How can you imagine and create a world for everyone?
In this new podcast episode, we’re sharing our conversation with Krista Tippett, which was the closing keynote conversation from the 2023 Collective Impact Action. Krista is a journalist, a National Humanities Medalist, a bestselling author, and founder of the On Being Project—a groundbreaking media and public life initiative that uplifts and celebrates deep thinking and conversations around what it means to be here together in this world.
In this fireside chat, Krista joins Cindy Santos (Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions) for a conversation about what it means to create new spaces—spaces that nurture Belonging, center relationships, and value healing, joy, and connection.
Please find a transcript of this talk further down this page.
References and Footnotes
- Reflections on this keynote talk by Deb Halliday
- On Being
- What is the On Being Project to read the “Enough of us…” poem/statement
- John Paul Lederach
- Where Life is Precious, life is precious, with Ruth Wilson Gilmore
- Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown
- Tending Joy and Practicing Delight, with Ross Gay
- “Joy Is the Justice We Give Ourselves.” A Poem by J. Drew Lanham
- Pathfinding Through the Improbable with J. Drew Lanham
- Where does it hurt, with Ruby Sales
- Collective Change Lab
- The Relational Work of Systems Change, Stanford Social Innovation Review
- Leading from Languishing to Beloved Community, with Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson
- To be a Healer, with Vivek Murthy
- Rest is Resistance, by Tricia Hersey
More on Collective Impact
(Intro) Welcome to the Collective Impact Forum podcast, here to share resources to support social change makers working on cross-sector collaboration.
The Collective Impact Forum is a nonprofit field-building initiative that is co-hosted in partnership by the nonprofit consulting firm FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions.
In this episode, we’re sharing the closing keynote conversation from the 2023 Collective Impact Action Summit featuring Krista Tippett. This conversation explores questions around what it means to imagine and create a world that we all want to be part of together. Krista Tippett is a journalist, a National Humanities Medalist, a bestselling author, and founder of the On Being Project—a groundbreaking media and public life initiative that uplifts and celebrates deep thinking and conversations around what it means to be here together in this world.
In this fireside chat, Krista joins my Forum colleague Cindy Santos, who is Senior Associate at the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Cindy and Krista discuss together what it means to create new spaces—spaces that nurture Belonging, center relationships, and value healing, joy, and connection. Let’s tune in.
Cindy Santos: Today I have the absolute honor and privilege to be in conversation with Krista Tippet. Among Krista’s accomplishments I will share that she is a Peabody Award winning journalist and National Humanities Medalist, the author of Becoming Wise and Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, and a host of On Being, a podcast about the big questions of meaning. Krista has been in conversation with many thinkers and dreamers and doers, familiar to us, Isabel Wilkerson, Bryan Stevenson, Priya Parker who joined us at last year’s Action Summit.
To me, what each of these conversations have in common is promise, and that’s the promise that we can be together in our full humanity. So we’re here today because you too are thinkers, you’re dreamers, and you’re doers, and you work tirelessly in your communities to pursue equity, to center the voices and experiences of the communities in which you work, and to create the world that we want to see. You also believe in that promise.
So Krista, when you and I talked, I mentioned a poem that you wrote and what you said was, “I actually don’t think of it as a poem. I think of it as my mission statement.” The mission statement is absolutely embodied in all of your work and it reads, “Enough of us across all of our differences see that we have a world to remake. We want to orient towards that possibility. We want to meet what is hard and what is hurting. We want to rise to what is beautiful and lifegiving, and we want to do that where we live, and we want to do that alongside others.” As you’ve been on your journey, Krista, what has compelled you to invite people across differences to join you in embracing complexity?
Krista Tippett: Thank you, Cindy. What I also said to you when you said that you read it as a poem, I said I loved it that you read it as poem. You know, just the way you asked that question, what that draws forth from me is that complexity is the reality. It’s hard for us to hold that. It’s hard to use our words in a way that always conveys that, but I’m drawn to reality, and I want to investigate that and I want to investigate in its fullness. In terms of across our differences, you know, I think what I’m also deeply, deeply interested in is wholeness and our kinship to each other and we have so many ways of masking that and fighting with it and pretending it’s not true and organizing, structuring our world like it’s not true. But to me, that is also an insistence on the reality of things, beneath it all, overarching, there is this fact, I mean this phrase of belonging which we want to live into. It’s a reality that we have to live into. It’s not something we have to make true. But that’s all hard to wrap our minds around because it’s not the way we structure our world up to now.
