Rank #1: Martin Sheen — Spirituality of Imagination
The renowned actor as you’ve never heard him before. He has appeared in over 100 films, including Apocalypse Now. He’s best known on television as President Bartlet in The West Wing. But Martin Sheen, born and still legally named Ramón Estévez, has had another lesser-known life as a spiritual seeker and activist. He returned to a deep and joyful Catholic faith after a crisis at the height of his fame in mid-life. He’s been arrested over 60 times in vigils and protests. “Piety is something you do alone,” he says. “True freedom, spirituality, can only be achieved in community.”
Rank #2: Richard Rohr — Living in Deep Time
Men of all ages say Richard Rohr has given them a new way in to spiritual depth and religious thought — through his writing and retreats. This conversation with the Franciscan spiritual teacher delves into the expansive scope of his ideas: male formation and what he calls “father hunger”; why contemplation is as magnetic to people now, including millennials, as it’s ever been; and how to set about taking the first half of life — the drive to “successful survival” — all the way to meaning.
Rank #3: Seth Godin — Life, the Internet, and Everything
“We are flying too low. We built this universe, this technology, these connections, this society, and all we can do with it is make junk? All we can do with it is put on stupid entertainments? I’m not buying it.” Seth Godin is wise and infectiously curious about life, the internet, and everything. He was one of the first people to name the “connection economy.” And even as we’re seeing its dark side, he helps us hold on to the highest human potential the digital age still calls us to. His daily blog is indispensable reading for many of us. He’s a long-time mentor to Krista. This interview happened in 2012. Seth now has a new podcast, “Akimbo,” and a new book coming out, “This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.” Seth Godin writes the wildly popular daily, Seth’s Blog. He’s the author of many best-selling books, online and in print, including “Purple Cow,” “The Dip,” and “Linchpin.” In 2018 he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame.
Rank #4: Paulo Coelho — The Alchemy of Pilgrimage
The Brazilian lyricist Paulo Coelho is best known for his book “The Alchemist” — which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 400 weeks. His fable-like stories turn life, love, writing, and reading into pilgrimage. In a rare conversation, we meet the man behind the writings and explore what he’s touched in modern people.
Rank #5: Mary Oliver — Listening to the World
Often quoted, but rarely interviewed, Mary Oliver is one of our greatest and most beloved poets. She’s just released a new volume, "Felicity," at the age of 80. And so we’re revisiting the interview she granted us earlier this year on the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing.
Rank #6: The Soul in Depression
We’re fluent in the languages of psychology and medication, but the word “depression” does not do justice to this human experience. Depression is also spiritual territory. It is a shadow side of human vitality and as such teaches us about vitality. And what if depression is possible for the same reason that love is possible?
Rank #7: Rex Jung — Creativity and the Everyday Brain
Few features of humanity are more fascinating than creativity; and few fields are more dynamic now than neuroscience. Rex Jung is a neuropsychologist who puts the two together. He's working on a cutting edge of science, exploring the differences and interplay between intelligence and creativity. He and his colleagues unsettle long-held beliefs about who is creative and who is not. And they're seeing practical, often common-sense connections between creativity and family life, aging, and purpose.
Rank #8: Mary Catherine Bateson — Composing a Life
Life as an improvisational art, at every age. This idea animates the wise linguist and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, whose book “Composing a Life” has touched many. Since her childhood as the daughter of the iconic anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, she’s had an ability to move through the world as both an original observer and a joyful participant. Now in her 70s, she’s pondering — and living — what she calls the age of “active wisdom.” She sees longer life spans creating a new developmental stage for our species.
Rank #9: This Is Your Brain on Sex
Anthropologist Helen Fisher explores the biological workings of our intimate passions, the brew of chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters that make the thrilling and sometimes treacherous realms of love and sex. In the research she does for match.com and her TED Talks that have been viewed by millions of people, she wields science as an entertaining, if sobering, lens on what feel like the most meaningful encounters of our lives. In this deeply personal conversation, she shows how it is possible to take on this knowledge as a form of wisdom and power.
Rank #10: Louis Newman — The Refreshing Practice of Repentance
The High Holy Days create an annual ritual of repentance, both individual and collective. Louis Newman, who has explored repentance as an ethicist and a person in recovery, opens this up as a refreshing practice for every life, even beyond the lifetime of those to whom we would make amends.
