GLENN: I want to introduce you to somebody who -- who I've just -- who I've just met. I read her book on the plane back from Bangkok yesterday, and a way to introduce her is just in the opening pages: I was born in the wee hours of the night of the 1960 election returns that came in with John F. Kennedy. I grew up in Shawnee, Oklahoma. A small town in a young state in the middle of Middle America where people had come to forget their past and leave their ancestral demons behind. My mother's ancestors drove their covered wagons into the former Indian territory to create their lives from scratch in the unforgiving Oklahoma dust. My father had been adopted by the people I knew as my grandparents at the age of three.
Her name is Krista Tippett. She is the author of a book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living. And she is also with NPR.
And I normally wouldn't have somebody on from NPR because of some of the experiences I've had recently with NPR. But we've had a conversation, and she is really a remarkable human being who sees -- perhaps, I don't even know. Perhaps not the policies of the world, but the problems and some of the solutions of the world, the same as I do.
Welcome to the program, Krista, how are you?
KRISTA: Hello, Glenn. I'm good. And I've so enjoyed getting to know you these last months as well.
GLENN: I want to talk to you first about the press. Bill O'Reilly said we're at war. The White House is at war with the press, and the press is at war with the White House.
How does that end?
KRISTA: Well, I think we don't all have to become foot soldiers in that war, right? I don't know how that war will end, but it's a very small slice of what's happening in the world and what matters for how we create the world for how we want our children to inhabit.
And I'm not fighting it. In fact, we're so focused right now -- I think so many of us, so captured. And the media war is kind of doing this, to what we resist and what we're reacting to. And I'm choosing to get out of reactive mode and into building mode and healing mode. And I think that's a choice everybody can make.
GLENN: I happen to agree with you. And I'm in that same place too.
GLENN: I'm wondering -- I was in Bangkok over the weekend doing some work with Operation Underground Railroad, which is trying to break up slavery. And I saw some -- I was in the jungle this weekend. I saw some just horrific things.
I get home and, you know, my kids are on the iPad. And it was hard to readjust. Then I get in this morning, and I see all the news where we're yelling at each other for ridiculous things.
GLENN: How do we change that?
KRISTA: Well, I -- you know, I interview a lot of scientists along the way. And, you know, I'm attentive to how -- there are really understandable reasons that our brains actually get riveted by that kind of fight and by a sense of threat.
And, you know, I think everybody I feel on all -- all around on all sides of our political system, you know, our brains are on high alert. So part of it is finding ways to calm ourselves, to calm the people around us.
You know, that sounds maybe like a not very powerful thing to do. But we don't -- just as biological creatures, we don't think clearly, and we don't rise to our best selves when we're afraid.
So, you know, I think there's these really basic things -- I feel like there are different callings in this moment for each of us as human beings, as citizens, as political people. And that's one of them.
And also that we have to accompany each other in that, and we have to get to know our neighbors who have become strangers.
I was watching the election all last year and seeing that whoever had won in November, the real work ahead of us is to reweave our life together.
GLENN: Not to make everybody else feel like a loser.
GLENN: You write: The 21st century globe resembles the understanding we now have of a teenage brain.
KRISTA: Right. Right.
GLENN: We reduce great questions of meaning and morality to issues and simplify them to two sides, allowing pundits and partisans to frame them in irreconcilable extremes. But most of us don't see the world this way, and it's not the way the world actually works. I'm not sure there is even such a thing as a cultural center.
What do you mean by that?
KRISTA: Oh, well, I guess, you know, when somebody like me starts talking this way, I think the suspicion is, she's talking about the center or talking about moderates. I don't even know if that's interesting, you know, if there's a center. But what I do know, what I do believe is that right of center and left of center, even if we have very deep differences and convictions that are different to us, we don't want to give up or negotiate away, we also have big questions in common. And we share really important things like our love for our children.
You know, I loved -- I was in Iowa right after the election. And a mom telling me that she's part of a group of neighbors and school parents. About half of them voted for Donald Trump. About half of them voted for Hillary Clinton. But every single one of them was concerned about the effect that the election had on their kids, what they were watching, the kind of discourse they were hearing, the level of discourse.
And so they had rallied together to be in solidarity and actually be working together around that shared challenge. And I think that is a model for how, not that we all have to be in the center or all be moderates, but how we can really be building things together across differences.
GLENN: I will tell you, you were -- we're talking to Krista Tippett. She is the author of Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living.
You know, not to stick him out, but it was one of the most stunning things I had ever heard: George Stephanopoulos said that his 12-year-old daughter, for two weeks after the election, was sleeping in mom and dad's bed because she was afraid of what Donald Trump would do.
KRISTA: Yeah. Yeah.
GLENN: I mean, I have been called every name in the book, beginning at fearmonger. My children are not afraid of Democrats. They're not afraid of President Obama. That's not happening.
What is happening in the world of somebody like George Stephanopoulos, where their child has to sleep in bed at night because they're afraid of Donald Trump?
KRISTA: Well, I mean, I think there are some simple answers and some more complex answers. I mean, we have kind of all resorted to this level of making fun, which I think also is really destructive. And catastrophizing. Catastrophizing about the other side.
