Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

Becoming Wise

“I’m a person who listens for a living. I listen for wisdom, and beauty, and for voices not shouting to be heard.” Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

These are the opening sentences of Krista Tippett’s luminous memoir, Becoming Wise, which distills the best of what she has heard, and learned, in nearly 15 years of hosting the radio show On Being. Each week, Tippett interviews a guest about his or her work in a stunning range of fields: from poetry to physics, counseling to yoga to social activism. She has listened to doctors and actors, priests and lawyers, people who are household names and those who work in quiet, unheralded spaces. Becoming Wise introduces us to some of those voices, and lets us listen in as they talk with Tippett about the big questions of what it means to be human.

Becoming Wise is a memoir in five (overlapping) acts: Words, Flesh, Love, Faith and Hope. As a writer, a seeker and a person, I am deeply interested in all these things, and I believe they each hold some of the keys to our humanity. I read avidly, but slowly (so I could savor the words and the insights), marveling at the way Tippett weaves in anecdotes from her own life as a journalist, a mother and a seeker of truth alongside the words of her conversation partners. The book’s introduction is called “The Age of Us,” and the book bears out that belief: that we are living in a time of great communal change and possibility, which we (the human race) will only be able to navigate together.

I reread so many sentences as I read Becoming Wise: I love Tippett’s way of turning a phrase. But fittingly, my favorite sentence in the book comes from a poem by Elizabeth Alexander, one of Tippett’s guests. Alexander, musing on the role of poetry in “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe,” writes:

Poetry (and here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

I have been thinking about Alexander’s (and Tippett’s) words since I read Becoming Wise this spring. That, to me, is the crux of it: we are of interest to each other. We must be, if we are going to survive as a species and do it with any kind of grace. The conversations in Becoming Wise don’t claim to have all the answers, but Tippett and her colleagues are asking thoughtful, necessary questions, and she chronicles their conversations in clear, luminous prose.

If you are in need of a little wisdom, a dose of hope about the state of the world, or simply want to ask (and hear) some good questions, I hope you’ll pick up Becoming Wise.

 

Katie Noah Gibson is a writer, editor, knitter and compulsive tea-drinker living in the Boston area with her husband. Born in Texas, she’s a lifelong Anglophile with a particular love for Oxford, but she loves to travel just about anywhere. You can find her at her blog, Cakes, Tea and Dreams, reviewing books at Shelf Awareness, or on Twitter at @katiengibson.

 

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