the conflict:

"…this is not another version of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian story to which we’ve all become accustomed from the news. Neither is it a touchy-feely story of isolated good will. This story is fiercely human, admitting grief while also yielding to joy, and it is all the more hopeful for its origins in the hard ground of reality."

Updating the site for rebroadcast, we’ve also been editing our video footage from Krista’s live conversation with Robert Wright earlier this month. His answer to the audience question, “Is religion potentially dangerous?” is one that’s often asked in the context of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

As we produce this interview for air, the most recent script characterizes Wright as “relentlessly logical” — and you might say that Wright’s assessment of religion’s role in this conflict is relentlessly logical in the best sense. But, while logic can be extremely helpful in understanding the forces behind human conflict, it says very little about the experience of those conflicts.

That’s where Robi and Ali come in. When Wright tells us that “human life is potentially dangerous,” their stories show us this on a gut level. Their partnership is a living example of why we’re all in this together is an idea really worth considering.

Ali Abu Awwad, from the transcript:

"When I get to the library that [Robi’s son] David was preparing for the student, a good library, and I saw Robi start crying there, I don’t know, it’s strange, that feeling that I got at that moment. I have that feeling that David is telling me, ‘Take care of my mother.’ This is the first time I’m telling that. I never told Robi that.

And I think [my brother] Yousef was so happy that Robi was taking care of me and I really don’t feel this identity when I feel about David, when I feel about Yousef. I don’t feel that.

They just put us — by passing away, they put us in this deeply feeling with our humanity. And if people appreciate and if politicians appreciate the life as they appreciate the death, peace will be possible.”


Kitchen Table Thoughts on a Windy City Event
» download (mp3, 90:47)
Colleen Scheck, Producer

From the Back of the ChurchMe again, with another update on the many adventures of Krista Tippett this month. Last week, Krista traveled to Chicago for a live event at Fourth Presbyterian Church. Here, the tables were turned as Interfaith Youth Core’s Eboo Patel asked Krista questions about the program and about religious religion and ethics in our time. Our events coordinator and her daughter sat at their kitchen table in Minneapolis listening to the online stream provided by our station partner, WBEZ, and wrote the next day:

"Wow…My daughter and I were the listeners at the kitchen table Eboo described, and we loved every minute of it….This broadcast was good radio. Highlights: hearing a city’s sirens in the background during Adam’s intro, really feeling the audience’s attentiveness, Eboo mentioning Wilco, and quoting Tony Campolo, who is quoting Huck Finn about being right in the heart vs. right in the head, Krista’s senstive answer to the Fort Hood question, Krista’s explanation of verse plucking, spiritual technologies and the body, Eboo praising Speaking of Faith as creating a ‘community of discourse.’ Great interview, great Q&A….”

We’re pleased to bring you the audio of that event for your kitchen table (or podcast while you workout) listening. And, for those of you who prefer a Twitter recap, direct from our managing producer, who attended in person:

