Krista Tippet Transcript
Krista Tippett: Some of us have to throw our bodies in front of other bodies in danger, right? It is in one, one life, one life, one life that relationships happen that the internal transformation happens that makes social transformation possible. So, it's about everybody just saying, where do I start?
Helga Davis: I'm Helga Davis, and now in our third season of Helga, we're talking to people about the path we're all on. We're all on where we've been, where we are, and where we're going next.
Along that path, I think that everybody needs a sign. And for me, Krista Tippett's voice is one of those signs I feel connected to.
Helga: I'm drawn to the conversations she has with people on her groundbreaking podcast On Being and to the way in which, however focused the conversation, there is still room for the Holy Ghost. That moment where anything can and does happen if we make space for it.
Unlike so many of my other guests, I didn't know Krista personally. I'm like you, I roll over in bed on Sunday mornings, I light my candle, I sip my tea, I listen, and I learn
And now, here we are with Krista Tippett.
What are you doing here? Sit down and put your headphone on.
Krista: Oh, you know, I come to New York because one must.
Helga: Have you ever lived in New York?
Krista: I can't believe I've never lived in New York. I mean, I grew up in Oklahoma. And then I was in Europe for 10 years and came back to New York a lot when I was living in Berlin. And I kind of always assumed at some point I'd be here, and it hasn't happened. But you know, life is long. It might still happen.
Helga: Right here. I was born in Harlem hospital.
Helga: And every year for my birthday, I call my mom. And I make her tell me the story of the day I was born.
So, I grew up on 146th Street between Lennox and what true Harlemites call Seventh Avenue. And Seventh Avenue is now Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard.
And my mom says, so I'm, I'm number six, the only girl out of five boys, 12 years between the youngest. So, I'm kind of the surprise, if you will.
And she said that she walked to Lennox Avenue to get a taxi and it was snowing and she couldn't find a taxi, so she began to walk. So, she walked from 146th Street to 135th Street where Harlem Hospital is, and I was born two hours later. Something like that.
So, every year it's this beautiful thing to listen to. And to share with her. And to give us a way back in to talking with each other.
Krista: Yeah. It's such a gift that you have that, that you have that conversation with her. I don't know. The fact that you have that conversation says so many other things to me.
Helga: Because we have, we have a hard time. I don't think she would describe it that way, but I certainly do. And it brings me back to remember that not only that this person walked to bring me into the world. But that after five boys, she really wanted a girl.
Helga: And I'm here.
Helga: That she got to name me after someone she liked very much. My parents are from the West Indies, and when they came here, they had to go to England first because their islands are British colonies.
Helga: And she met Helga from Hamburg in London. And she promised Helga that she would name her first daughter, Helga. And so, I'm Helga. And then there's all the fun of being called Helga because when people say, Helga, no one is ever, ever looking for me.
We both get something from the story. And she gets to assert again, her determination. Her will. Her being this immigrant woman in this country and saying, not only am I going to survive and thrive here, my children will too. And I'm going to walk to the hospital and bring this last one in.
Krista: Thank you for telling me that.
Helga: And so, I'm a new Yorker in the other way also, which is that I cannot drive. I can't drive the car. I never had to learn to do that, and I've always been on the subway. Even when it was dangerous to be on the subway. I was on the subway.
And my mom worked at Harlem Hospital. She was a nurse there and would put me on the bus with a note for the driver. To say, this is where she should get off. So, you know, that's, that's not, they would put my mother in jail. Now, we had that conversation a little while ago too. About how, and she said, you know, "Helga, if, if someone brought up their children the way I brought you all up, they would put me in jail." I was like, "Yeah, mom, they would." Yeah, but we're here.
Krista: Yeah. You're here and it also made you.
Helga: That too.
Krista: Yeah, there's, there's loss with all the progress.
Helga: Are your parents alive?
Krista: They are. I have a hard time with my parents too, and especially with my father, so, yeah. But they are both alive. They're both in Oklahoma, so I, unlike you fled the place I was born and grew up.
