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.
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.
LIVE Video: Huffington Post Religion Editor Paul Raushenbush in Conversation with Krista
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
NOTE: At 9:30 a.m. EDT (Saturday, September 25th) the live stream will open; conversation will begin promptly at 9:50 a.m.
If you’re a loyal public radio fan or a reader of the religion section at The Huffington Post, you’re going to enjoy this video stream coming to you live from Denver, Colorado. From the PRPD (Public Radio Program Directors) annual conference, Krista will be speaking with Paul Raushenbush, HuffPo Religion editor and associate dean of religious life at Princeton University.
The emergence of HuffPo Religion is one of many recent signs that religion and spirituality have evolved to occupy a very different place in American culture than they did a decade ago. Krista and Paul will look at the transition from Speaking of Faith to Being through this lens, and share segments from the program including listener-generated stories and interviews with special guests.
Grab a cup of coffee and watch this live conversation with us. We’ll open up the live stream at 9:30 a.m. EDT (7:30 a.m. Mountain), and the conversation will start promptly at 9:50 a.m., lasting about 30-45 minutes.
Letting Go and Reintroducing Ourselves
by Krista Tippett, host
photo: Evan Lane/Flickr
We had great fun pulling this week’s show together. I kept recalling that Lewis Carroll line I love from the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass: “It’s a poor memory that only works backwards.” Our program that’s soon to be titled Being, formerly known as Speaking of Faith, carries all the weight and wonder of these last seven years in its editorial bones. We got to this moment voice by voice and show by show. The moments we revisit in this show are fueling our change and will continue to form the spirit in which we inhabit that ethos.
Near the opening we listen again, for example, to the sage sociologist Peter Berger, who reminds us that while influential American thinkers (including him) proclaimed that religion had ceased to matter in modern lives after the 1960s, religion never went away for most people in most cultures around the world — nor indeed in this one. In the United States, though, we stopped having a robust, diverse vocabulary for talking about the part of humanity we call “religious” and “spiritual.” This is one of the factors that made it so tricky to start a public radio program called Speaking of Faith in the early 2000s — and, in my mind, so necessary.
As soon as we had launched this adventure, the world kept changing around us, kept reframing what we needed to be opening up for exploration. On this anniversary of 9/11 as much as any that preceded it, I am so grateful to hear Seemi Ghazi’s elegant, soulful recitation of the Qur’an from the first program we created about Islam in the weeks following the terrorist attacks. And, even now, the window she opens into the aesthetic, spiritual, and intellectual heart of Islam is a surprise and a kind of balm. She offers something far more compelling than a defense or argument. She embodies a contrast to violent images of terrorism — and a kind of everyday contrast that is simply buried from view by dramatic headlines.
Yet, in a way that is much larger and I hope more enduring than the crises and antagonisms of the moment, our cultural frame for seeing religion, spirituality, and the reality of religious others has also shifted dramatically. We are turn-of-the-century people. The challenges of our age are vast. From politics to ecology, from economics to family life, we are reimagining basic words and structures that have served us for decades, even centuries. The change in our title reflects that and so do the voices of this show.
Lindon Eaves proposes a definition of the spirituality of the scientist. Katie Payne wonders at the inner lives of the complex animals — whales and elephants — she has studied as a scientist. David Hilfiker offers working definitions of “charity,” “justice,” and “relationship” that point at new ways to approach poverty around the world, such as in post-Katrina New Orleans. “Historian of doubt” Jennifer Michael Hecht eloquently describes “the corner we’ve gotten ourselves” with labels of “atheist” and “agnostic” as much as “religious” and “spiritual.” These words may not be not big enough for the richness of our convictions or the ways in which all of our perspectives might inform our common humanity.