Cindy Santos: As we think about structuring our world, to me it takes having a vision of what we want our world to look like. Your conversations on On Being really also, in addition to you struggling and grappling with complexity, you challenge your listeners to also sit in that complexity. As I’m thinking about the group of folks that are here there’s really nothing more complex that trying to remake our world. Yet the people on the Zoom are all over the world and they’re collectively working in their communities to remake that world. As I think about what more complex again than remaking our world. What does it really take, right? In the mix of all of this complexity to stay oriented towards that possibility that we can do it. We can remake our world. How can we stay oriented towards that?
Krista Tippett: You know, I was looking at the site and some of the language that you’ve used around this conference and I see language of healing and being healing centered and centered, and the notion of belonging. I think something that’s become clear to me also as somebody who’s lived 60 years, I think there’s a new sensibility, a new—there’s been some transformation in the understanding of what it means to be an activist for what our generation in time is called to in terms of this remaking of the world. I think that in previous generations—you know, it is a pattern in history and it’s certainly a pattern in American history, in movements of incredible depletion that follows great successes, great change. I feel like this generation and I’m not really talking about ages. I really mean our generation in time, but I think younger generations obviously are going to—that’s where so much of the energy and so much of division is. And we all have to walk alongside each other. I think there’s this new commitment to understanding that if we’re going to create a healed transformed world we also have to work on the healing and transformation of ourselves and that is also about being in it for the long haul. I do think that being alive right now in this century, it’s very clear that the challenges that we’re facing, that the callings that we have, you know, ecological, racial, economic, political, and all the things spiritual, all the things that fall into those large categories, those are callings for the rest of our lifetime. This is not something that going to be—there are things that we can do today and tomorrow and in 10 years, but the bigger picture is something that we are all going to collectively be bringing into being in generational time. I think if that is true and it is true, that just brings home a whole new way that each and everyone in our movements in our communities have to build in getting centered and always getting recentered and reaching for healing when that’s what we need. And also, even having people around us who on the days when there’s too much for us to ask of ourselves to be hopeful, to have other people who can carry those things, and even a sense of belonging when that eludes us, when we don’t feel it. And this is always actually the way the great virtues of work, they were never supposed to be individual things, privately, something you privately invested and privately carried, all of that comes to me right now.
Cindy Santos: When you talk about just these new sensibilities and that transformation, and you used the word activism and movement, we talk about movement building quite a bit in our work, and in something that you wrote you used the word critical yeast. What does that mean and how does it really relate to transformation and remaking our world?
Krista Tippett: I have a very important teacher who has given me that phrase and that is John Paul Lederach and he is a peacebuilder and he’s one of the people in our world and I love finding these people. When there’s been a transformation of a society at the end of a war, the people who are not standing up on stage, but the people who’ve been making this happen, he’s the person who in Colombia, in Northern Ireland, in Nepal, in South Africa, one of these people just stitching something together over decades. One of the things that John Paul has said as a student, as a scholar, and as a practitioner, and he’s very influential in the field of conflict resolution. He prefers to talk about conflict transformation. Somebody’s likely to have it. Conflict transformation because one thing he says is that there are tools to transform a conflict or to resolve a conflict but it’s only if you transformed the conditions that gave rise to that conflict. That’s really what he wants to work on now because if you don’t transform the conditions the conflict will reinvent itself, and this is also a pattern in our world. One of the things he says is that where he’s seeing conflict transformation happen at small scales, at large scales, he says that we tend to focus culturally, in terms of in media, on critical mass, that moment when a movement suddenly turns into massive bodies on the street. He says that where there is transformation that happens over time what precedes and follows and what sows that field for sustained transformation is what he calls critical yeast, and that it starts with small groups of people in unlikely combinations and a new quality of relationship. I have found since I started working with this and this is our theory of change really. There is something about change at a human scale that makes change at a societal scale possible and it’s very hard to be patient about that and it’s not how all change happens, but it’s change at the speed of relationship, which is what we actually know is needed to transform human beings. What I found as I interview people like John Lewis or Vincent Harding or Wangari Maathai, other kinds of people in other kinds of places, they all describe with different words this language that I have decided to use and that means so much to me and that I see it work, which is what we’re doing is thinking about critical yeast and connective tissue between all the incredible work and love and care and genius and social creativity that’s out there, that’s represented in this Zoom room. And that’s also I think about us feeling accompanied enough which is not that everybody gets it, but accompanied enough and taking a long view of what we’re after and what we’re working for and that long view also gives us the space to keep body and soul together along the way.
