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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.

What Kind of Man and Thinker Is the Crown Prince of Bahrain? (video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

CGI 2010 Special Session: Middle EastBahrain’s crown prince is navigating protesters’ demands for a democratically elected government by ordering troops to withdraw from Pearl Square and by saying he’ll meet with opposition leaders. If you’re wondering who Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa even is, he is the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

He’s also a skilled politician and diplomat, which you can see on display in this video of a special panel on Middle East peace at the Clinton Global Initiative. The other participants:  Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, and Shimon Peres, president of the state of Israel, and former President Bill Clinton.

The leader of this tiny island nation is part of a new generation of Middle Eastern leaders who may be integral to the peaceful and successful transitions of these autocratic and monarchical governments under challenge. Did you find this helpful?

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Reflections on a Radio and Digital Adventure

by Krista Tippett, host


"Volar" (photo: Kaytee Riek/Flickr via Creative Commons)

It’s been a complex year in my life. I boarded a plane for nearly two weeks away — a restful vacation, this time, to make up for the exciting but exhausting schedule of events and travel of this past spring and fall. I keep thinking about Esther Sternberg’s analogy about the effects of stress on our bodies: that, just as we need to reboot our computers, sometimes we also need to reboot ourselves. Shut down, and then restart. To be more personal about this, I’m feeling my limits — physical and mental — and though that is hard, it is also good and necessary.

It has also been a momentous year on the program, of course — a year of change and the excitement and vulnerability that come with that. There are things I would change about the process of introducing the new name, if I could. This too is the nature of life. I wish, for example, that we had made the process more transparent to our listeners. Practical exigencies made that impossible.

Yet, as I experience it now, the name change remains a work in progress that we and you, long-time and new listeners, now live into together. In the beginning, we used the formal name of Krista Tippett on Being as a bridge between the old and the new, understanding that it would quickly be shortened in casual usage. We’re experiencing that the short form nearly everyone prefers is On Being, not the word Being on its own. I like that.

And while even I work at times to get used to this new identity, I’m grateful for this vast yet elemental framing word we chose. I just turned 50. I’ve been creating this radio program and podcast, if you include the piloting that led to its launch, for a decade. My craving to draw out the big questions and big ideas of life is unabated. At the same time, more than ever before, I am utterly impatient when these questions and ideas remain abstractions. I need to see them lived and embodied and therein tested and stretched. We need more than a self-contained concept in our world called “faith.”

We need virtues — the practical expressions of faith, spiritual life, and ethical imagination — at play at the center of life. We need questions so vigorous, existential, and sacred that they change us, become part of our very being and our action in the world. That spirit gave rise, after all, to all of our great traditions, and it will reinvigorate them for the exacting century to come.

And I have continued to hear fresh wisdom and hope coming from unexpected places as we’ve produced our shows and events of this past fall and winter. I will never forget the young founder and chairman of Twitter leaning forward in his seat at the Clinton Global Initiative, telling me that social networking technologies should reinforce the value of human relationship — ultimately driving us towards new ways of connecting physically as well as digitally. My sense is that while his passion lies close to his surface, he is rarely invited to give voice to it. It is counterintuitive to many casual analyses of social networking’s dangers.

CGI 2010 Plenary: Technology
Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chairman of Twitter, answers my question at a plenary session on technology at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative. In the foreground, Ory Okolloh, founder and executive director of Ushahidi, laughs along with and John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco.

More recently, I moderated a discussion, sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Nour Foundation, on emerging understandings of the nature of human consciousness. This was a conversation at the intersection of science and philosophy — an intersection, interestingly, that the discoveries of cutting-edge science are making necessary again. There were a range of views on that panel about how intrinsically “real” the human self may be, how dependent on or potentially transcendent of mere biology. A German philosopher on the panel represented the extreme view that our experience of our selves is, in the end, a biologically generated illusion that dies with us. Yet even he acknowledged that the effects of our consciousness don’t remain isolated — our “selves” imprint other realities, other conscious and unconscious beings, in manifold, uncontainable ways. We change the world as we move through it. I’m recalled to those intriguing insights of Paul Davies, in my interview with him about Einstein:

"Einstein was the person to establish this notion of what is sometimes called block time — that the past, present, and future are just personal decompositions of time, and that the universe of past, present, and future in some sense has an eternal existence. And so even though individuals may come and go, their lives, which are in the past for their descendants, nevertheless still have some existence within this block time. Nothing takes that away. You may have your threescore years and ten measured by a date after your death. You are no more. And yet within this grander sweep of the timescape, nothing is changed. Your life is still there in its entirety."

I was surprised at first when members of our team suggested that we reprise, and to some degree, recraft the show we created in September to introduce our name change to listeners. But I’ve come to see it as fitting for the turn of a year, and the end of the momentous decade in which this program has grown up. It is a kind of snapshot of the timescape, up to now, of this radio and digital adventure. We do not lose any of this. We build on it as we move forward. And we continue to build it with you, our listeners and readers.

