Dear friends,

Years ago I was facilitating a conversation between two groups in Belfast. The groups were from vastly different points of view about politics, religion, and society. They had invited me to facilitate a conversation about peace. I accepted.

I like stories, so I wanted to talk about peace by highlighting a story — a complex story.  I sourced an article, verified it, and asked the event leader if this article was suitable. Yes, they said, it’s perfect. So, the day I met the two groups, I distributed copies of the story saying, We think this would be a good article to discuss while we consider peace.

It wasn’t.

The article made reference to a particular bomb in Belfast. What I didn’t know was that some of the people in the room had been the first respondents to that atrocity. They’d picked through rubble looking for friends. Other people knew one of the bombers — he’d been released under amnesty after our peace agreement. Fury rose; rightly so.

It was a spectacular failure. I wanted to blame someone else, but that wouldn’t have achieved anything. Amazingly, the groups elected to stay talking. It was tough. People asked each other questions about the bomb, the bomber, the aftermath, the victims, their families ...They didn’t find a “middle road” — their viewpoints remained divided. But the lives of the victims of this bomb were amplified as the main lens through which to view their discussions. They disagreed in a way that changed their understanding of each other without — and this is vital — tolerating the intolerable.

I say all this because it echoes something the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said in his 2010 conversation with Krista. “The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation, speaking our fears, listening to the fears of others, and in that sharing of vulnerabilities, discovering a genesis of hope.” We’re re-airing this conversation in light of his untimely death last weekend. His name is a blessing.

For Rabbi Sacks, talking to each other is not about creating a false and tepid peace. Conversation is the place of significant argument and — eventually — deep exploration of difference. He knows that people who’ve been locked in awful conflicts can explore their conflicts in rooms where substantial change, recognition, and admission can happen.

The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to president and vice president last weekend was monumental. Once again, the United States is embarking on a pathway of change. In that change, exploration, curiosity, conversation, challenge, and community will be vital.

Paul Tran’s poem “The Cave” on Poetry Unbound continues on in this theme. In their poem we are invited to explore a cave: a cave of ideas, a cave where you feel alone, even though others have gone before you. The speaker in the poem urges the listeners to keep going, to follow the idea, to explore past the point of fear, to find unexpected ancestors whose courage lights our way. And Tayi Tibble’s poem “Our Nan Lets Us Smoke Inside” considers how a long life of inclusion, family-by-choice, celebration, and listening — in times of joy and times of grief — have the power to create even in the face of division.

We’re glad you’re listening. We are too — and we’re always glad to hear from you.

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

Jonathan Sacks
Remembering Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

How to be true to one’s own convictions while also honoring the sacred and civilizational calling to shared life — indeed, to love the stranger?

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Poetry Unbound

Paul Tran
The Cave

A poem about exploring the cave — where secrets, solitude, and courage are found. 

Tayi Tibble
Our Nan Lets Us Smoke Inside

A poet recalls her love for her nan, a member of her chosen family, a woman of welcome and generosity, in times of celebration and grief.

Listen on:
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Poetry Film: The World

This week in our new "Poetry Film" series, we're featuring a short film by Ella Dobson featuring Rumi’s poem “The World,” translated and read by Fatemeh Keshavarz.

Staff Recommendations


Listen | Irish theological podcast ‘Guardians of the Flame
Inspired by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ phrase “We must be guardians of the flame,” this Irish podcast takes a theological look at topics of liberation and reconciliation. In this episode host Jonny Clark interviews South African theologian René August. — Pádraig Ó Tuama

Watch | My Octopus Teacher
Filmmaker Craig Foster’s exploration of a single underwater kelp forest is mesmerizing. His life-changing apprenticeship to the octopus he encounters there each day is a soul stirring reminder that wild things have the power to reawaken us — if only we would pay attention! — Ben Katt, Associate Director, Religious Life & Social Healing

Read | How I Became A Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence
Mark O’Brien was a journalist and poet whose life and work inspired one of my favorite movies, The Sessions. Reading Mark’s memoir — which also includes some of his poetry —  made me feel less alone during these pandemic times, and helped me to more deeply appreciate the importance of intimacy, relationships, and human touch. — Liliana Maria Percy Ruiz, Executive Producer 




The Long Road Ahead of Healing the Heart of American Democracy
Nov. 18, 4 p.m. ET
Digital livestream 

Join NationSwell and Einhorn Collaborative for this conversation, moderated by Krista, about what it will take to heal and repair our fractured country and how each of us can contribute to this urgent, long-term work.

Healing the Nation
Nov. 19, 8 p.m. ET
Digital livestream 

After an especially contentious election, what paths can we take that will help heal a divided nation? Join Krista, the founder of The Progress Network, Zachary Karabell, and Interfaith Youth Core's Eboo Patel as they discuss the role of spiritually-based solutions to moving forward together.

Faith, Compassion and Healing our National Divides
Nov. 20, 11 a.m. ET
Digital livestream 

Krista will moderate a discussion with two of America’s best-known faith leaders, The Most Rev. Michael Curry and Dr. Russell Moore, who will share their personal views, examine areas of common ground, and explore how some of the key ethical teachings of their faith are relevant to the task of creating understanding and reconciliation between Americans of different political views.


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