  1. Krista and Kate are in Chi-town for event—7PM, Monday, 4th Church, w/Eboo Patel. Come! Windy here. Oh yeah. The Windy City. KM
    8:38 PM Nov 15th
  2. @Lthemick V. Funny. Spell check is dangerous.
    9:06 PM Nov 15th in reply to Lthemick
  3. Krista w/Eboo, speaking with staff at Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago. Tonight’s event is at 7 at 4th Church. Come! http://yfrog.com/edt53j
    10:47 AM Nov 16th
  4. 4th Presbyterian Church, Chicago. http://yfrog.com/4jt5rj
    4:16 PM Nov 16th
  5. We’re told to plan on a potential crowd of 800 tonight in downtown Chicago. Can’t be here? Join us online. 7 PM CST: http:/bit.ly/2kUOAY
    4:43 PM Nov 16th
  6. OK, try that link again. Trent has the B Team on location tonight, poor guy. 7PM Chicago time. Krista & Eboo. http://bit.ly/2kUOAY
    4:48 PM Nov 16th
  7. @katemoos (my lovely boss) is still gettin’ the hang of this Internet thing-a-mabob. Here’s the link to the live audio: http://bit.ly/33oiUy
    5:23 PM Nov 16th
  8. BTW, Krista’s live conversation in Chicago with Eboo Patel starts at 7 pm Central tonight: http://bit.ly/33oiUy
    5:28 PM Nov 16th
  9. John Buchanan welcomes the assembled to 4th Church. http://yfrog.com/7hi6pj
    6:04 PM Nov 16th
  10. For those listening to live stream, send in your questions and I’ll be glad to include some!
    6:08 PM Nov 16th
  11. The church is packed. 700? Maybe 800! http://yfrog.com/bel85j
    6:11 PM Nov 16th
  12. Krista says when she left home for school, there was no space for religion in her new context. She became involved in geopolitics. Berlin.
    6:12 PM Nov 16th
  13. Breaking: Eboo & Krista were both born on the day the Berlin Wall fell. November 9. Wow.
    6:14 PM Nov 16th
  14. KT: If I was going to be religious again I was going to have to be able to bring my mind to it. http://yfrog.com/5al2uej
    6:17 PM Nov 16th
  15. KT cites Bonhoeffer: “Religionless Christianity.” The church had become so corrupted. People are rediscovering virtue and taking it back.
    6:19 PM Nov 16th
  16. Eboo: who made a difference in the 20th century? People of faith. Gandhi. Dorothy Day. Martin Luther King.
    6:20 PM Nov 16th
  17. I felt public radio was smart about everything else but religion was a black hole.—KT
    6:23 PM Nov 16th
  18. Because it was so important and because journalism had gotten religion so wrong we had to work that much harder to get it right.-KT
    6:25 PM Nov 16th
  19. Eboo: Talk about speaking of faith as an act if theology.
    6:25 PM Nov 16th
  20. KT: No one can be a Niebuhr in our age. Speaking of Faith goes beyond religion. It may be scientists. Police. How do we hold the sacred.
    6:28 PM Nov 16th
  21. Eboo cites Wilco: Theologians, they don’t know nothing ‘bout my soul.
    6:29 PM Nov 16th
  22. Eboo: if there is a countercultural media figure it is you. SoF does’t do news stories.
    6:34 PM Nov 16th
  23. Webers to let the initial outrage of the news work itself out. Then we circle back.
    6:36 PM Nov 16th
  24. KT: we covered the issue of torture. But we had to find out how to get at it. Not the question, does it work? We found the voice.
    6:38 PM Nov 16th
  25. KT: when monks in Burma marched, we found Ingrid Jordt. And ineeded to know what that meant. 6:39 PM Nov 16th
  26. Sorry for the slow down. Listener questions up next.
    6:54 PM Nov 16th
  27. Eboo asked about Fort Hood. Krista says we can only approach that event with deep perspective. Be appalled at violence and grieve.
    6:58 PM Nov 16th
  28. Eboo what is the sow doing for your grandpa’s mind?
    7:00 PM Nov 16th
  29. Eboo: science And religion? Krista I have a book out in March, Einsteins God…
    7:04 PM Nov 16th
  30. From theback of the church. http://yfrog.com/j7ac3ej
    7:08 PM Nov 16th
  31. Does amateur theology water it down? KT says it can. But many great thinkers may be unaffiliated with tradition.
    7:10 PM Nov 16th
  32. There is spiritual but not religious but for many it is fluid.
    7:12 PM Nov 16th
  33. Why do we need a God? We turn to at only certain times? KT: this is true.But. We also rarely choose to stand in the presence of frailty.
    7:14 PM Nov 16th
  34. KT: I look at it both ways. I’mfascinated by the vastly different vocabularies.
    7:15 PM Nov 16th
  35. How do we not demonize the other in our own tradition?
    7:15 PM Nov 16th
  36. KT: That’s hard. It’s harder to be compassionTe to your cousin who disagrees about abortion or gay marriage.
    7:17 PM Nov 16th
  37. People make breakthroughs when they humanize their interaction.
    7:18 PM Nov 16th
  38. Oh boy. That was unexpected.
    7:21 PM Nov 16th
  39. Does this work lead you to hope or despair?
    7:28 PM Nov 16th
  40. Kt: we are bombarded by images and violence. I want to shine a light on widom, voices that are nourishing. Ian looking for hope.
    7:29 PM Nov 16th
  41. But it requires you to look.
    7:30 PM Nov 16th
  42. Even with our resouces I have no idea that something is happening that might bring hope.
    7:31 PM Nov 16th
  43. Eboo: you have created a club of “lookers for hope,” Thanyou!
    7:32 PM Nov 16th
  44. Debrief. Yay! Thanks!
    7:53 PM Nov 16th
  45. @evaottesmith We’d love to come. Someday!
    10:26 PM Nov 16th in reply to evaottesmith
  46. @HeyToepfer Not sure yet. Chicago Public Radio was recording. I’ll (@trentgilliss) get the details + let everyonee when it’s ready.
    5:48 AM Nov 17th in reply to HeyToepfer
  47. @akdennis Our managing producer was live-tweeting from Chicago in which Eboo Patel was interviewing Krista: http://bit.ly/33oiUy. Sorry.
    9:51 AM Nov 17th
  48. Leaving Chicago. Krista reading Agatha Christie. Thank you every body!! http://yfrog.com/0zhf8wj
    3:05 PM Nov 17th