“Becoming Wise”: Generous Listening a Key

We need Krista Tippett’s voice and wisdom now more than ever. She has elevated the art of listening and the practice of being present in a way that is both accessible and soulful. Becoming Wise is what I’ve been waiting for from Krista – the opportunity to learn from her and her experiences. This is brilliant thinking, beautiful storytelling, and practical insight. You won’t forget what you read here. Brené Brown, regarding Becoming Wise

Individuals of all stripes have conveyed valuable viewpoints over the years to broadcaster and attuned listener Krista Tippett. Her new book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living reflects what she’s carefully heard.

More from Publishers Weekly:

After over a decade doing in-depth interviews and accumulating spiritual knowledge on her popular podcast On Being, Tippett pulls from that well of conversations to reconstruct her trail of investigation into the nature of wisdom…She speaks to all types of ‘spiritual geniuses’ (a phrase taken from Einstein)— from religious and spiritual leaders, to scientists, poets, politicians, and activists, usually those on the frontiers of their professions, bridging divides and opening new avenues into traditional ways of thinking.

What’s her deal? Kirkus Reviews: “Tippett advocates ‘generous listening,’ which she describes as ‘a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity’ in order to generate salient questions that may elicit ‘honesty and eloquence’.”

Her view of wisdom? Tippett tells Michel Martin, NPR: “The litmus test of wisdom is the imprint it makes on the world around it, the imprint a wise life makes on the world around it. And that’s a step beyond other qualities we admire.”

One key way to get wisdom? As stated to Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Huffington Post: “Start with the attention you give to the words you speak…A corollary is (that) we become wise by asking better questions and being listeners, as well as speakers. As I say, generous listening is not about being quiet, it’s about being present. So there’s something about wisdom that knows the power of words and also knows the power of presence and of knowing when to speak is not the right thing.”

Maria Popova, Brainpickings, calls Tippett “a modern-day Simone Weil” and describes the foundation of Becoming Wise:

She explores five primary fertilizers of virtue: words — the language we use to tell the stories we tell about who we are and how the world works; flesh — the body as the birthplace of every virtue, rooted in the idea that ‘how we inhabit our senses tests the mettle of our souls’; love — a word so overused that it has been emptied of meaning yet one that gives meaning to our existence, both in our most private selves and in the fabric of public life; faith — Tippett left a successful career as a political journalist in divided Berlin in the 1980s to study theology not in order to be ordained but in order to question power structures and examine the grounds of moral imagination through the spiritual wisdom of the ages; and hope — an orientation of the mind and spirit predicated not on the blinders of optimism but on a lucid lens on the possible furnished by an active, unflinching reach for it.


For change has always happened in the margins, across human history, and it’s happening there now. Seismic shifts in common life, as in geophysical reality, begin in spaces and cracks.

Scientists…are proving that acts of kindness and generosity are literally infectious, passing from stranger to stranger to stranger. Kindness is an everyday byproduct of all the great virtues, love most especially.

Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a habit that becomes spiritual muscle memory.

I can disagree with your opinion, it turns out, but I can’t disagree with your experience. And once I have a sense of your experience, you and I are in a relationship, acknowledging the complexity of each other’s positions, listening less guardedly. The difference in our opinions will probably remain intact, but it no longer defines what is possible between us. 

In the face of magnitudes of pain in the world that come to us in pictures immediate and raw, many of us care too much and see no evident place for our care to go. But compassion goes about finding the work that can be done.

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