Cindy Santos: That reminds me so much of a conversation that you had with Ruth Wilson Gilmore.
Krista Tippett: Yes, I was thinking about that too.
Cindy Santos: Yeah, and you know, what I’m thinking about is what you say about wholeness in that conversation, and what you say is, when you describe that conversation, that the invitation here is to open wide your powerful reality shifting imagination, your heart, your energy, your will, and the possibility of wholeness and how do we live into that. I’m wondering, what does it mean to be wide open, to be in the wholeness to be able to use our imagination, again, to continue to think about everything that’s possible in terms of transformation?
Krista Tippett: I want to say you mentioned the importance of vision even and especially when what one is engaged in is very tangible, that it’s working on what is right before us and I so loved having that conversation with her especially because the language of abolition, it’s landed in this very one-dimensional way in the United States, for sure. And to get so clear to be so inspired by the large spacious vision she had of what this is all for, this world that we have to make. That is the point of it. It’s not the action itself, it’s the world that it’s bringing about. The imagination—I think probably the most under—the human imagination is perhaps what we most undervalue even when we talk about social change. I think about John Lewis saying to me, you know, we had to live as if. I think that again, with different language that’s something that I’ve found to be an orientation of people who have shifted some part of the world on its axis, and this is true with Ruth Wilson Gilmore, you see a vision of the world we want to live in, the world we want all our children to inherit. And that is not fanciful, right? I think that if we have a small vision we’re stepping into a smaller space, like this is create, this is building the magnitude in which we will be creative and will act and our imaginations are literally this kind of use of the imagination is a leap of the imagination that have real world consequences. Nothing better has ever been created without someone seeing that thing they wanted to walk into and then making that path into it. That is true of massive social transformation as much as it’s true of private stories.
Cindy Santos: When I think about what it takes to have that imagination to be able to achieve massive transformation and what we talked about in terms of wholeness and working across differences and healing. You mentioned healing. One of the things, of course, that we’ve all been reckoning with is really the harms caused by racial inequity and in the midst of that reckoning to your point about there are folks that have this expansive vision of what this world could be like and they’re bold and they’re brave and they’re out there really calling for justice, and I would say the folks in this space are. When you talk about On Being, one thing that you say is that we need longings for justice and healing by equipping for reflection, repair, and joy. What’s that relationship? What’s the relationship between justice, healing, repair, and ultimately joy?
Krista Tippett: Yeah, it sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I was at a gathering, I think it must have been 2018, something like that, feels like ancient history, and a quite senior, serious, powerful person on some stage I was on asked, “How could one possibly be joyful in a moment like this?” That just felt wrong to me, but it’s a reasonable statement to make but it kind of set me off on this exploration, and then what I found is that there has been something surfacing and I think of Adrienne Maree Brown with Pleasure Activism and I think of Ross Gay and his Book of Delights and suddenly—it’s one of these things that if you hear it once or you start looking for it, you find that it’s everywhere. There’s so many examples people are putting in the chat. I didn’t discover this. I think I opened to it and I think it also is something—what I said a minute ago about this generation in time understanding that the work is for the long haul, the work is for the rest of our lives. What I’ve come to understand is that joy is not a privilege. Joy is a human birthright. It is a lifegiving, resilience making human birthright. I was talking to, I think it was Drew Lanham who’s an ornithologist and a poet but who’s actually done incredible things, talking about the history, some of our hardest histories through the migration of birds, somebody who just sees the big picture and is an incredible human being. I think he said, “Joy is the justice we give to ourselves.” He said, “Joy is that thing that no one can take away from us.” Not exactly, but you know, in the midst of all the things the world can take away, we find people fiercely insisting that joy is fuel and that is—again, I think the world I grew up an activist a lot of times were just very serious, earnest people who weren’t allowed to have joy because that would be somehow to dismiss the gravity of what we’re struggling with. Actually, the paradoxical opposite is true. This is just complexity.
