Dear friends, 

More than 20 years ago, my friend Siobhán said something important to me. 

“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 wasn’t. 

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. 

Beir bua

Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound


This Week at The On Being Project

Our Latest Episode

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On Being with Krista Tippett
Otis Moss III
The Sound of the Genuine: Traversing 2020
with ‘the Mystic of the Movement’ Howard Thurman

“You work inward to work outward.” Jesus and the disinherited. Contemplation, lamentation, and hope.

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
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Poetry Unbound

Natalie Diaz
Of Course She Looked Back

The poet challenges the biblical story of Lot’s wife, inviting us to see her actions as a form of protest.

Molly McCully Brown

A poet considers how a place that others might pass through “looks like home.”

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Our Website

Living 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. ET. Register 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
This 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 ever produce.”


Krista Tippett at Rural Assembly Everywhere
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 3-3:45 p.m. ET
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 information.

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