You know, catastrophizing, it's not good for us. And it almost never comes true. You know, the things that go terribly wrong are not the things that we are looking for or expect. That's just kind of a life truth.
On a deeper level, you know, to me this political moment is really about this human drama that's going on. I think all of the politics, I think Donald Trump -- I think it's all -- it's all a symptom of this human drama of how -- and how I see that -- you know, over the last few years -- you know, we need to sometimes just like stop, be quiet, take a breath. I just wish we could all take a breath together and say, you know, what an astonishing moment we are living in, in history, where we are redefining basic definitions, even that the 20th century thought it had gotten -- when does life begin? When does death begin? What is family? What is marriage? What is gender?
Our institutions don't make sense all of a sudden. Right? Like workplaces don't make sense. Schools don't make sense. Politics doesn't make sense.
So this is very, very unsettling. And, again, to go back to what the science is telling us, like physiologically, this sends us to really primal parts in ourself, where we just go into two modes, fight or flight. And, I mean, I think that's big. And it's complicated, but to me it's a way to relax and just say, "I'm going to stand on the ground of reality and have a really clear view of what we're up against."
And, again, I think even though it's huge, it comes back to, can we get grounded in ourselves? Can we get clear about what we care about and who we love? Yeah, go on.
GLENN: You say there are five things in your book that we have to pay attention to that will ground us. Can you give them to me?
KRISTA: Yeah. Yeah, there's kind of these basic elements of life. I wrote this book about wisdom, and I thought it was going to be about big extract, but lofty concepts. And I realized in the wisest lives, it's the raw materials, it's the words we use, you know, moment to moment.
GLENN: You write -- I love -- I circled this: Words make worlds. I love that.
GLENN: We choose too small a world in the decade of my birth. Tolerance to make the world we want to live in now. We open the radical difference that it had been there all along, separate, but equal to a new infusion of religions, ethnicities, and values. But tolerance doesn't welcome. It allows, endures, indulges.
KRISTA: Yeah. Tolerance has taught us to be with otherness and be with difference, whether it's racial or political and say, "I'm going to let you be in the room with me." But it doesn't -- has not taught us to be curious about each other, to be open to being surprised by each other.
These are small steps. This is not about saying, I want you to bring me around to your side, or I want to bring you around to my side, just to meet each other as human beings.
GLENN: But doesn't that -- but, Krista, I was -- I was with some people that -- we were talking about this, this weekend. We are not allowed to be surprised by each other.
KRISTA: No, that's right.
GLENN: Not because of tolerance, but because of political correctness.
GLENN: We're afraid to be surprised -- to ask questions that are surprising of the other.
KRISTA: That's right. So we -- part of the task -- it's not going to happen in our -- in our -- most of our media spaces. It's not going to happen in our political spaces. You know, this is the problem right now too. Those are the places we've been trained to look, to see the way forward. And it's hard to say, they're not going to save us. And they're not modeling how we want to be, how we want to live. So we -- yeah, we have to -- we have to create places. And I think we can do that very close to home, right? In our neighborhoods. In our parent and teacher meetings. In our families. And in local politics.
GLENN: How does -- how do we -- you know, I've been trying to find -- I would call them strange bedfellows. But I think people who are willing to be friends with people who are different and then risk everything by showing that friendship, how do we -- how do we get there when everything is set to destroy anyone who disagrees?
KRISTA: Yeah. No. You're so right. We don't -- what we also don't reward or honor in public is apology, or -- right? When somebody says, "I've changed, or I'm reflecting critically on some of the things I've done" -- and you're one of those brave people -- we don't reward that.
GLENN: I don't think we reward courage in any way.
KRISTA: We don't reward courage, that's right. Again, we don't reward it in our lives. In our real lives. But it's not -- it's not reflected. We've really got to turn away from -- you know that phrase above the radar, right? You know, I think one of the other things that's broken now -- the radar is broken.
But, again, we are -- the places we're captivated to look, to see, this is what matters, you know. This is how it works. These are our leaders.
We -- we have to force ourselves -- and I think help each other to move away. And I think the answer to that question of looking for friends, stepping a little bit outside of your comfort zone.
You know, Rilke. The poet Rilke is a great hero to me, and he talked about holding questions. There's a kind of pathology in America, that a question has to have an immediate answer. And any good question actually -- when you and I deal in questions -- ask questions for an answer -- questions also are -- a lot of questions we need to just put out there, and I think holding the question until we find the answer. And everybody can do this in their sphere, you know.
Who is that person? Who is that friend of a friend? Who is that brother-in-law, that I always get into a fight with at Thanksgiving. How can I very gently, in a spirit of generosity, with a willingness to be surprised, create a new entry point. And therefore create a new possibility for how we look forward differently.
GLENN: Krista Tippett, author of the book Becoming Wise. Thanks for being brave and reaching out and accepting a reach-out yourself. Thank you so much.
KRISTA: Thank you, Glenn.
GLENN: Appreciate it. Krista Tippett.