Cindy Santos: Yeah, as we think about that, I think that there’s so many more conversations about rest and play and how those things are really nurturing for us and I really appreciate joy is the justice that we give ourselves. In everything that we do, a piece of, just going back to healing, is there is a conversation in your poem and there’s a conversation that you had with Ruby Sales about tell me what hurts. I think that we have this balance, of course, we can feel, we can really make sure that we’re in spaces where we’re giving ourselves space for joy and we’re surrounding ourselves with folks that can really support us to have that joy. But the reality is that we’re facing, the vision that we face and there’s so much healing that has to happen. I’m curious, as you think about healing, how might we face is hurt and what is hurting and still, I go back to still being oriented towards the possibility.
Krista Tippett: As you think about in a life, in a human life, as we go through all the things we go through, I feel like that is a goal, that we have some balance and at any given moment we might be more on one side. We might be deep in the darkness but, or we might be exhilarated, but I think the challenge of becoming whole, of being healthy, of holding it all together is about being able to know all those places and those potentialities in ourselves, and I think this idea of using, becoming a person who can use joy as fuel, I really think that’s a gift and I also think it’s something that we can practice. I think that’s what Adrienne Maree Brown, for example, I think that’s how she’s using that and kind of being a teacher in that way. Yeah, Ruby Sales, I mean let’s talk about that. That’s such an important question that she learned, that was a question that she learned to ask, and this is in the ’60s when she was in the kind of height of her activism or that early activism, and it was a question she kind of stumbled on, a question she felt called to ask in a certain situation and then she realized that is a question that you can put into a room and it can open so much, it can open a person, it can open a space in which people talk at a different level about what is really happening, and what they’re struggling with and what we have to—those of us who want to be present that has to mean where does it hurt, and just think about how different that question is even from a lot of the questions we ask in social service situations. We tend to ask about needs or about numbers. I feel like in our life together writ large where we’re so fractured and there’s so much animosity and again so much of this division which for me just tragically masks our belonging to each other, the thing that we don’t know how to talk about in that larger sphere is what hurts and what we’re afraid of, and what we know in human life, and let’s just say in a family, those things that we don’t know what to talk about, those things you don’t know how to talk about, those stories we’re not telling, those histories we’re not mentioning, those traumas we’re not mentioning, are haunting us, right? They end up defining us so somehow this paradoxical calling to be whole and this wonderful invitation that we can use joy as a fuel, that we can fiercely insist upon it as a place we can go again and again. We also have to live that together if we’re whole with a greater and greater capacity for honesty about what is hard, what our suffering is, the questions we haven’t been asking, the openings we haven’t necessarily been pursuing with others or ourselves. It comes back to this complexity of reality but I do think that we learn again and again that is when we actually meet the sharp edges of reality when we can let pain and fear show themselves. That’s when they can start to be met and held and accompanied, and that we learn that about ourselves as well. And all of that is true at the same time.
Cindy Santos: Yeah, and one thing that I think about is I was reading something, an article that said, and this is about belonging but day after day we fan the flames of belonging by nurturing our bonds, by finding solace in each other’s humanity, that someone else has walked through my pain but someone else has also tasted my joy. So fanning those flames of belonging but why is belonging so crucial to remaking our world?
Krista Tippett: Again, I think belonging is our true nature. The civil rights elders used to talk about remembering with a hyphen, re-membering, you know. Embodying this thing that has always been true and we have to make it physically true again. It’s hard for us to feel our belonging even sometimes in our circles of kindred passions and interests and worlds, and it’s almost impossible right now to imagine our belonging to people across the spectrum of our society politically, socially, but I think let’s say one thing that I feel is rising up in consciousness that more and more of us are just understanding and even sensing is our belonging to the natural world in a whole new way. Even those of us who loved nature before, right? We’re understanding something that has always been true, and I mean understanding even in a sensory way. It’s not that we are in the natural world, we are of it. We are of it. It is us. Again, this has been always true for most of the history of our species. It wasn’t even—there was no distinction. There have been people and cultures and wisdom traditions that have always kept this knowing but there’s also been this time of incredible alienation and estrangement and an extractive, destructive relationship that our species got into with the natural world of which we are part. I think that same reality is true of us as people, as peoples. How do we get to a place where that consciousness emerges in us, where we can imagine what it would mean to start to remember our belonging to each other as human beings. One thing I like to talk about is that when we don’t have answers, when to force an answer to a question would be to deny the gravity of the question- what we’re called to do is live the question itself, and to me that’s a question I live, and it’s a question I think we, the great we, those of us who care about justice and belonging, we have to live into that question of if we are—if this kinship is actually more real than the fracture. How do we walk towards that, and there is no road map right now.
