Ware Lecturer Krista Tippett urges ‘listening as a civic tool’

Ware Lecturer Krista Tippett urges ‘listening as a civic tool’

In these toxic times, ‘Are we not of interest to each other?’ she asks.

Elaine McArdle
Ware Lecturer Krista Tippett

Ware Lecturer Krista Tippett © 2016 Nancy Pierce/UUA

© 2016 Nancy Pierce/UUA


In an election year that is “toxic” and a “spectacle,” it is critically important that we “rediscover listening as a social art, and questions as civic tools,” said Peabody-Award winning broadcaster and best-selling author Krista Tippett at the Ware Lecture Saturday night, “The Mystery and Art of Living.”

“Are we not of interest to each other?” Tippett asked, quoting the poet Elizabeth Alexander. “I believe that good questions, generously poised, seriously held, are powerful things” that can open us to each other, she said.

“We have it in us to create the spaces for taking up the hard questions of meaning in our time . . . to discover how to calm fear and plant the seeds of the robust common life we desire and that our age demands, said Tippett, who has helped “reframe journalism about religion,” as UUA President Peter Morales said in his introduction of her. “This is civic work and it is human spiritual work in the most expansive 21st-century meaning of that word,” she said.

Tippett, the creator and host of On Being, a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, in 2014 received the National Humanities Medal at the White House for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence.” Her current book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, a New York Times best-seller, raises the major questions and challenges of the 21st century.

As she looked out upon the auditorium filled with Unitarian Universalists, Tippett smiled and noted that 9 percent of her On Being listeners identify as UUs, “so I know I’m with my people.” She went on to describe the importance of openness and genuine curiosity about each other in these highly polarized times.

“In this century of technology that binds, the question of what it means to be human has become inextricable from the question of who we are to each other,” she said. “Our vulnerability and flourishing are linked to that of others, and on a planetary scale.”

“Pain and fear, when they show themselves in public, very often come out looking like anger,” she said. “It’s no wonder that common life has become daring, a frontier to settle.” Again quoting Alexander, Tippett said that “we are starved for fresh language to approach each other.”

“Words matter,” she continued. The word “tolerance is not big enough in human, ethical, and spiritual terms” to capture what is required of us. “It is too cerebral to animate guts and behavior when the going gets rough. . . . It doesn’t even invite us to understand, be curious, be moved or surprised by each other.” Virtues, she said, are “spiritual technologies,” and love is the “superstar virtue.”

After the lecture, for which she received a standing ovation, Tippett met with UUs and signed her books.

Ware Lecture by Krista Tippett at UUA General Assembly 2016

Watch video here.