December 30, 2010

Krista's Journal: Reflections on a Radio and Digital Adventure

December 30, 2010

It's been a complex year in my life. I'm just about to get on 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, when she's talking 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's 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 our listeners — old and new — 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, 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, 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 the events of the fall and winter. I will never forget the young creator/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 drive us towards new ways of connecting physically as well as digitally. My sense was that while this passion lay close to his surface, he is never invited to give voice to it. It is counterintuitive to many casual analyses of social networking's dangers.

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 program 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 beyond measure for helping to keep this improbable media space alive and growing.

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is Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University.

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