Cindy Santos: That’s really beautiful to think about what kinship could do to heal some of those fractures, and of course, you know the folks on this call are really working on equity-centered change, and a piece of that, so we’re moving into our question-and-answer time, and folks have been asking some questions. It will be interesting to hear your perspective on how folks can think about centering healing in the context of equity-centered collaborative work more specifically. How might we do that, center healing when we’re doing equity-centered work?
Krista Tippett: I guess there’s healing of oneself which I think in some ways is a very tall order especially—even and especially for people who may be engaged in healing the world around them, and just having a life. In some ways some of us are worse at that than we might be at investing in healing care towards others and towards the world around us but I think what we’re talking about is how do we make both of those moves but I actually do think—I mean it’s such a huge question, right? It’s such a huge question and so complicated, and the truth is that in any given—Bryan Stevenson talks about getting proximate, getting proximate, getting proximate, and really what that’s about is that we can only really know what that actual tangible next step is if we really are looking at the deep particularity of circumstance and people but I guess the one thing—so I feel like I can’t offer a lot of wisdom for a lot of those particular situations but I think what I would say just from my vantage point and my life of conversation is don’t underestimate who much you can benefit your ability to be a healing presence in the midst of that place where you’re also seeking justice and equity, and there are fights to be fought but don’t underestimate how much your—you seizing space for your own healing will be precisely what will give you the resources for that healing presence to be part of all that mix of things you’re bringing to the world around you. This one thing.
Cindy Santos; Yes, and I think you’re right. When we talk about—we were talking about Tricia Hersey’s work, and rest as resistance and what it takes sometimes to do that healing work, and sometimes the healing work is self-care. Sometimes the healing work is digging deeper into our experiences, and for some folks it’s digging deeper into racial trauma, digging deeper into intergenerational trauma, and as we think about that, a lot of times for some folks it’s spirituality, right? And I know you ask your guests when they’re on the show about the spiritual backgrounds of their youth but a question that came in was how might you speak about the role of spirituality in remaking our world.
Krista Tippett: Spirituality is also just this word that means everything and nothing but I kind of like how do we—and of course different people—we are differently located in traditions. I think fewer and fewer of us are actually growing up with some deep well of spiritual practice and tradition and community, even that we can reject, right? But still, many of us have webs and we have traditions and we have sacred texts, we have rituals that are part of our consciousness. We have that kind of formation, and so that is spirituality. I think it’s helpful to say, you know, what are we talking about when we talk about spirituality. We’re also talking at a really basic level just about inner life, interior life. Who are we when we are alone and quiet? It’s that investment in this very strange business of being human, and the thoughts in our head, and the connection between our thoughts and our bodies, and our emotions, and everything that’s ever happened to us, and generational stories that are alive in us. So spiritual life is also, even for people who might not like the language of spirituality, is really about attending to our humanity. Wholeness is, yes, about our presence to the world and it’s about our presence—it’s about our consciousness, right? And so that’s another way to talk about—what’s happening when we talk about spirituality. My kind of baseline definition of spirituality at its best is befriending reality, that complexity where we started. I think all the things that constitute spiritual life including just getting quiet, including just breathing consciously, and also the rituals that we have, and it’s teaching and texts that we have. These in fact, although spirituality I think can be considered to be abstract or squishy or a refuge, really what these traditions are at their best, these practices, this is about helping us get centered and quiet so that we can actually stand before that complexity and work with it. The Sufis, what they call the whirling dervish like—oh, I can’t remember who talked to me about this, and I don’t know why it just came to me but those kind of spinning, moving while staying still, staying still while moving which is something that an activist needs to do, be able to do, and a parent needs to be able to do. All of that is spirituality, and if you define it in its fullness, of course this is essential. We can’t be whole without some dimensionality to that.
Cindy Santos: When you said that some folks think about spirituality as squishy, we have some partners and dear friends at the Collective Change Lab that are doing work about relational systems change, how being in a right relationship with each other is really what leads to transformation, and one of the things that they talk about is bringing the sacred back into our spaces, and what that means for folks. You know being sacred, bringing the sacred into those spaces, it might have a lot of personal meaning but for you, what would that look like? What would it look like to bring the sacred into the spaces that we’re in?
