Friday, April 18, 2014

Krista Tippett on Civility

The following are notes from a presentation given by Krista Tippett, the host of "On Being", on April 8, 2014, at the Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, OK. These notes are a reflection of what impressed me in her presentation, and are not expected to be an accurate representation of what she said.

We need to make a distinction between public life and political life. The word “civility” is inadequate, for it seems too demure, prim and proper; but it's better than “tolerance,” the word much in favor from the 60s. Tolerance is passive; what is needed is an active engagement with, and acceptance of, our fellow terrestrial travelers.

We find the big questions of the 20th century are being re-imagined for the 21st century; e.g., marriage, beginning of life, etc.

This requires the reformation of all institutions

The most needed innovation is to recognize how our individual vulnerability is linked with others on the planet (all beings, all creation)

Anxiety about change in public life looks like anger (especially via "news" media) rather than fear.

The next needed innovation is to be conversational entrepreneurs; to see conversation as means to seek shared values rather than means to persuade, to win. This will plant seeds of the civil society we long for.


  • Words Matter
    • Share how we understand ourselves & perceive how others move through the world
    • Navigate pluralistic society through acceptance of diff rather than tolerance
    • Which is too cerebral
    • Never asked to be engaged or be curious about the Other
    • Find shimmering words to share the essence of ourselves
    • "Are we not of interest to each other"
    • Ground virtues rather than ground rules
  • Questions
    • Elicit answers in their likeness
    • Ideal is to avoid yes or no, or leading questions
    • Remember, it's hard to resist a generous question, which invites dignity & honor
    • Seek the animating question, rather than simplistic. Seek what lies beneath.
    • Good question does not seek common ground or resolution
      • Pressure of agreement works against understanding each other
    • Questions are powerful within themselves — don't worry about the answers
  • Honor difficulty of being human — starting small, as beginners
    • Which reminded me of the book Always We Begin Again, on Benedictine Practice
    • Change evolves slowly in the human heart
    • Conversation is a tool to make human connection (not change hearts and minds)
    • Be hospitable
    • We need critical yeast; that is, an unlikely combination of people
    • The radar (news media) is broken — if it ever existed
      • Change from public service to one more part of profit-seeking industry
  • Develop eyes to see and ears to hear; for example
    • Civil rights movement sought to create a beloved humanity
    • We are in the midst of a long-term project; all of us are involved
    • We can be sources of social healing; again, to plant seeds of a civil society
    • Long term, seek to transform conflict rather than resolve it
      • If not transformed, the conflict will go underground (like repressed emotion) and rise again
      • However, transformation is a long term project; a minimum of 10 years
    • We are called to the inner work of integrity
    • Because, in the growing global community, it's about the other. Or, more practically, the person across town
    • In the words of Civil Rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, “When you pray, move your feet”

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