Rank #11: Joanna Macy — A Wild Love for the World
A Buddhist philosopher of ecology, Joanna Macy says we are at a pivotal moment in history with the possibility to unravel or create a life-sustaining human society. Now entering her 90s, Macy has lived adventurously by any definition. She worked with the CIA in Cold War Europe and the Peace Corps in post-colonial India and was an early environmental activist. She brings a poetic and spiritual sensibility to her work that’s reflected in her translations of the early-20th-century poet Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that poetry as a lens on her wisdom on the great dramas of our time: ecological, political, personal. Joanna Macy is an activist, author, and a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking, and deep ecology. Her 13 books include translations of Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, A Year with Rilke, and In Praise of Mortality. She is the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, a framework and workshop for personal and social change. Her new translation of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, together with Anita Barrows, is upcoming in 2020. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
Rank #12: Adam Grant — Successful Givers, Toxic Takers, and the Life We Spend at Work
The organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who many know from his New York Times columns, describes three orientations of which we are all capable: the givers, the takers, and the matchers. These influence whether organizations are joyful or toxic for human beings. His studies are dispelling a conventional wisdom that selfish takers are the most likely to succeed professionally. And he is wise about practicing generosity in organizational life — what he calls making “microloans of our knowledge, our skills, our connections to other people” — in a way that is transformative for others, ourselves, and our places of work.
Rank #13: Richard Davidson — A Neuroscientist on Love and Learning
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson is one of the central people who’s helped us begin to see inside our brains. His work has illuminated the rich interplay between things we saw as separate not that long ago: body, mind, spirit, emotion, behavior and genetics. He is applying what he’s learning about imparting qualities of character — like kindness and practical love — in lives and in classrooms. This live conversation was recorded at the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, California. Richard Davidson is the William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He founded and directs the Center for Healthy Minds there. He is the co-author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain and Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. He was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine in 2017. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
Rank #14: Ellen Langer — Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness
Her unconventional studies have long suggested what neuroscience is now revealing: Our experiences are formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. Naming something play rather than work — or exercise rather than labor — can mean the difference between delight and drudgery, fatigue or weight loss. What makes a vacation a vacation is not only a change of scenery, but the fact that we let go of the mindless everyday illusion that we are in control. Ellen Langer says mindfulness is achievable without meditation or yoga. She defines it as “the simple act of actively noticing things.”
Rank #15: Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — The Inner Life of Rebellion
The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. Quaker wise man Parker Palmer and journalist and entrepreneur Courtney Martin come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change.
Rank #16: Alain de Botton — A School of Life for Atheists
Alain de Botton is a philosopher who likes the best of religion, but doesn’t believe in God. He says that the most boring question you can ask of any religion is whether it is true. But how to live, how to die, what is good, and what is bad — these are questions religion has sophisticated ways of addressing. So he’s created The School of Life — where people young and old explore ritual, community, beauty, and wisdom. He explains why these ideas shouldn’t be reserved just for believers.
Rank #17: Elizabeth Gilbert — Choosing Curiosity Over Fear
Her name is synonymous with her fantastically best-selling memoir “Eat Pray Love.” But through the disorienting process of becoming a celebrity, Elizabeth Gilbert has also reflected deeply on the gift and challenge of inhabiting a creative life. Creativity, as she defines it, is about choosing curiosity over fear — not to be confused with the more familiar trope to “follow your passion,” but rather as something accessible to us all and good for our life together.
Rank #18: David Steindl-Rast — Anatomy of Gratitude
Mysticism is the birthright of every human being, says Br. David Steindl-Rast. He speaks of the anatomy and practice of gratitude as full-blooded, reality-based, and redeeming. Now in his 90s, he has lived through a world war, the end of an empire, and the fascist takeover of his country. He was an early pioneer, together with Thomas Merton, of dialogue between Christian and Buddhist monastics. He’s also given a TED talk, viewed over six million times, on the subject of gratitude — a practice increasingly interrogated by scientists and physicians as a key to human well-being.
Rank #19: Jean Vanier — The Wisdom of Tenderness
A philosopher and Catholic social innovator, Jean Vanier is one of the great elders in our world today. The L’Arche movement, which he founded, centers around people with mental disabilities. The dozens of L’Arche communities around the world have become places of pilgrimage and are transformative for those involved and for the world around them. He has devoted his life to the practical application of Christianity’s most paradoxical teachings — that there’s power in humility, strength in weakness, and light in the darkness of human existence. Jean Vanier is a philosopher and the founder of L’Arche. He lives full-time in the original community in Trosly-Breuil, France. He’s also the recipient of the 2015 Templeton Prize. His books include Befriending the Stranger, An Ark for the Poor, and A Cry is Heard: My Path to Peace. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
Rank #20: Leonard Mlodinow — Randomness and Choice
Fundamental forces of physics somehow determine everything that happens, “from the birth of a child to the birth of a galaxy.” Yet physicist Leonard Mlodinow has an intriguing perspective on the gap between theory and reality — and the fascinating interplay between a life in science and life in the world. As the child of two Holocaust survivors, he asks questions about our capacity to create our lives, while reflecting on extreme human cruelty — and courage.