Krista Tippett: I’ve been thinking a lot, and I think the word sacred—so there’s language—I also think the word soul. I feel like even in our relatively secularized age, there are some pieces of language that help us, that actually land, you know? They land even when there’s a suspicion and sometimes a very reasonable estrangement from this part of life, from these traditions so I think the sacred—so I think absolutely, and an interesting exercise for that would be just getting concrete about all the things that that—what does that mean? What is sacred to you? That is such an interesting question, and for a lot of people, it’s other human beings and their goodness and their beauty that is sacred, right? So I love that, and I think if that’s brought in, it deserves a bit of interrogation. It’s also about ritual often, the sacred, and we need ritual at a creaturely level. This is something like we’re rediscovering or remembering.
Cindy Santos: I was just recently talking to someone or I might have heard during this meeting someone say that they start every meeting with a ritual, and that ritual is checking in with each other. They never jump into the work without checking in with each other as humans first, and so that, she talked about there was a person who was really resistant to coming to these meetings, and she thought I do not like these first 15 minutes of check-in, let’s get to the work, and this person after a time began to want to come to these meetings, and because of the ritual, right? The relationships that were formed because of that ritual are really what brought her to that table so there is something really beautiful about rituals, and to your point, really bringing the sacred in to our spaces, and we can define what that means for ourselves.
Krista Tippett: Yes, and I think to me that also gets at where do we plant? Where do we plant the beginning of a meeting or a gathering? Where do we plant it in ourselves. One thing we do in our work space and we used to do it in person, now we do it on Zoom, it’s just a different person leads every time. They may read a poem or they may—but the main ritual is just three breaths. This does not take a lot of time. Maybe an offering of a poem or something they want to say, very short but then we turn off our screens and everybody takes three breaths. It’s like when I start a conversation, the very first question is really important and not necessarily because it’s going to get the best answer but where does that question plant the other person inside themselves so where are they grounded as we proceed so I think that’s what a ritual does. It’s about how everybody’s going to show up for the rest of the gathering. There’s ancient wisdom in this, right? This is time tested.
Cindy Santos: One of the questions that came into the chat is about what are your thoughts—many of us are working in spaces that are very polarized when it comes to ideologies and beliefs and what we think about what the world should look like, and so can you share your thoughts on ways to work with those who might not share the same values or beliefs or desired outcomes? How have you seen that play out in terms of like what can we do in those situations?
Krista Tippett: I want to bracket this by saying none of us is called to put ourselves in danger. Some people do have that calling but I think when I talk about being with people who we disagree with or we feel estranged from, there’s the element of this person might hurt me or this person hates me, right? That’s not what I’m talking about here but that’s actually not true most of the time. The people we see on TV, the people who are terrible on Twitter, they’re not most people so if what’s at stake is not danger but discomfort and perplexity, curiosity is a moral muscle. It’s an ancient social art and technology. I think a terrible thing that’s happened in our culture, in American culture, is that the act of being curious about the other side has come to stand for some kind of complacence or complicity or that you’re capitulating, you’re acknowledging that somehow what they stand for has dignity, and that’s not what I’m talking—that’s not what curiosity is about. I do think that curiosity as a baseline says that other human beings have dignity and I sure may not see it, and it may not be represented in what I know of them but one of the things we know about humanity more and more through science is that every one of us is a living, breathing contradiction, and whatever I know about another person who is also still a stranger about what they believe or what party they belong to, who they voted for or this thing they’re associated with, and a way that I think we can all be assured of that is if we think about our circles of the people we love the most, the people we’ve known the longest, like our expanded circle of friends, family members, cousins, old friends, new friends, colleagues, we know that there is such a range in that spectrum between people who—you know, if we’re lucky we have a soul mate but even with our closest family members, there’s so much—it has nothing to do with always feeling understood or always understanding. What’s different is that, or what is defining is that we have chosen to stay in relationship with these people, and sometimes staying in relationship with them means not saying what you’re thinking or not saying it now or actually just not really liking them very much and certainly not feeling like you love them but love is that action, it’s those things you do because we’re in relationship and I love you and it’s action rather than feelings. So if we can just apply a fraction of that knowledge of complexity, if we’ve chosen to be in a space with someone who’s on another side or in another kind of identity that we are estranged from in terms of our identity culturally, honestly that question about where does it hurt, that’s not always a question you can start with but if we can start with questions that get at the humanity of another person, if they use a word and, boy, does this happen a lot now, like if they use a word or phrase that just sets us off, if we’re in a situation to be able to take a deep breath and just say what does that word mean? When you say that word, what does that mean for you? I mean in the spirit of actually wanting to understand, I think we will often be surprised because even a single word or a phrase, we’re so complicated, right? Like we all have so any connotations for things and they don’t match the connotations other people bring.
