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Lions Roar : January 2017
A S THE CREATOR AND HOST the popular public radio/podcast On Being, and the author of Becoming Wise , Krista Tippett is renowned for her meetings of mind and spirit with wisdom figures, politicians, poets, and great thinkers of our time. She is the host and narrator of America’s spiritual journey. When I asked her to define American spirituality and predict where it’s going, she navigated these big questions with articulate, considered insights. As we chatted, Tippett herself was being guided by the interrupting wisdom of Google Maps. She was driving to her next destination. —LINDSAY KYTE Since you began your journey with On Being, what changes have you seen in how spiritual practice is regarded in main- stream American society? There’s been an important shift, an opening and softening toward spirituality. When I started my show in the early 2000s, there was a sense in respectable educated circles that you couldn’t talk about this part of life with any intellectual integ- rity or reasonableness. That is changing, in some ways dramat- ically and in other ways more subtly. More and more, we have unexpected public figures or journalists speaking about spirit- ual practice or things like mindfulness, which is the vocabulary many people use now. Two years ago, I got the National Humanities medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Years earlier we had applied for funding from the NEH, but at that point talking about the humanities and including spirituality was intellec- tually suspect. But when I got the citation for the medal, it read something like, “Thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence.” A decade earlier, “the mysteries of human existence” was not a topic that would have been considered respectable by federal agencies and the White House. Tell us about your own spiritual path or belief system. I don’t really have a quick one-word label. I would say Chris- tianity is my mother tongue and homeland. But I’m not an especially active Christian right now in the traditional ways. My yoga practice is as important a part of my spiritual life as anything else. I also get a lot of spiritual nourishment out of the work I do. As well, reading passages from Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart at regular intervals is a big piece of my spiritual life. Who are the people you serve in your show and what’s the common thread that binds them together? I would say they’re seekers, people who are searching. We have devout Christians, Muslims, Jews, people with a very serious Buddhist practice, atheists and agnostics, and people search- ing for their spiritual path. What joins all of them together is a spirituality evolved as much through questioning as it is through answers. We also serve people who are really commit- ted and intentional at the intersection of inner life and outer presence in the world. How has your audience been changing over the years? The cultural encounter with the spiritual part of life has been rapidly evolving. There’s a tectonic shift happening that we don’t stop to acknowledge often enough. We are the first generation of humans who haven’t inherited our spiritual identities. For most of human history, in most cul- Krista Tippett VOICE OF AMERICA’S SPIRITUAL JOURNEY LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 46