And I think that I realized that my generalizations that I make about the entire place I came from also had to do with the family I was in. And it took me a long time to realize that.
Since 2016, these last few years, I've actually been grateful for the very first time that I grew up in that, you know, middle of our country. Because it keeps me, you know, I always feel like I have a leg over these many chasms.
And that's kind of interesting to have lived this long and suddenly finding my way back unexpectedly. Yeah.
Helga: When you go there, do you stay with them or you get a hotel and you see them during the day and you'd have a place to, to retreat in at night?
Krista: So, I stay with my mother. She no longer lives in this tiny little town where I grew up. My father still lives there, and I don't, I'm not in relationship with him. Which was a long time, you know. It was a sad- it was a place I got with him. And I'm at peace. You know, I'm not angry with him.
So I don't see him, but my mother has moved on. She's moved into a different place. She's actually grown up more. And she has a wonderful man in her life who actually, he has kind of opened my eyes to, you know, how it's possible to be Oklahoman.
So that's- there's some healing in that.
Helga: How do you think, or feel, or observe your relationship with your father has affected your relationship with men, with your son? You have a son, yes?
Krista: I do. It's so funny. We've just plunged into this conversation I never have, and I'm going to go there with you, all right.
Helga: Welcome to the hell of the podcast.
Krista: I mean, I. I wrote a little bit about my father in the, in my last book, but because I realized I couldn't not name this huge rupture in my life and in my life of love. Especially when I was writing about love. And it was, you know, it was probably that I have to cause I talk a lot about love. I want us to talk about love. And I don't want us to do it in a way that sugarcoats it.
So that is a big story of sadness. Oh gosh. What a question. I mean, I remember when I first went into therapy in my thirties. And I was actually on the brink of a really big depression. Which was partly about finally owning all this. And I hadn't really.
So, I went in there. First of all, I went in saying things like, "I had a really happy childhood. I don't know why."
Helga: I don't know why I'm on this couch.
Krista: I don't know why I feel so bad. And of course, it just wasn't true. And I was also saying. My marriage is perfect, like my husband couldn't be more different from my father. And then at some point in the therapy or outside it, I learned this notion of the "Imago". Have you heard this? I
Helga: No, what's this?
Krista: It's a psychological concept. That we had this sense that comes very much from how we were raised and the people who are around us who imprinted us with, among other things, what love feels like and what it looks like. And, that's true even if it wasn't healthy. But it is what is familiar.
So, when I heard this in "Imago", cause the idea is that you will gravitate to fall in love with someone who reminds you of those first loves in your life. Whether they were good for you or not. And I had such a visceral reaction to that. You know, "Thank God I didn't do that!" You know, that I had married a man who couldn't be more different from my father.
And the truth is, although, he spoke differently from my father, he was differently educated, he was from another country. You know, what he did was different. Emotionally he was like my father.
And he was somebody who could never, who couldn't really step into love. In this very deep, hidden way.
So yeah, it affected me. And with my son, I have to say that interestingly, my son has never really been around my father. The last time he saw him he was nine. He's 21 now.
My father was adopted when he was four. I think he was, if not abused, like neglected to the point of abuse. He doesn't have normal emotional reactions, even to his children or grandchildren. So, he never really connected with my son.
But my son, as he's grown up genetically, is imprinted by my father. He has mannerisms that my father had. There's ways he says certain words that he's never heard my father say, that he says that way.
Some of his interests are my father's interest. They're not his father's interests. And it was freaking me out as I started to see this with him. But where I've gotten with it is that my son is turning out to be just a good man.
And this may be stretching it too far. But sometimes I feel like, which feels very healing for me, this is my father if he'd been- if I'd been his mother. If he'd been well-parented. If he'd been cared for.
So, in that sense with my son, I feel that there's this way for generationally to be some repair.
Helga: I wonder what it is too, if you don't grow up with your father? How then that affects the, the choices you make.
