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More than 20 years ago, my friend Siobhán said something important
“You’re a bit screwed up,” she said, “I think you need help. In
fact, I know you do.”
First, I was embarrassed, because while I knew I wasn’t doing well,
I thought I was hiding it well. But here it was, laid out for me in
plain sight by a friend loving enough to say it. Remembering it now,
the decision to take her advice — to face the things I didn’t want to
face, to get support in making change — felt quick. But it
I’d spent so much time surviving conflict and anger, and I’d always
told myself I’d never be a person of conflict or anger. But here I
was, fast becoming a man who couldn’t face his own conflict or anger.
I made other people’s lives difficult by telling myself they
were to blame, not me.
Everybody needs friends who speak truth plainly. Siobhán faced me
with stories of myself that I didn’t want to see. Getting help helped.
I mean, it hurt too, of course; then it helped.
Our episodes this week all — in their own way — echo the need to
face realities. In a new On Being conversation, Krista
talks with Rev. Otis Moss III about how the renowned theologian
and mystic Howard Thurman influenced his work and witness. Thurman’s
book Jesus and the Disinherited was said to have always been
by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s side. Addressing contemporary
American Christianity, Moss calls for “A tradition of hope unafraid to
face horror, a tradition of possibility unafraid to stare down pain.”
And he alerts us all toward time, asking the question of
when the someday of “We shall overcome, someday” will arrive?
Naming Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, we know it’s
not yet come. Many more facings are needed.
From Poetry Unbound, too, we hear of Natalie
Diaz speaking from the biblical story of Lot’s wife, who dared to
face the burning city of Sodom and weep for it, even as she was
punished for this action. And Molly
McCully Brown faces a town that others may see as part of flyover
country, a place to pass through on the way somewhere else. She
sees love and wonder where others see a gas station.
Why face reality? What is on the other side of such facings? Otis
Moss III speaks of working inward in order to work outward. He quotes
Howard Thurman, who urged people to take an inward journey in order to
“find the sound of the genuine in you.” Finding a way to face up to
past complicities, failures, prejudices and laments can provide a
freedom to live from this genuine space. This isn’t just about
individuals seeking therapy either: failures are both personal and
political. Facing them, then, is both personal and political. And — in
all hope we hope — the outworking of such brave facings is also both
personal and political. For all.
Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry
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Week at The On Being Project
Our Latest Episode
On Being with Krista
Otis Moss III
The Sound of the Genuine: Traversing
with ‘the Mystic of the Movement’ Howard Thurman
work inward to work outward.” Jesus and the disinherited.
Contemplation, lamentation, and hope.
Course She Looked Back
The poet challenges the biblical story
of Lot’s wife, inviting us to see her actions as a form of
Molly McCully Brown
A poet considers how a place that
others might pass through “looks like home.”
the Questions: Live!
What questions are you holding in yourself and for the world right
now? Bring what’s on your mind and heart to an hour of reflection —
deep thinking out loud — with Krista Tippett and Lucas Johnson, our
executive director of Civil Conversations and Social Healing.
Join us for the free livestream event on Monday, Oct. 26 at 5 p.m.
in advance here.
Read | “Dangerous
Spirituality” by Vincent Harding
In this essay, the
late civil rights leader describes Howard Thurman as a seeker who “was
never satisfied with the truth that he had achieved, knowing always
that there was more to come, and that he must never think that he had
found it all.”
Watch | Backs
Against The Wall: The Howard Thurman Story
documentary explores Thurman’s extraordinary life, and features
interviews with the late Congressman John Lewis, Otis Moss Jr., and
other leaders in the civil rights movement.
Listen | “Y’Outta
Praise Him” by Robert Glasper
When we asked Rev. Otis
Moss III for suggestions of music to include with this week’s On
Being conversation, we loved what he wrote about this track by
pianist and producer Robert Glasper: “This selection shows his love
and respect for the Black spiritual musical influence … The
intentional loose play sounds like people in church who are not
professional singers yet they create a sound no trained singer can
Krista Tippett at Rural Assembly
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 3-3:45 p.m.
Free livestream (must register)
Krista will speak about the challenges and promise of this
extraordinary moment we inhabit at this event geared toward rural
allies, neighbors, and admirers. More