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‘On Being’ host Krista Tippett: Wisdom is not only for the wise sages of history, it's for all of us

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Krista Tippett, host and producer of 'On Being.'

Krista Tippett imparts the wisdom of the world’s great thinkers every week through her radio program On Being, but she wants you to take away something a little bit different from her new book, “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.”

“Wisdom is not for the wise sages of history,” Tippett told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “Wisdom is something that is accessible to us and it emerges through the raw materials of our lives.”

That’s a core concept of the book, which pairs insights she’s learned from the over 400 interviews she’s done for On Being with the wisdom she’s garnered just by the nature of living her own life.  Sharing those personal stories is not something she’s used to, she said, as a host of a program where she seeks to listen and translate interviewees’ thoughts and experiences to a worldwide audience.

Listen to the full discussion here:

Here are four important quotes we took from Tippett’s time with us in-studio:

1. On her time in Germany during the Cold War (read more about that here):

“I found myself at a young age in this amazing geopolitical center, this fault line of the Cold War in the 1980s. Kind of hard for my kids to take seriously, how big a deal that was. I walked into this situation. I was very idealistic, I wanted to change the world, and I thought politics was the way to do that. I ended up, partly through forcing myself in places and partly by luck, eventually sitting around tables with people who were moving those nuclear missiles around the map. I was aware of this disconnect between the enormity and importance of the work to be done and the gap between public personas people had an how immature and impoverished they could be as human beings.”

2. On the changing face of religiosity, spirituality:

“I’m interested in living tradition. I think and I write in the book about my observation that a lot of what is being analyzed as people fleeing religion, the phenomenon of the NONES, people who say on opinion polls that they are non-affiliated, don’t have religious tradition. I experience in that segment of society a lot of actual spiritual searching, theological curiosity and ethical passion that are calling our traditions back to their heart. Our religious traditions, like every human institution, are being turned inside out by technology. The structures we have don’t make sense for who we are now. There is always transformation. I think what the non-religious among us, scientists, are studying will actually evolve faith.”

3. On how the wisdom she’s learned from others has impacted her:

“I interview people who have great depth and wisdom and I go away and have so much to think about. Sometimes I get a really practical tool out of an interview. Recently, I interviewed this physicist who is pursuing a question ‘does the world embody beautiful ideas?’ and to have a scientist have me start thinking about beauty and looking for beauty…I can immediately carry that with me. On the other hand, I have to say, I think people imagine I soak in this wisdom and walk through the world and the truth is I get up in the morning, I have to make breakfast for my kids. I have that same challenge we all do to work with the raw materials of my life and there are days where my greatest accomplishment has been getting the recycling out on time. I take this all in fully and imperfectly.”

4. On optimism vs. hope:

“Optimism is like wishful thinking. For me, hope is reality-based. Hope works with reality. It works with the fullness of reality. It is open-eyed and it is also looking at what it is good and right and true that is happening and factoring that into imagination, a sense of possibility and a sense of what you are willing to work for in terms of what is real.”

Related Event

What: Krista Tippett: Becoming Wise
When: Friday, April 8 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Rd., St. Louis, MO 63117
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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