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Listen | David Whyte on the conversational nature of reality

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The Onbeing podcast episode with David Whyte.

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.

Including…

The importance of asking beautiful questions

…a beautiful question shapes a beautiful mind. And so the ability to ask beautiful questions, often in very unbeautiful moments, is one of the great disciplines of a human life. And a beautiful question starts to shape your identity as much by asking it as it does by having it answered.

And you don’t have to do anything about it. You just have to keep asking. And before you know it, you will find yourself actually shaping a different life, meeting different people, finding conversations that are leading you in those directions that you wouldn’t even have seen before.

And…

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without; vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present, and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature; the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability, we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

“To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances is a lovely, illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers, powers eventually and most emphatically given up as we approach our last breath. The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance. Our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”

And the importance of darkness…

Sweet Darkness


…The dark will make a home for you tonight.
The night
will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing. You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
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.”

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Listen | Maria Popova, Cartographer of Meaning in a digital world

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This is a wonderful conversation between Maria Popova, creator of the wonderful Brainpickings site, which is frequently referenced on this blog, and Krista Tippett host of the On Being podcasts. I love listening to the On Being podcasts and this is one of the best. It’s an insightful conversation between two hugely generous, compassionate and intelligent people.

In keeping with what On Being is interested in, the conversation covers a range of topics; philosophy and design, physics and poetry, the intellectual and the experiential. As the On Being site puts it, “what it means to live a good life – intellectually, creatively and spiritually.”

Maria Popova on the acquisition of knowledge and meaning:

And I remember, there’s a really beautiful commencement address that Adrienne Rich gave in 1977 in which she said that an education is not something that you get but something that you claim. And I think that’s very much true of knowledge itself. The reason we’re so increasingly intolerant of long articles and why we skim them, why we skip forward even in a short video that reduces a 300-page book into a three-minute animation — even in that we skip forward — is that we’ve been infected with this kind of pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge but not do the work of claiming it. I mean, the true material of knowledge is meaning. And the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. And the only thing that we should have gleaned by skimming and skipping forward is really trivia. And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else. It’s just time.
There is no shortcut for the conquest of meaning. And ultimately, it is meaning that we seek to give to our lives.

 

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