Please know that while every email you write to us is not answered, every email and Facebook posting and tweet is read and pondered and becomes part of the identity of this project too. I wish you all a blessed season and new year, and am grateful to you beyond measure for helping to keep this improbable media space alive and growing.

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Focusing on the Peace Rather Than the Process in the Middle East

by Eboo Patel, special contributor

Here’s what struck me about this special panel on Middle East peace that Bill Clinton moderated: it actually focused on the peace, and not the process. The President joked that somebody else in his family was trying to figure out where on the land to draw the line, he wanted us to talk about what needed to happen with the people after that line was drawn.

There were a lot of pursed lips and furrowed brows when he said that. It made me realize just how much attention is paid to the details of the process, and how little we think about the actual peace. Which is to say, how people from different faiths, nationalities, and narratives are going to live together on a pretty small parcel of land.

CGI 2010 Special Session: Middle EastThe most hopeful part of the conversation, for me, was when Shimon Peres used the illustration of Israeli and Palestinian doctors operating together, saving lives together, in hospitals.

"In Israel, 20 percent of our citizens are Arabs. And it’s not simple — for them for us, but for one place. There is no hospital in Israel where you don’t have Arab doctors and Arab patients. And, nobody knows — not of the patients and not of the doctors who is operating them — I mean, if a Druze would see an Arab with a knife coming close to him, he would be alarmed. But in the hospital, please. And I ask myself, ‘If we can live in peace in the hospitals, why can’t we live in peace out of the hospitals.’"

We hear frequently the stories of the suicide bombers and the settlers. We read about the squabbles of the diplomats. We get bogged down in the details and made cynical by the seemingly endless failures. But with a single example, Peres illuminated just how much Jews, Christians, and Muslims have in common, pointed out just how well Israelis and Palestinians already work together. It’s enough to keep me thinking past the process, and into the peace.


Eboo PatelEboo Patel is founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core. He’s the author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation and writes regularly for The Faith Divide blog on The Washington Post. He’s also served on President Obama’s Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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Live Video: Krista at the Clinton Global Initiative

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
9-10 a.m.

We’re streaming live video of Krista leading a plenary session on enhanced access to modern technology at the Clinton Global Initiative. With all the new ways of leapfrogging over old models of infrastructure and bureaucracy, this is an era rife with possibility for deeper civic engagement and better ways of doing business and helping others.

Krista will be joined by five of the foremost thinkers on this topic:

  • John Chambers – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Cisco
  • Jack Dorsey – Co-Founder and Chairman, Twitter
  • Ory Okolloh – Founder and Executive Director, Ushahidi
  • Zhengrong Shi – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Suntech Power Holding Company
  • Ratan N. Tata – Chairman, Tata Sons

Please join us and share your thoughts and feedback by commenting here or on Twitter!

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A Soldier to His General
Eboo Patel, Guest Contributor

You might be surprised by what our nation’s most famous Evangelical Christian has to say about Muslims.

I first met Rick Warren at the Aspen Ideas Festival a few years ago, where he was doing a talk on leadership. Somebody in the audience asked him — with no lack of scorn — if he thought everyone was going to heaven. That’s when I realized how much of a risk Warren had taken by coming to Aspen — a town of people with a generally condescending attitude towards Warren’s brand of Evangelical megachurch Christianity.

I asked him about why he chose to come to a place where much of the audience was suspicious of him because of the title “Pastor.” He smiled and said that he liked all kinds of people, including folks with a bias against religion, but he was looking forward to getting on a plane and heading to Rwanda the next day, where he had taken on the massive project of helping a country recover from genocide. “It was faith that got them through, and it’s faith that keeps them going,” he told me.

I was equally struck by the pragmatic and profound way Warren answered the man’s question. He basically said that he didn’t come to Aspen to disagree with people about heaven, but to find common ground about working together on earth — and in his recent travels across the developing world, he had seen enough suffering to make anyone with an impulse to serve put aside their differences and develop practical partnerships that actually helped people.

I caught up with Pastor Rick at another bastion of folks suspicious of faith (I spend a lot of time in those places!) — the Clinton Global Initiative. This time, he was even more forceful about the need to focus our efforts on improving earth instead of arguing about heaven. When he was asked how “the church” could play a role in ending poverty, he responded by saying that the armies of compassion included people of all faiths.

I took him aside after his panel presentation and talked to him about the religious diversity he expressed respect for on stage.

As for how this Muslim views that Christian, here’s what I have to say: We might have different ideas of heaven, but I would happily play soldier to his general in an interfaith army of compassion solving the problems of earth.

Eboo Patel appeared on SOF as a guest in "Religious Passion, Pluralism, and the Young." He’s also the founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, a contributor to the Washington Post’s "On Faith" blog, and author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.

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