On Being Krista Tippet 21st Century Virtues
I attended two wonderfully understated presentations on Wisdom by Krista Tippet at the RSA and Creative Mornings London. Krista’s book ‘On Becoming Wise’ has just been published and offers insights culled from 15 years of presenting her radio show and popular podcast series On Being. The series with strong religious and mystical overtones interviews top thinkers, luminaries, scientists, poets, writers about their work and latest discoveries. Krista’s journalistic approach runs counter to the conventions of mainstream media adopting deep listening receptivity and co-enquiry as her method to explore the presenter’s specialist fields expertise and knowledge.
I was struck through both talks how Krista embodies and typifies to me how to be a 21st century human being. Not prone to making pronounced emphasis of her points, grand gestures or using forceful logic, Krista quietly insistently and most of all subtly, portrays a sincere and passionate approach in responding to some of the most pressing contemporary existential questions. Authentic and spontaneously honest enough, to disarmingly state she wished she had the answers to some of the biggest public, political, educational and economic conundrums, Krista was unafraid NOT to possess even some of the answers to these pressing issues.
Snippets of wisdom that strongly resonated with me over both talks, included being with and walking through the severe pain and discomfort of our troubled times, that we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, not through being unfamiliar with history but through not knowing ourselves. That our lives need to be an enquiry into life’s most profound questions and need to fully embody our answers. That our humanness is messy, flawed, imperfect and until the rawness awkwardness of this predicament is fully embraced we will continue to cause ourselves and others, unnecessary pain and suffering.
One vivid turning point for Krista as a young ambitious female journalist, was in Berlin at the time of the cold war, when she was hanging out with people responsible for locating and repositioning nuclear warheads throughout Europe. Many of these personnel lived privileged lives of great comfort, luxury and freedom yet were adolescent and troubled in their life preoccupations. However, on visiting East Germany where people had nothing, no political or economic freedoms, she witnessed people who were still able to craft lives of great beauty and dignity. This perplexing issue caused Krista to re-examine her life’s goals and as a result she went back to college to study theology.
Krista has a fascinating approach to her exploration and enquiry, whilst admitting she is a thoroughly modern woman and having a modest meditation practice of seven minutes daily, waiting for her tea to steep and does hot sweaty not spiritual yoga, she is clearly animated by the perennial wisdom and mysticism of the religious traditions and their relevance in these times. She has been compelled by how much they continue to offer deep insight in how to navigate our troubled times.
Combining this quiet and calm approach to world affairs, Krista is clear sighted and incisive about the contemporary world, boiling the Trump phenomena, as the Donald giving permission for hate to be in the room. Our institutions are broken and failed to adapt to the 21st century life conditions, politics, economics, education, business are all not facing up to the challenges of the time.
Whilst seemingly exalting Krista in this piece what is far more important to me is that we also elevate ourselves through rising to the challenges of our world and take on the humility, passion, curiousity, deep interest, then engage with intent and hope to transform ourselves and our times. Krista is signalling who we need to be as humans to be grounded in ourselves and have the courage to be implacably gentle, in the storms that surround us.