So, I didn't grow up with my father and when my father died it was the first time that all of us had been together. And, because they're so much older, I'm actually closer to my nieces and nephews in a way than I am to my brothers. But here for me was an opportunity to ask some questions. And in that time, I learned that none of us had ever lived with both of our parents. Six lives.
And so there we were at this table and I said, "So does anyone want to talk about this?" It would have been better if they had just laughed, but the anger. "You always want to talk about. Talk about what? There's nothing to talk about. This is how it was for us and why can't you just accept that and move on?"
And so I think that, in part, what I did in my long-term relationship is that I waited for a long time for someone I loved in high school. And he was from another country. And was just kind to me. He was in our high school for one year. And I liked him from the moment at the door.
And when he graduated, I was the receptionist at the American civil liberties union as my job after school. And so, I had saved up my money and I told him I wanted to take him out for dinner as a celebration of his graduation. And so, we went out to dinner and after we walked along the Brooklyn bridge.
I was 15 and I said, "If we don't meet other people by the time we're 30, we should get married."
Helga: And he looked at me, he was very sweet. And guess what? The next time I saw him, I was 30 years old and we spent 10 years together. And then in that time my father died and when we separated one of my very good friends said to me, "Of course you can't be in that relationship anymore. Your father is dead." And it just like it hurt.
Helga: Even now when I repeat it, to just take that breath and to ask, is that what I did? Did I make this person my father and not be able or not show up in our relationship as a mature woman?
Krista: Yeah, but then like how can we show up as a mature woman when we're 25 or 30? Or even 40, right. That's what's so nuts about it.
Helga: Krista, people do it!
Krista: They think they do it. No, I think relationships that work, and I don't know a lot of relationships I envy. Right? I don't know a lot of relationships I'd want to be in. But the ones that work is where people manage to do their growing in sync. And where nobody stops growing. But most relationships? I mean, it doesn't matter how in love you are, how perfect you seemed in the beginning.
Helga: Fair enough.
Krista: Did that end a long time ago or not very long ago?
Helga: ended a long time ago. You know, I was in a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago and one of my colleagues put his arm around me and he pulled me very close to him. And I completely freaked out. And I didn't show it and I didn't say anything because I've had lots of therapy.
I just, I stayed. And I looked at him. And I said, "Just take this in Helga." Take in it feels like to be held in this way by someone who is attracted to you or finds you attractive. And who has put their arm around you and just see what that feels like. Test that water and don't run.
Krista: You know, I had a relationship after my divorce. I've been divorced a long time. I had a relationship that was really life giving and it was really important for me to know that that part of me wasn't broken. That that relationship was broken and that everything could still be fun and that I could still be that way. But it wasn't supposed to be forever, you know? It had its moment. And then that moment passed.
And then I thought that I would just find another relationship and it didn't happen. And yet I was really happy. Right? I started investing- well, first of all, my children were at home. And your relationship with your children is also very physical.
It's all encompassing. It takes a lot of you. It takes most of you. And so that was going on. I was building my work, my project. You know, it's a work of love. There's a lot of passion around it. And also investing in my friendships with women, which had not been as robust as they should have been when I was earlier. Which had to do with family as well, you know. Just patterns.
And I realized that there was some voice in the back of my head that said, "Sure my life is tremendous in so many ways. You know, in many ways I'm very contented. I lack for nothing except. Love, right?"
Like there's some things that only I had love in my life, I would be complete. Which is also just a ridiculous idea because even if you get complete your complete for 30 seconds, right.
But then I finally like found it in myself. I mean there's one day that I realized how ridiculous that voice was because I realized that I was diminishing that word love. Cause I thought, I then and now, have so much more love in my life.
It's many forms of love. I mean, even as you're talking, it's even like the love you have for the work you do. You're creating, you're generating, you're putting things out into that world that also spark precisely that in other people. And so, I decided to stop being careless with the word and start really taking in the many forms. And what a gift that is. That's just unleashed a lot of joy in me.
