Five key words serve as guideposts in a search for wisdom.
In a thoughtful chronicle of spiritual discovery, Peabody Award–winning broadcaster Tippett (Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit, 2010, etc.), host of NPR’s On Being, draws on conversations with poets, scientists, theologians, and other seekers of truth. The author focuses on five concepts—words, flesh, love, faith, and hope—that she identifies as “raw materials” for the “superstar virtues” of “love, compassion [and] forgiveness.” Those virtues are undermined, she writes, by public discourse that “inclines toward despair,” fueled by journalism exposing only “what is inadequate, corrupt, catastrophic, and failing.” “Our world,” she counters, “is abundant with quiet, hidden lives of beauty and courage and goodness.” Tippett advocates “generous listening,” which she describes as “a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity” in order to generate salient questions that may elicit “honesty and eloquence.” Throughout the book, Tippett offers excerpts from dialogues with a wide range of people: the playwright and social activist Eve Ensler, the creator of The Vagina Monologues, who has encouraged women to “tell the stories of their lives through the stories of their bodies”; philosopher and humanitarian Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche movement, a series of communities where able-bodied and mentally disabled people live together as equals; Elizabeth Alexander, who wrote Barack Obama’s inaugural poem, invoking “love into a political moment, into a public space”; congressman John Lewis, who described the civil rights community as “a circle of trust”; travel writer, essayist, and novelist Pico Iyer, who has embarked on a “great adventure of the inner world.” Spirituality, says Iyer, is “the story of our passionate affair with what is deepest inside us,” while religion “is the community, the framework, the tradition, all the other people into which we bring what we find in solitude.”
A hopeful consideration of the human potential for enlightenment.