Here’s the thing, as true in life as in the naming of a radio program: letting go of words we cherish doesn’t mean we let go of what they mean to us, of that aspect of our identity and knowledge. Rather, it challenges and frees us to represent these things more vividly and invitingly in a world that needs all of our deepest moral imagination, our best spiritual, theological, and ethical insights. Letting go of words that have defined us creates a possibility of reintroducing ourselves, our best knowledge and virtues, to the world. I believe and trust that this turning point in the life of this program will have that effect too. It is an invigorating challenge, one we walk with our guests as well as you.
Your Reflections on “Being”
by Shubha Bala, associate producer
Within a month of joining Speaking of Faith, I was told the program I work for was going to be changing its name. Since then, it’s been a hectic journey of learning how to produce while supporting the name change tasks. But it has also been a crash course in the thoughtfulness of our listening community.
Ever since Krista first announced the change, I have been obsessed with reading your reflections. You have eloquently shared a range of feelings and opinions from loving the change to mourning the loss, to disliking Being. Here are some samples of what has been said:
Sad at the loss of “faith” in the name.
Many of our long-time listeners mourned the loss of the word “faith” in the title and wondered if it signaled a change in the editorial direction of the program. As we’ve pointed out, the content of our program will continue to be about “faith, meaning, ethics, and ideas.” Robbyn’s comment on our blog echoed many other listeners’ sentiments:
“I really don’t want the word ‘faith’ gone. It is so hard to find good conversation from faithful people these days. I can find myself and the common ground shared with all your guests, within this process of moving in faith in life. This is a movement of faith rather than belief. This is an active and intentional process. Being isn’t, necessarily. I am seeing your conversations as a movement away from religious fanaticism and intolerance that can be within any religion, and toward the daily living within the mystery of life or faith or God or whatever one cares to call it. I want this conversation to continue to grow and open to new audiences, AND I want people to recognize that this is the process of faithing.”
Like a name change, but not to Being.
Some of you supported changing the name but felt Being was not the best choice. We received many comments similar to this one:
“As one at whom the name change was probably aimed, I appreciate the effort to avoid offending those who find the word ‘faith’ offensive. However, I’m afraid that I’d rather be a little intimidated by the concept of faith than bored by the concept of ‘being’, which strikes me as far too general a term to have any meaning.
—Renee, commenting on our blog
Like the name change.
Many supported the name change for a host of reasons, from the fact that Being resonates with their experiences of the show to being able to feel more comfortable telling their high school students about it. These comments came from a diverse group, including non-religious and religious people:
“Understanding Being is essential to (and intrinsic to) all spiritual journeys. When we are comfortable with being, we can allow others to also be comfortable with being and as beings. As long as we see and practice only doing, we will not appreciate our essential nature as humans being. Understanding being is critical to peace.”
—Peggy Beatty, via Facebook
“Anyone familiar with the work of modern Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas (Being as Communion, Eucharist, Bishop, Church, many others) will see the connection and appreciate the change. My suggestion would be to get Metropolitan John on your show to discuss Being from his theological viewpoint. Kate mentioned in one of her many replies that Being has deep theological meaning, and Metropolitan John has expanded this theological perspective greatly in the last 3 decades.”
—Jeffrey Abell, via e-mail
Dislike Krista’s name at the front.
Some people didn’t like Krista’s name at the front of the title. We included her name there to make it clear that she remains central to the show as host and editorial leader, but in most applications the new name will be heard as Being. The following comment included many of the reasons that people were upset at Krista’s name being in the title:
“People who have not yet found your pioneering show are not familiar with Krista, and as another noted, her guests contribute the canvass on which she paints her enlightened questions and reflective responses and serves as a representative listener on our behalf. Placing her name first gives me the impression that she has been set up to be some guru, savant-type host. And, God willing, even should her career/discernment path take her in another direction, the show could continue as Speaking of Being, with __________.”
—Patricia, commenting on our blog
Unfortunately, Being with Krista Tippett has an inappropriate connotation to it.