Helga: Do you think that you were using the word love for something else, also? So, love is not sex. Love is not cohabitation. Love- it's not that. What did you think you meant when you said, "the only thing I'm lacking is love?"
Krista: Yeah. I mean, of course it did mean sex. But, you're right. I think it's that, that particular delicious way of being seen and known. But also, I think there's an illusion that's not true, that somehow that way of being seen and known makes you safe. And that's not true. It's not true.
And in fact, you know, you can have the great romance. At some point you get into somebody else's mess. And at this point in my life, I don't know how high my threshold would be for the inevitable mess.
Helga: Krista, if the sex were really great.
Krista: It would take a long way.
Helga: You might be willing to go the extra mile. For a little while.
Helga: Clearly you love what you're doing. You've been having these conversations, and I am intentional in using that word because
Krista: That's your word.
Helga: It is my word, too. It is not an interview. So, I am a Speaking of Faith girl.
Krista: Oh, right. Great.
Helga: I've been rolling over, setting my alarm on Sunday mornings to be with you.
Helga: Since then. What changed for you? What evolved? And how come it evolves in the way that it has, do you think?
Krista: Do you mean with the name
Helga: Not even with a name, but even with your intention for the show?
Krista: To me it's been all evolution. But I think, you know, I have to credit my younger self because somehow I always felt that this project was, that it was all listening, right? So, yes, of course it's getting in and being with somebody for an hour and listening to them. But that it was also listening to the world, right. To what's going on in the culture too.
But with this particular focus on this part of the human enterprise where we find meaning. Where we ask these great existential questions. And our traditions are these fast repositories of that. And I think their depths carry so much that we repeatedly realize we need.
But, you know, I started this show early two thousands. Turn of the century, as I like to say. Early two thousands. I hadn't done radio. I had all these experts around me. And you know, somebody came up with this name that sounded like something a public radio show might be called. And I had been actually just skulking around public radio for several years saying, "You know, we should be able to talk about religion. We should be able to talk about this part of life."
And they were saying initially, "Nobody wants to talk about that in public. And we don't think public radio listeners have spiritual lives." Ridiculous things like that got said to me. Or if they do, they want to keep it private.
Then 9/11 happens. We have an evangelical President in the White House. And so, then I could say look, "Whether we want to talk about it or not it's here and yet it's being done in a very primitive way that's actually making everything worse."
And so, "Speaking of Faith" is what it's called. So, it was signaling, what we're doing. And there was a lot of religion in those years because there is a lot of religion above the radar. Religion had gotten implicated. But I feel like we grew up in public and it was about five years in that I realized that that title didn't describe what was happening in the show.
Because "Speaking of Faith", sounds like we're talking about something and not out of something. And in this culture, I think that language has the connotations of religion and of answers.
And while I am interested in observations and wisdom and I'm interested in truth as people discern it and see it and can describe it and live it what I realize we're really pursuing are the questions behind this part of life. Even the questions in a very devout religious life, a life of deep spiritual practice.
It's wonderful that you have Helga and that you can just do that because it is a fantastic name, but names you have to grow into. And even though that's your name, the podcast and the world around it will grow into what this means as a space that they're in.
Helga: Well, what's interesting about the show being called Helga, is that I was in one of those rooms where there was that board with the markers, and there were lots of names on that board.
And nothing. I had to really pay attention to my body. And not one of them felt true. And finally, at the end- towards the end of the meeting, someone said, "Well, you know, at the end of the day, we could just call it Helga." And everything.
Krista: Thousands of dollars have been paid in consultancy fees.
Helga: Everything in me went "Ahh."
Helga: Because that I can get behind. That I can defend in any room, to anyone, in any conversation. That. And whoever comes into that circle, that is the thing that makes sense to me.
I mean, I'm not a star in the way that one might assume a person with a show that has their name attached to it might be. But I couldn't back away from it. I couldn't go away from it. Once I knew, I knew. And I had to trust that that meant something.
And in the moment that I said that, yes, the people I needed to and wanted to speak with began to appear. They were everywhere.
