Helping Us Learn How to Listen

A conversation with author and Peabody-award winning radio host Krista Tippett.

| Fall 2016

  • My purpose is that I really want to understand, and that the people on behalf of whom I’m asking these questions really want to understand, even if it’s going to be uncomfortable to hear.
    Photo courtesy Fotolia

Krista Tippett is the host of On Being, a Peabody-award winning public radio program and podcast that explores the animating and connecting questions that make up human life. Originally called Speaking of Faith, On Being dives into Tippett’s conversations with change-makers operating under the popular culture radar in a variety of fields, from religion to science to art.

Tippett is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book Becoming Wise, a collection of insights on the human experience that she has gained through her own life and career of meaningful conversations.

Below is a conversation with Tippett on the history and form of On Being, as well as the importance of developing public discourse that builds bridges and inspires compassion.

Abby Olcese: How did your show get its genesis? I know it started as Speaking of Faith, and then later became On Being. How did the show transition from that earlier form into its current form, and what’s the difference between the content of the previous program and the focus of the show now?

Krista Tippett: I see it and experienced it as a very natural, organic evolution. This project was launched in the early 2000s, when we had an evangelical president in the White House, and it was the immediate post 9/11 years. We were coming out of a couple of decades of really toxic, strident religiosity in many forms, and yet, the whole subject of religion, not just public religion, but what this actually looks like in real life, was hardly approached. Back in those early years, I felt like it was really important to use the word “faith” in the title ... It’s a problematic word, but I felt at the time that it was important not to let that term be hijacked culturally, by strident, totally intellectually suspect voices, and to kind of draw it out in the way that it actually manifests across the spectrum of modern life. And, also, the ways in which these impulses flow into the way that people are in all of our disciplines, into the way we are doctors and lawyers and artists and parents and citizens.

What I experienced at about year seven, which is when we changed the name, was that the program had evolved to be responsive to what was happening in the culture ... and I think that our cultural encounter with this part of life has rapidly evolved over these years.

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