Cindy Santos: When you talk about what words mean, Mark Morgan put into the chat, we’ve been talking about healing but we haven’t defined it so how do we define healing?
Krista Tippett: You know I just recently interviewed our wonderful surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, and he is a physician and one of the most important distinctions that’s been made in all my life of conversation that he made again is about the distinction between curing and healing which is a distinction in medicine, a distinction in society. Let’s just say we’re really formed and trained to fix and solve and cure but the thing—a human being doesn’t become whole by being fixed or being perfect. We become whole in and through all the things that happen to us including what went wrong, including the wounds that we will never get away with but we can be healed and whole. We are healed and whole with those things. He said, Vivek Murthy said, healing is about three things. I think he said listening and learning and—I almost want to look it up. I know that listening and loving were two of them, and when I say loving again, I’m not talking about that love like I know you or you’re my child or you’re my parent or you’re my lover, I love you, this is love as action. It’s a way of being. It’s not a way of feeling. It’s what do I do. I may not agree with you but you are a human being so I extend care, and that is also what love looks like. I think he’s right, and I think that healing—as human beings we want and need to be seen, and we want and need to be heard, and we all have had experiences where we feel incomplete and we’re needing that to happen, and so somehow healing is about all of that, is about everything that happens and who we can be on the other side of everything that happens that is true to the truest part of ourselves.
Cindy Santos: Someone just put in the chat, thank you, to be a healer you have to be able to listen, to learn, and to love. So we have about five more minutes. Krista, thank you so much for the generosity of your time. You know, this is another, as we go back and a lot of the questions are really about healing, and I think it’s something that’s so crucial to the work that we’re doing as we mentioned in the beginning particularly around racial equity, and this question is we’ve talked about individual healing, what does it look like to collectively heal as a society, to take that individual healing and the way that we show up in spaces to what you were saying earlier, to be a healer and potentially to really heal together. What does that look like?
Krista Tippett: Gosh, I wish I had an answer to that question. I think this is where the critical yeast idea comes in. It’s really important. I don’t—especially with the depth of estrangement that really defines a lot of our societies now, a lot of our communities. I think again like that’s almost the mode of fixing or curing to say we’re going to heal this thing because it won’t be very deep, even if we get some kind of surface thing going but I think the work of starting in a small circle, like a small radius, and finding, looking for and finding those few people who may be outside my comfort zone, on the other side of some division but where we could actually meet as human beings and get to that place where I could ask you the question and you could ask me the question of where does it hurt, and it would be safe for us to be honest with each other and to get to know each other at that level, and then see what can follow that. It sounds ineffectual because we really do like the critical mass, right? But I think that it’s in these immediate doable webs of relationship that we can create something where we start to have an answer, we start to have answers to that question, tools to work with. What did it look like if I had healing in this group of three people or five people or 10 people and create something that becomes infectious in a good way. That word, infectious, is a little bit ruined, you know, magnetic. I think that’s where we have to start, and then how—have those as incubators and laboratories for us gaining intelligence about what would it look like to do this in wider and wider circles.
Cindy Santos: There are a couple of questions that came in about we know yesterday when we heard from Imani Barbarin, one of the things that she talked about is that we legislate disabled folks into poverty, right? So if you really think about the work that we do around systems change, it’s about those politics and policies and just the way public programs, and there’s part of me that thinks it goes to what you’re saying is what would it look like if folks that were really working on healing were also the folks that were seeing everyone’s humanity which were also those folks that were creating these policies and these programs. I’m just curious, what comes up for you as we ask, as we reflect on that?