Krista: But you know, even just the name. And well, first of all, Helga, as we discussed, it's such a, you know, it's a singular name.
Helga: It means, Holy.
Krista: Does it?
Helga: Yeah. And there's something about this space that feels that way to me also.
Krista: I really love the way you talk about this work of radio podcasting. And I think radio is a magical medium. And what I've heard you talk about how that it is embodied and you also, you are embodied right? As a host. And sitting here with me.
I think that's something people don't understand. And you know, across the years people have said, you know, "You could do television." Like, that would be graduating.
But what I want to say, like, what you don't understand when there's so much that's Donna understood that radio is the most visual medium. That it's drawing on the pictures in the head of the listener.
I think, you know, sometimes people- do you do all your interviews live?
Helga: Yes, and I was going to ask you?
Krista: Yeah, no, I do a lot of ISDN. And I really love, I mean, I like both. But they're different.
And I really do love ISDN because the human voice, the human voice is embodied, right? The human voice can actually convey it all. But when I am in a studio somewhere, and somebody else has a studio someplace else, and we are only connecting with our voices, I love the discipline and challenge of that. Of drawing out the fact that with the voice, you get the body, you get the mind, you get the emotion.
Helga: I think that I would not have even agreed to do this if we couldn't do it together. And maybe I'm just not far along enough in my practice, in this practice to trust that that could be okay. But I sit here and I'm waiting with my entire self for you to come through the door. Right?
And those first, those initial moments. Talk about delicious. Are so delicious. And then that I get to look at you, which is also a very important thing to me. And meet you here with my eyes, with my body, with all of myself. Just feels like an important thing to me. And especially because so many of us are spending, and you know, it's the same complaint. "Everybody's on their phones, everyone in the day, everybody's plugged in everywhere."
And so, these opportunities to make alive again, our meeting.
Krista: Yeah, I know. I agree. It was all of that. I think you should try it out sometime.
Because, you know, I did an interview before I got on the plane earlier this week and there is still that this moment where I'm in the studio with my headphones on and somebody sits down in the chair on the other end and I hear them sitting down and I hear them taking their coat off and having glass of water and then we say hello.
Krista: I feel like my approach to interview preparation and presence is the Vulcan mind meld approach. So, you know my thoughts too. Your thoughts. Your mind to my mind. And so, I think what people don't realize is when you're doing a studio- an ISDN interview and actually now it's not like talking on the phone.
They're coming into your brain, right? They're in your head. It's very intimate. And yes, you don't get to have the visual see them. Do the body language. But on the other hand, this is distracting. And when I'm doing one of those interviews, I often have my eyes closed. I'm like, I'm 150% listening.
Krista: So, it's just, it's a different kind of intimacy.
Helga: [You own your show?
Krista: Yes. I do.
Helga: It just occurred to me that you must.
Krista: Yeah. I mean, it was a long journey with lots of lawyers involve. But I do.
Helga: And that was important to you?
Krista: It was essential because we were inside a 20th century media radio organization that was never going to enter the 21st century. It didn't matter how the work was received in the outside world.
You know, internally I was never going to be Marketplace and I never wanted to be Marketplace. If we had gone to- if we'd called ourselves Marketplace Religion instead of On Being, we would have gotten internal support.
But something I'm thinking a lot about these days is the way our institutions were created and are structured and organized. This is also something we have to humanize. We have to go out of this. To also create this life together that we want.
Not unprofessional, but differently professional. And we were in this, you know, not unusual, toxic kind of 20th century environment. And I realized that we could not create the internal culture that was consonant with the content we were creating in that place.
And so, I got to this place personally, I didn't like how I was becoming. And so, I got to this place where I just- and it was a dramatic moment because where I got was, if we have to stay here doing it like this, then I think this thing has had its day, right? Then we need to say goodbye and what incredible experience. But let's try, let's see if we can take it out and, you know, do it in a way that, and you know, it was, I mean, obviously there were, there were lawyers involved and it was complicated.
