Things I didn’t know I could get out from underneath – and other thoughts from Krista Tippett’s book ‘Becoming Wise’

Here’s my final post offering thoughts from Krista Tippett’s book Becoming Wise.

I was struck by this wise statement on community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which she quotes:

The person who’s in love with their vision of community will destroy community. But the person who loves the people around them will create community wherever they go.

Brené Brown

Brené Brown

Brené Brown, one of Tippett’s interviewees, studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame – and has this to say about courage and vulnerability:

I cannot find a single example of courage, moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership courage, relational courage, I cannot find a single example of courage that was not born completely of vulnerability. We buy into some mythology about vulnerability being weakness and being gullibility and being frailty because it gives us permission not to do it.

Even more powerfully, she makes the point that:

the most beautiful things I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things I didn’t know I could get out from underneath.

Brown is well worth listening to, as she has demonstrated in her TED talks on The power of vulnerability and Listening to shame.

Lastly, Tippett addresses another important issue when she says:

There is a fine line between saving the world and manipulating other lives, however well-meaningly, in our own image.

And she reflects on Courtney Martin rejecting the notion that the world divides into ‘savers and those who need to be saved’. As Martin herself says:

Our charge is not ‘to save the world’ …. It is to live in it, flawed and fierce, loving and humble.


The great falsity of colonisation, the art of letting go – and some other thoughts from John O’Donohue’s ‘The Four Elements’

John O’Donohue is one of the most evocative writers I know. His books, his thoughts, his phraseology are like beautiful cathedrals to me, beautiful cathedrals made of words. Here are some passages from ‘Air: The Breath of God’, the first essay of The Four Elements.

John O'Donohue, The Four ElementsMost of the brutalization that occurs externally in the world is usually subsequent to a prior brutalization that has happened within the heart.

On fundamentalism:

One of the terrible deficiencies of most fundamentalism is that the … flow and risk of life get totally managed and programmed into categories.

Talking about Jesus, O’Donohue points out that ‘any place he appeared, his presence became a challenge’. A challenge, one might add, that is as unwelcome in institutionalised religion (the Church) today as it was at the time, a challenge we so often are quick to tame, contain or ignore.

I love these observations on territorial and spiritual colonisation:

We believe that salvation can only come from outside. This is the great falsity of colonization, be it territorial or spiritual. It robs the native land, or the native soul, of the sense of its own indigenous treasures and resources. Against all attempts at programmes and methods, the great art of holiness is to let oneself be.

And here is what O’Donohue has to say about religion vis-à-vis the truly inspired, the eternal:

Something inspired has the surprise, vitality and warmth of the eternal within it. … There is none of the deadness, seriousness or narrowness which affects so much religion and which has nothing to do with the eternal, but everything to do with the fears and competitiveness of the ego.

Finally, some words about loss, the art of letting go and receiving back a hundredfold:

We need to learn to be creative about loss …. The art at the heart of the mystical is letting go. If you learn to develop this art, you will receive back again a hundredfold everything you released. If you love something, let it go, and it will return to you. … This is the free art of presence in love and friendship. The Kingdom of God is about the transfiguration of Nothingness and loss into the fecundity of possibility.

The ‘fecundity of possibility’ – something to hope for and trust in, I suppose.

People in need of saving

We believed that God’s home was the church …, and that the world was a barren place full of lost souls in need of all the help they could get. […] The problem is, many of the people in need of saving are in churches, and at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way they do. … What if a lost soul strikes God as more reachable than a lifelong believer?

Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: Finding the Sacred Beneath Our Feet

Divine spaciousness in all the tight places

Salvation is a word for the divine spaciousness that comes to human beings in all the tight places where their lives are at risk, regardless of how they got there or whether they know God’s name. Sometimes it comes as an extended human hand and sometimes as a bolt from the blue, but either way it opens a door in what looked for all the world like a wall.

Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

Love life fiercely

Love for beauty; care for the material life that gives pleasure and joy; appreciation for the numinous world, revealed by the Spirit in life; and embrace of the eros that empowers human beings as social creatures to seek others – these are spiritual powers that deliver salvation.

We reenter this world as sacred space when we love life fiercely, and, in the name of love, protect the goodness of our intricate web of life in all its manifold forms. We recommit ourselves to this world as holy ground when we remember the fullness of life that is possible through our communities, our life-affirming rituals, and our love of beauty, of truth, of goodness.

Rita Nakashima Brock, ‘Paradise and Desire: Deconstructing the Eros of Suffering’, in F. LeRon Shults and Jan-Olav Henriksen (eds), Saving Desire: The Seduction of Christian Theology