We Can Reframe Our Dead End Debates

We Can Reframe Our Dead End Debates

Spiritual life is a way of dwelling with perplexity – its purpose as well as its perils, its beauty as well as its ravages. ~@KristaTippett



Since many of our U.S. readers and listeners are engulfed in the final weeks of a presidential campaign, it’s only fitting that I share this vibrant, literary exchange between Twitter thread between Terry Tempest Williams and Krista TippettKrista and and a former guest, Terry Tempest Williams, who tweeted:

Democratic Vistas by Walt Whitman. How about reading this during the election returns for measure.

@TempestWilliams “I know nothing grander.. the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election.”

@kristatippett Yes, indeed. Thanks for posting this, Krista. Let’s hope….xxx TTW

Much of this week was spent finishing our last show from The Civil Conversations Project and wintering the series until next season. It’s been a journey, one we think adds to the betterment of our public discourse. After airing last week’s show with David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch, Krista noted:

Savoring the reflections in response to the Future of Marriage show. We can reframe our dead end debates.

On Facebook, we heard from many people who long for these types of conversations but are hesitant to engage. Becky Phillips Andersen from Georgetown, Texas commented:

Becky Phillips Andersen“I have to admit I tuned into this and the discussion of abortion with a knot in my stomach. But, I so appreciate these discussions and the brilliant approach to such difficult subjects. Thank you.”



Teresa Garcia echoed this sentiment and added:

Teresa Garcia“Beyond the difficulty of the topic, I really appreciated hearing you and your guest say that our hearts ache for a meaningful way to speak with one another when we disagree. It’s true. Thank you for modeling how it might be done through this series. I wish I were seeing even a tiny bit of it in the political debates.”

And, for Larry Robinson of Virginia:

Larry Robinson“Thank you for this conversation, Krista. It gets straight to the heart of being human – to love and be loved. And then to hope that love is recognized by society. Thanks too to Mr. Blankenhorn for understanding and advocacy.”

But, for a listener named Rebecca, it was an aha! moment:

“The understanding that opened up for me today was this one, when Jonathan Rauch talked about his moment at the piano bench considering his lonely life ahead. Knowing he was gay, he didn’t dread the sex or the humiliation of locker room teasing, he was anticipating the emptiness of life without a FAMILY. Kathunk.

Jonathan Rauch talks to Krista Tippett and David BlankenhornNow I know why so many in my life have first chosen traditional marriage and only later in life have ‘come out’ of the closeted life. The prospect of missing out on children and all that means was simply too lonely.
When we wipe away the option of traditional Thanksgiving dinners in November and Sundays in the park as well as hospital visits, we force people into closets just as surely as when we ask them questions about “how do you consummate that marriage?”

The civility and doubt took me much deeper than mere head butting. But I expected no less from all of you.”

These type of responses are edifying and makes this work worth all the effort. Thank you!

"In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance." -Jeanette Winterson, photo by Cameron Hibbert
As we think forward to the next season of The Civil Conversations Project, Krista is pondering the overarching title of the CCP series and whether we should rename it:

I struggled with the word civility — sounds too mild, “nice” perhaps, and not transformative. The New Conversations Project?

What do you think? Does the title suffice? Or should it stay the same? Jim Hayes (@e_j_hayes) responded with this suggestion — and points to a like-minded project:

for civility – witness. solidarity, community, dialogue – existing initiative



And this desire for fresh ways of talking to one another isn’t just relegated to civility. Andrew Haeg, a former colleague of ours at APM, left the organization to start a kindred project called GroundTruth:

Tremendous new work by @andrewhaeg — bringing empathy to journalism.



Andrew explains his project in greater depth on the PBS MediaShift blog. Check it out.


Nearly 500 people responded to this Instagram photo paired with a quotation from "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." -Charles William Elliot, photo by Stefano CorsoCharles William Elliot’s The Happy Life.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

We loved the spirit and intensity of Stefano Corso’s photo but worried a bit about the girl smoking. Our friends on Facebook didn’t disappoint in their response. Some admonished us and others spotted in with a bit of humor:

Barbara Krivda: Please do not advertise cigarettes.

Marie Small: wonderful quote even though that’s not my favorite author…oh well
Wayne Warnken: Hopefully reading how to quit smoking…..
Myrna Rybczyk: Loved that book!
Maureen S Martin: Makes me want a cigarette, honestly. And a good book.
Julie Kendall-Tonn: Haven’t read a book since I quit smoking. Shame on you, doctor! Ba ha ha ha. JK

Ronald W. Gower: Reading is a very important part of my life. Books bring me to places and thoughts that I would never otherwise consider.



"A sense of humor is a sense of proportion." -Kahlil Gibran, photo by JD HancockOn this note, I’ll leave you with a line from Kahlil Gibran’s Sand and Foam, which Krista retweeted from Egyptian-American poet Yahia Lababidi:

“A sense of humor is a sense of proportion.”

As always, please send us your feedback about our work and this email. Contact us any way you like: reply to this email, contact us on our website, share your suggestions and critiques on Facebook or Twitter (@beingtweets, @KristaTippett, @TrentGilliss).

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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