Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

Becoming Wise by Krista TippettBecoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
Published by Penguin Press on April 5, 2016
Genres: Spiritual Growth
Pages: 304
Source: I listened to this audiobook via my TuneIn Premium subscription.
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“I’m a person who listens for a living.  I listen for wisdom, and beauty, and for voices not shouting to be heard.  This book chronicles some of what I’ve learned in what has become a conversation across time and generations, across disciplines and denominations.”   Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and National Humanities Medalist Krista Tippett has interviewed the most extraordinary voices examining the great questions of meaning for our time. The heart of her work on her national public radio program and podcast, On Being, has been to shine a light on people whose insights kindle in us a sense of wonder and courage. Scientists in a variety of fields; theologians from an array of faiths; poets, activists, and many others have all opened themselves up to Tippett's compassionate yet searching conversation.   In Becoming Wise, Tippett distills the insights she has gleaned from this luminous conversation in its many dimensions into a coherent narrative journey, over time and from mind to mind. The book is a master class in living, curated by Tippett and accompanied by a delightfully ecumenical dream team of teaching faculty.   The open questions and challenges of our time are intimate and civilizational all at once, Tippett says – definitions of when life begins and when death happens, of the meaning of community and family and identity, of our relationships to technology and through technology. The wisdom we seek emerges through the raw materials of the everyday. And the enduring question of what it means to be human has now become inextricable from the question of who we are to each other.   This book offers a grounded and fiercely hopeful vision of humanity for this century – of personal growth but also renewed public life and human spiritual evolution. It insists on the possibility of a common life for this century marked by resilience and redemption, with beauty as a core moral value and civility and love as muscular practice. Krista Tippett's great gift, in her work and in Becoming Wise, is to avoid reductive simplifications but still find the golden threads that weave people and ideas together into a shimmering braid.   One powerful common denominator of the lessons imparted to Tippett is the gift of presence, of the exhilaration of engagement with life for its own sake, not as a means to an end. But presence does not mean passivity or acceptance of the status quo. Indeed Tippett and her teachers are people whose work meets, and often drives, powerful forces of change alive in the world today. In the end, perhaps the greatest blessing conveyed by the lessons of spiritual genius Tippett harvests in Becoming Wise is the strength to meet the world where it really is, and then to make it better.


How do we open conversational spaces and improve public discourse? This a huge theme in Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise, and arguably the foundation of “becoming wise.” Tippett certainly opens these spaces in this book by sharing a wonderful collection of interviews from her NPR radio show On Being. Tippett makes the point that wisdom comes forth out of tough, difficult conversations that are approached with love and respect, and she includes voices from a wide variety of traditions and ideologies.

I listened to the audiobook version, and hearing these interviews was my favorite part (thankfully, these clips made up a significant portion of the book). When Tippett was narrating alone, it sounded like she was reading from a script, and she tended to speak so quickly that it could be difficult to absorb her weighty points.

I loved so much about this book and took copious notes; so many, that sharing them here could easily turn into a week-long blogging marathon. Some of my favorite points:

  • Learn to “[move] through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.”
  • The importance of language, how it brings people up or tears them down.
  • Importance of wanting to know each other as the key to improving public discourse. “Listening less guardedly” and “generous listening, born out of curiosity.” These are skills we can evolve in ourselves. “Hearing is how we touch at a distance.”
  • Poetry and poetic language as a mirror of humanity, our relationships. Naturally-occurring haiku: How haiku spontaneously energe when people speak passionately about something, at moments of understanding or realization. (So cool!)
  • The fear of change, especially the change of society, is a huge force behind white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Being in relationship with each other is what’s important. Not sovereignty, not control—which is what people think they’re supposed to attain.
  • Who gets to define faith? Institutions or individuals? How does that affect our world in politics, social issues, education, etc.? Looking at the Middle East as a reformation currently happening. Fundamentalism is a reaction to progress.
  • Compassion finds the work that CAN be done, even when feeling overwhelmed by all the bad in the world. We can deal with the pain of the world by focusing on the wonder of the world, how people help and take care of each other, how amazing life, and our world, is.
  • “Spiritual humility…is about approaching everything and everyone else with a readiness to see goodness and be surprised.”

I listened to this while reading The Book of Joy and the two ended up being a perfect pairing, with lots of thematic overlap. There is a lot of hope in Becoming Wise, reminders in how to see the good around us. I don’t know about you, but I can use all the reminders I can get lately.

  • I *love* books like this. I try to read one in between each fiction book. I’ll definitely be checking this one out, looks like it is full of useful wisdom. Great review!

  • God, it’s so true that a lot of prejudices seem to be based on fear of change. I think that’s probably why I don’t have a lot of sympathy for it — I myself am very fearful of change, and I work to combat that in myself, so I think for that reason, I am less tolerant of other people who don’t try to combat it. You can choose to not suck, you know? Like, you can look at your choices and choose the one where you’re not being a dick to people.