Full moon rises over silhouetted mountain range.Photo by Kym MacKinnon / Unsplash



Earlier this week, I sent out an invite to our second-ever Midwinter Gathering — this coming Tuesday, on the Winter Solstice. So many wonderful RSVPs coming in from all over. Please join us for some calm time, some poetry, and some reflection and ritual, as the light closes in here in the northern hemisphere and lengthens in the southern, and we can all glimpse the end of 2021 ahead.

It remains such a hard, strange time in the life of the world. I cleave as best I can to my “muscular hope,” yet this past year has not lived up to the vision I had for the “beyond” of 2020. It was, I suppose, a dream of moving past the pandemic. Not a return to some old or new undesired “normal,” but at least a page turned, a new chapter opened. We are still, and again, in a liminal time and space — an in-between time of rupture and searching and unmourned losses and so many callings yet to heed, so much change to absorb and propel. My conversation in this week’s show with the wonderful poet and essayist Jane Hirshfield came just as I needed it, with her reframing reminder that “our human task” is precisely this: to acknowledge “the fullness of things.” The darkness that cohabits with light, even at the best of times; the beauty that persists even as this world absorbs a magnitude of suffering. 

She is influenced by neuroscience and physics — two disciplines of discovery which (as you know if you listen to On Being) I see as great sources of wonder and growth for our generation in time. She is equally influenced by a lifetime of the study and practice of Zen. From this vantage point, she offers an evocative perspective on how to be alive now: to “be permeable to the world: the inner world, the outer world, the world of events and stories, the world of a single birdsong, as the light comes up.” She offers this animating question that we might hold and live, with her beautiful care with words, from the origins of her long spiritual inquiry: “What is the place of this self that we all walk around inside of and know the world through? It is indispensable and radiant and opulent and comic, but I was looking for a way of being in the world that didn’t make my own skin such an important thing.”  

And together, Jane and I read, and muse over, a stunning poem of hers that went around the world a few years ago and feels to me freshly offered as a confession and liturgy, with our descendants on this earth in mind, for moving forward in this century: “Let Them Not Say.

This is the last Pause before the final turn of 2021, and so I want to tell you about our Christmas show, too — another new, treasured conversation, with a young journalist/teacher/preacher named Jeff Chu. He was a dear friend to the beloved, brilliant, controversial, Christian blogger/writer/theologian Rachel Held Evans. Months before we entered our pandemic reality of near-commonplace sudden illness and death, Rachel died of complications after hospitalization for the flu, leaving behind a husband and two very young children, and a universe of bereaved friends and followers. I always thought I would interview Rachel one day. She wrote books with titles like Searching for Sunday and A Year of Biblical Womanhood and Faith Unraveled. She spoke to the ever-expanding swath of humanity in our time of spiritual refugees and wanderers; not at home in religion or Church as it came out of the 20th Century, but neither rightly categorized as “spiritual-not-religious.”

Jeff, whom I am so happy now to know, was beloved by Rachel, and now has completed Wholehearted Faith — the book she was writing before her death — as its “midwife” into birth. He is exquisitely wise and tender in his own right. This is an unusual show. I am conversing with him, in part through this book that is Rachel’s, yet now extended and born and infused with the friendship he shared with her. It is rich, too, with the life and perspective he brings on the changed world his beloved friend did not live to see.

A taste of the deep wisdom he offers us in this moment: “I think grief is the love that has to find a place to go, now that the person we’re grieving is no longer here … And I know that my grief and the grief that so many other people are experiencing in the world right now, it cuts as deep as it does because the love is as profound as it is.”

As if that weren’t all enough, this week also brings the final two episodes of this season of Poetry Unbound. I bow to Pádraig, our poet companions, and our producers and magicians who have brought so much beauty and grace and nourishment to the world and to our life as a project through this work, which will continue in the new year.

So: I am brimful with “the fullness of things” as I write this, even as I am brokenhearted and uncertain at this juncture in the life of the world. I am ever grateful for the accompaniment you offer me in the mysterious, miraculous ether where we encounter each other week after week. I know that you, too, are endeavoring to hold the fullness of things in the shape that takes in your life, and I’m honored to be with you on the days when that is too much to ask.

And I am, yes, looking forward to the beyond of this year. I will meet you here again on the other side. I wish you a restorative sacred holiday season, Christmastime, and New Year — and if that is not possible, as much kindness and gentleness toward yourself as you can possibly muster. 


Blessings, and love always, 




This Week at The On Being Project

Our Latest Episode

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On Being with Krista Tippett
Jane Hirshfield
The Fullness of Things

The esteemed writer meets the world at the intersections of Zen & science, poetry & ecology. An hour held in poetry and possibility.

Listen on:
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Poetry Unbound
Craig Santos Perez
Rings of Fire

As the earth’s temperature rises, a poet considers what should be done. His daughter plunges into fever. He does everything he can.

Danez Smith
i’m going back to Minnesota, where sadness makes sense

A poet yearns for a place where winter meets the senses, where sadness can find expression on an icy day, where solitude is met with empty fields of snow.

Listen on:
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Special Event

Text: Midwinter Gathering, Tuesday Dec. 21

An hour of reflection, gentle ritual, and poetry to ponder all we’ve been living through — and orient ourselves generatively, peaceably, towards the world ahead.

December 21st (Winter Solstice) 

2pm PT / 4pm CT / 5pm ET / 10 pm GMT (see in your timezone)

Register Here

Registration is free but required to receive the link to join us on Zoom.  Attendees will not be on video or audio. Closed captioning will be available. 


Watch | “Remembering bell hooks and her enormous legacy” PBS NewsHour

This week our team marked the passing of the much beloved bell hooks, sharing reflections on the many ways hooks impacted our lives and how we understand ourselves and each other. Always with profound awareness of our world’s intersectionality, bell generously extended her life experiences as an open invitation, encouraging us to explore the angles of how our own vulnerabilities can unite us. I appreciated this tribute to bell hooks’ life and tremendous legacy, celebrating how hooks — a teacher to her core — was also a “curate who tended to souls as an educator, bridging the gap between critical theory and everyday life, distilling academic theory into how we are going to live as humans, together.”
— April Adamson, Executive Assistant, Civil Conversations and Social Healing

Play | Before Your Eyes

Last week, I stumbled upon a game that quietly, confidently, and utterly broke my conception of what games can be as an art form. Before Your Eyes is a narrative game where every time you blink in real life, time moves forward in the game. And that simple premise blossoms into a journey in the afterlife, recounting the story of your character’s childhood, coming of age, and first steps into adulthood. The game plays almost like a Pixar movie, and you just need a laptop with a webcam to play. It only takes about 90 minutes to finish — but those 90 minutes will stay with you long after the credits roll. Before Your Eyes is a brilliant meditation on impermanence, death, and what it means to be really, truly present to your life. Warning: do NOT watch the trailer, which is surprisingly spoiler-filled.
— Gautam Srikishan, Producer, On Being Studios


Journey Into the Common Good
July 1-11, 2022
Isle of Patmos, Greece

Krista and Pádraig will be leading a 10-day salon on the Greek Island of Patmos next July, together with musicians Rhiannon Giddens, Franceso Turrisi, and former On Being guest Joe Henry. Organized by Good World Journeys. Everything you need to know, including how to register, can be found here. And please note: the scholarship application deadline has been extended to December 20


As part of our annual cycle, our team is taking a year-end break to rest, reflect, and turn towards the year to come. We will meet you here again on January 8th.
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