Krista Tippett: That’s why I loved having the surgeon general who talks about love as a public good, and that’s another reason—everything he said was great but what was also great is having this person who does hold high government office, he’s wearing a kind of military uniform that goes with that office and talking about being a healer. You know even like Ruth Wilson Gilmore has that language of it’s just again—here this is for me the power of words which for me is just power that we all carry around and we could wield so much more. We actually know how to wield words as weapons but words as something with healing power, organized abandonment is a way she described what you described but somehow because we think of it as policies or we think of it as economic development, it masks what’s happening at a human level, and just using this language gives you eyes to see so what happens if we can raise up—and I want to say I think it’s a new generation. My generation, we were 20th century people so I think as a new generation that starts to see with new eyes, and then if you come at being a public servant—I’m not saying nothing can happen now. I am just saying I think the reality is there is a real generational shift here. It’s a real—we don’t need social change, we need social evolution, and it’s happening. In your gathering, this is what’s happening here but it’s slower than we want it to be because it’s big, it’s a shift, it’s tectonic.
Cindy Santos: Krista, I am so sad that our conversation is coming to a close because I have been enjoying this so much, and I’m sure that—I mean all of the chats and the questions that are coming in obviously are everyone listening and with us today has been enjoying it. What is one thing that you hope that folks will take away from your work?
Krista Tippett: From my work? Well, that’s an interesting—thank you for that question. I’m sure I’d think of 10 answers if we talked longer but maybe just this because you got me thinking about this too. I don’t often interview celebrities. I really look for the people who are—and they’re everywhere who are just below that radar of soundbites and you know, what’s the language, talking heads, and the people who get quoted all the time and we know their names, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrities but I guess change, and I mean change in thesense of evolution never happens from that level. It’s just not how it works across history. It’s happening in the margins. It’s happening around the edges. It’s happening on the ground, and so when I’m looking for the people who—my definition of wisdom is as opposed to somebody who is not—a wise person may be knowledgeable and they may be accomplished but I think knowledge and accomplishment are things we can point at, right? We can quantify. They know that or they’ve done this but if you think about, and we can all think about this, who are the wise people who come to mind, the measure of a wise life is the imprint they’ve made on people around them. That’s what we start to think of, how they affected this person and that person and set these ripples in motion. I think if we can take that much more seriously and look for the people who are actually touching lives and setting those ripples in motion and know that that really is where the action is in a very, very significant way across time, and, yes, take in that narrative of catastrophe and of glitz but know that that is one center of power and this is another, and the more we attend to that and give it its due seriousness, we build up that power.
Cindy Santos: That’s so powerful because what the folks on this call are doing is really building community power.
Krista Tippett: They are these people, right? So I want to say this is another—this is gravity. This is power too but if we don’t take ourselves seriously, if you don’t take yourself seriously, it has to start there too, and it’s really hard. It’s counterintuitive but I think that’s a muscle we have to get, and it’s a reality-based muscle.
Cindy Santos: Krista, I am so grateful and overjoyed to have been able to have this fireside chat with you. It’s been edifying in so many ways, and I hope that the folks on the call today have really found some peace here today, have found their respite in this conversation, have been able to take a step back and just be with us in their full wholeness. I can’t thank you enough. I never thought in my life I’d be having a conversation with you, and here I am.
Krista Tippett: I’m very honored by your questions and to be here and thank you so much. This is real, it’s powerful, and I see it and others see it, and we can see it ourselves. Thank you.
Cindy Santos: Thank you.
(Outro) And this closes out this episode of the Collective Impact Forum podcast. If you are interested in learning more about what was discussed, you can find links to resources in the footnotes for this episode, including a full transcript of this keynote discussion.
We would like to acknowledge that this episode was produced and edited on the unceded, traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, including the Duwamish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot tribes. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the past, present, and futures of these tribes.
The Intro music for this episode was composed by Rafael Krux and our outro music is composed by Kevin Macleod.
In Forum news, we’re excited to share that registration is open for our fall workshop series titled “Essentials for Collective Impact.” This is a new series of online workshops focused on building practical knowledge and understanding around four key areas that support collective impact efforts. These focus areas are collaborative planning and engagement, facilitating results-focused meetings, strengthening trust and relationships, and avoiding common challenges that stymie the work of collectives.
If you would like join us, you can register for the full series of workshops or just the topics that interest you most. You can find out more about this online workshop series in the events section of our website at collectiveimpactforum.org. One note is that registration for the full series closes on September 8 so we recommend registering soon to save your spot.
This is Tracy Timmons-Gray, Associate Director here at the Collective Impact Forum, and your podcast producer. I want to say thank you so much for listening, and we look forward to connecting with you more in our next episode. Until next time, we hope you are safe and well.