Episodes Archive

Our Latest Show April 28, 2016

Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek sees beauty as a compass for truth, discovery, and meaning. His book, A Beautiful Question, is a long meditation on the question: “Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” He’s the unusual scientist willing to analogize his discoveries about the deep structure of reality with deep meaning in the human everyday.

Episode Archive

April 2016

April 28, 2016

Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek sees beauty as a compass for truth, discovery, and meaning. His book, A Beautiful Question, is a long meditation on the question: “Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” He’s the unusual scientist willing to analogize his discoveries about the deep structure of reality with deep meaning in the human everyday.

April 21, 2016

The civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander is one of the people who is waking us up to history we don't remember, and structures most of us can't fathom intending to create. She calls the punitive culture that has emerged the "new Jim Crow," and is making it visible in the name of a fierce hope and belief in our collective capacity to engender the transformation to which this moment is calling.

April 14, 2016

The band Cloud Cult is hard to categorize — both musically and lyrically — though it's been called an "orchestral indie rock collective." Less in question is the profound and life-giving force of its music. Cloud Cult's trajectory was altered the day its co-founder and singer-songwriter, Craig Minowa, and his wife woke up to find that their two-year-old son had mysteriously died in his sleep. Live from our studios on Loring Park, we explore the art that has emerged ever since — spanning the human experience from the rawest grief to the fiercest hope.

April 07, 2016

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.”

David Whyte is a poet and philosopher who believes in the power of a “beautiful question” amidst the drama of work as well as the drama of life — amidst the ways the two overlap, whether we want them to or not. He shared a deep friendship with the late Irish philosopher John O’Donohue. They were, David Whyte says, like “two bookends.” More recently, he’s written about the consolation, nourishment, and underlying meaning of everyday words.

March 2016

March 31, 2016

When Tiffany Shlain thinks of her favorite quote from naturalist John Muir, she thinks of the internet: "When you tug at a single thing in the universe, you find it's attached to everything else." As a filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards — the "Oscars of the internet" — she is committed to reframing technology as an expression of the best of what humanity is capable, with all the complexity that entails. With her young family, she has helped popularize the practice of the "tech shabbat" — 24 unplugged hours each week. Her perspective on our technology-enhanced lives is ultimately a purposeful and enriching one: the internet is our global brain, towards which we can apply all the wisdom we are gaining about the brains in our heads and the character in our lives.

March 24, 2016

There’s a kind of brilliance that flashes up in early adulthood: an ability to see the world whole. Nathan Schneider has been able to articulate and sustain that far-seeing eye of young adulthood. He’s also a gifted writer, chronicling the world he and his compatriots are helping to make — spiritual, technological, and communal. At the Chautauqua Institution, we explore the wisdom of a millennial generation public intellectual on the emerging fabric of human identity.

March 17, 2016

In the 1960s, Nikki Giovanni was a revolutionary poet of the Black Arts Movement that nourished civil rights. She had a famous dialogue with James Baldwin in Paris in 1971. Now a professor at Virginia Tech, she brought beauty and courage by way of poetry after the shooting there. Today, she is a self-proclaimed space freak and a delighted elder — an adored voice to hip-hop artists and the new forms of social change this generation is creating.

March 10, 2016

The Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah is a rich, magnetic world of thought and teaching. It has resonance with modern understandings of reality — and describes a cosmic significance to the practical moral call to tikkun olam, "repair the world." Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is a long-time student and articulator of the mysteries and messages of Kabbalah. We speak with him in honor of the 20th-century historian Gershom Scholem, who resurrected this tradition from obscurity and made it accessible to modern people.

March 03, 2016

The great cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a citizen artist and a forensic musicologist, decoding the work of musical creators across time and space. In his art, Yo-Yo Ma resists fixed boundaries, and would like to rename classical music just “music” — born in improvisation, and traversing territory as vast and fluid as the world we inhabit. In this generous and intimate conversation, he shares his philosophy of curiosity about life, and of performance as hospitality.

February 2016

February 25, 2016

“Why is the world so beautiful?” This is a question Robin Wall Kimmerer pursues as a botanist and also as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She writes, “Science polishes the gift of seeing, indigenous traditions work with gifts of listening and language.” An expert in moss — a bryologist — she describes mosses as the “coral reefs of the forest.” Her work opens a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in all kinds of life we are used to naming and imagining as “inanimate.” She says that as our knowledge about plant life unfolds, human vocabulary and imaginations must adapt.

February 18, 2016

We’ve heard a lot about Black Lives Matter, but you may never have heard one of its founders reflect outside a moment of crisis. #BlackLivesMatter co-founder and artist Patrisse Cullors presents a luminous vision of the resilient world we’re making now. She joins Dr. Robert Ross, a physician and a leader who is helping redefine public health in terms of human wholeness, in a cross-generational conversation. They give voice to the generative potential in this moment we inhabit — its courage and creativity, its seeds in trauma and resilience, and its possibility for all of our growth as individuals and community.

February 11, 2016

Brain surgeon James Doty is on the cutting edge of our knowledge of the brain and the heart: how they talk to each other; what compassion means in the body and in action; and how we can reshape our lives and perhaps our species through the scientific and human understanding we are now gaining. The backstory of James Doty’s passions is told in his memoir, Into the Magic Shop. In the summer of 1968, in the throes of a hardscrabble, perilous childhood, he wandered into a magic shop and met a woman named Ruth who taught him what she called “another kind of magic” that freed him from being a victim of the circumstances of his life, and that he now investigates through science.

February 04, 2016

Jean Berko Gleason is a living legend in the field of psycholinguistics — how language emerges, and what it tells us about how we think and who we are. She has helped to illustrate the remarkable ordinary human capacity to begin to speak, and she’s continued to break new ground in exploring what this may teach us about adults as about the children we’re raising. We keep learning about the human gift, as she puts it, to be conscious of ourselves and to comment on that. For her, the exploration of language is a frontier every bit as important and thrilling as exploring outer space or the deep sea.

January 2016

January 28, 2016

“Let death be what takes us,” Dr. BJ Miller has written, “not a lack of imagination.” As a palliative care physician, he brings a design sensibility to the matter of living until we die. And he’s largely redesigned his sense of own physical presence after an accident at college left him without both of his legs and part of one arm. He offers a transformative reframing on our imperfect bodies, the ways we move through the world, and all that we don’t control.

January 21, 2016

Now nearing 90, Brother David Steindl-Rast has lived through a world war, the end of an empire, and the fascist takeover of his country. He's given a TED talk, viewed over five million times, on the subject of gratitude — a practice increasingly interrogated by scientists and physicians as a key to human well-being. He was also an early pioneer, together with Thomas Merton, of dialogue between Christian and Buddhist monastics. In this conversation from our visit to the Gut Aich Priory monastery in St. Gilgen, Austria, he speaks of mysticism as the birthright of every human being, and of the anatomy and practice of gratitude as full-blooded, reality-based, and redeeming.

January 14, 2016

Stephen Batchelor’s “secular Buddhism” speaks to the mystery and vitality of spiritual life in every form. For him, secularism opens to doubt and questioning as a radical basis for spiritual life. Above all, he understands Buddhism without transcendent beliefs like “karma” or “reincarnation” to become something urgent to do, not to believe in.

January 07, 2016

One of the most extraordinary minds of American and global history, W.E.B. Du Bois penned the famous line that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” He is a formative voice for many of the people who gave us the Civil Rights Movement. But his passionate, poetic words and intelligence continue to enliven 21st-century life on the color line and beyond it. We bring Du Bois’ life and ideas into relief — featuring one of the last interviews the great Maya Angelou gave before her death.

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