There were a handful of people that said they might stop listening to the program, while for many of you the name doesn’t matter since the content will remain the same:
“Krista, thank you for doing what you do, whatever you call it! Most of my friends and I refer to your show as ‘Krista Tippet’ anyway. ‘Did you catch Krista Tippet this week?’ ‘Make sure you listen to Krista’s program this week.’ Doesn’t matter what you call it, the content is valuable to my being and unlike anything else available in my area.”
—Bookmarkt, commenting on our blog
Change Is Stressful
by Krista Tippett, host
Recently back from a vacation I needed — and with fresh eyes on the intensity of the present moment — I think the most surprising thing about our name change process is how big and dramatic it feels. Names matter, and as clear as I am that our content won’t change moving forward, we are in fact changing our identity. I feel that personally — a little off balance, a little shaky, a little scared. I’m also feeling the upside of those same elemental human emotions: recharged, excited, expectant. But I have had the benefit of nearly two years of thinking about making this change, brainstorming it, seeking counsel about it, and finally reaching a decision.
I realize that most of our listeners have experienced this as sudden, without all that time and deliberation. This is one of those life lessons: the stressfulness of change, good or bad, is something that we have to re-experience and re-learn again and again and again. I want to thank everyone who has shared their thoughts and reactions across the board. We are listening, reading, and absorbing all of this into the ethos and attitude with which we will inhabit our new name. I often refer to SOF/Being as an adventure as much as a program. This process brings home anew — in a way we could not have imagined when we started — that this is very much a collective adventure.
One other dimension of this experience has struck me with surprising force: a sadness about relinquishing the word “faith.” And I want to acknowledge that there is grief in this for me too, mixed in with all those other emotions I named above. I’ve thought a lot about the limits of words in the years before and since Speaking of Faith began. I thought we could fill that phrase with connotations beyond those that had been imparted by the culture wars, and we have for many. But there are words we have to let go of, at least for a time, when they cease to carry the meaning they have for us in the ears of others. The positive challenge of letting go of the word, however treasured, is that we are then liberated and compelled to find fresh, varied, vivid language to say what we mean — not relying on shorthand that isn’t shorthand after all — and to show rather than tell.
Most of the grief we’re hearing is from Christian listeners, and I have had some interesting and heartening exchanges with Christian theologians and religious leaders — people who have a stake in the “faith” word. This came from a very esteemed Christian church historian and theologian:
- Naming is always hard. I sometimes find it easier to write a book than to name it.
- The old name and the surrogates admittedly don’t work well in our culture. “Faith,” “Religion,” “Spirituality” can confuse or alienate or distance some potential listeners.
- We have to admit, then, though, that no replacement can please all or serve all; solutions have to be partial.
- The name has to be inclusive, but also say something. “Being” is about as inclusive as anything can be; ask Paul Tillich or Martin Heidegger or other out-of-reach beings. (We Lutherans are trained to say of “church” etc that it is not a “being” but a “becoming,” but that wouldn’t be becoming for your purposes.
- I think you and your conversations partners will give flesh to this spirit in countless variations. You can even allow some existentialists on, “being” being their specialty.
- So I’ll be listening and watching!
I am very aware, as we have finally moved into this transition last week and this week and next week, that it is up to us to fill this new name with connotations and meaning. I think we’re up to it, and I know and trust that our listeners/readers will hold us accountable!
Team Coco’s in the Same Boat
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
I guess we’re not the only ones struggling to come to terms with a new name. After an intensive naming process with marketers and executives, Conan O’Brien reveals the title of his new show on TBS. Yes, it is Conan: “Simple. Pure. Like the man himself.” Perhaps we made it too complicated and should’ve just named our project Krista? *grin*
And, I’m hoping that they stick with TeamCoco.com as their URL. It’s a nod to the massive outcry from his fans. It remembers their efforts and support. As of September 16th, you can type in onBeing.org or onBeing.com. Perhaps we should’ve gone with TeamTippett.org… Oh, and in case you were wondering, you can still use speakingoffaith.org to get to our site, even after the launch on September 16th.