But it was, it was ultimately, it wasn't hostile. And it was absolutely life-giving.
Helga: And you had to take your work in your hands.
Krista: And also, we needed to, we were in this peg of a radio show. You know, this is a different situation. Being a podcast, it's so different. But what we were learning is that the people who were in our kind of listening community were really taking this content into their minds and their lives in ways that were so beautiful. And that in my mind, created a responsibility for us to be present to that, to, and responsive to that too.
And inside this old box of what you do as a radio show, we could only opportunistically be responsive to that.
So being independent, allowed us to play and experiment and you know, fail at some things. But really then put legs under a new model. Yeah. So here we are.
Helga: What are the things that you do every day to get you set up to be the most yourself? What are your practices? And I ask everyone this because sometimes I think people listen to you and they say, "Yeah, but she...", They immediately begin to find the excuse why it's easier for you to do it than it is for them to do it. And I know this to be such a lie.
Krista: I feel, I find it, I just find it so funny when people have you up on some pedestal that you know, you must not be so wise. Like I'm floating and I'm like, I have a life, right.
Helga: What, what are some of the things you practices-
Krista: Yea. I don't, I do, I do have practices. It's taken me a long time to get them. I don't follow them perfectly. I mean, I did realize at some point a few years ago that it's really important for me to get settled and quiet in the morning.
I used to get up, make my tea, sit down at my table and start ripping through email. And, you know, by the time I got to work I was already anxious and stressed out and stressing other people out. And I also have had a bad habit over these years of, I was always building something. And for awhile, I was, you know, basically single parenting, of like wearing myself into exhaustion again and again and again. Really not being a role model in that.
But I have over the last few years, I don't want to live that way. So, part of that, all of that is that I need to have some protected space in the morning where I just wake up and I'm alive and drink my tea and have some time.
You know, I've been started doing this thing, which I'd call contemplative reading. But like, I love reading. But when I read, I mean, when I read for work, it's very serious. When I read at night when I read kind of for pleasure, now it's often really beautifully written murder mysteries. They have to be well written. But so, I've been taking books that I just want to savor. You know, some of them are overtly spiritual, some of them are poetry. Some of them are- I love beautiful writing about the natural world.
So I'm reading this book right now by Stephen Batchelor, who's a Buddhist teacher about solitude. The art of solitude. And just reading a page, reading slowly. Like giving myself that luxury. And it's not, you know, it's 10 minutes. It's not an hour.
I do have a meditation practice, which I feel is a glorified way to describe it, you know? But at some point, I did build it in this into my life. Again, it's often like 10, 15 minutes. And I do it most days, but I miss days.
At some point a few years ago, I realized while I knew this was so good for me, I think it's a spiritual technology. I'm so glad it's come to us, 21st century people. But that I wanted to be praying too. So, I started integrating prayer with my meditation and you know, that's, that's my mother tongue. It's my spiritual homeland. And that's meant a lot to me. But you know, it will keep evolving. So that's where I am now.
I do a lot of yoga. I do yoga and I also have been doing more kind of strength things because to me to get into my body and out of my head is what keeps me sane. And it's not a move I was taught to make. Like I survived by having this strong brain and this indomitable will. Wearing myself into the ground, not paying attention to what was going on in my body. And for me getting older and to the extent that I've gotten wiser is about less cerebral. More embodied.
Helga: What's this new thing that you're doing now?
Krista: We're doing a lot of new things, but we're launching a new poetry podcast. Because poetry has just become one of these things in the human enterprise that always rises up when we're searching for the words we need, when the words we've used are failing us and working against us.
And we don't know how to say the things we need to say. We've lost our way to hear each other's voices. And I just think we need beauty. And poetry is not always beautiful because it's not hearts and flowers beautiful. Right? But it's a care with a language. That discipline is so not present in so many addictive ways we use language.
So, poetry and speaking with poets just started to rise up in the show. I would say just organically. And I realize we're pursuing the questions. And to me the root questions are, "what does it mean to be human?" How do we want to live?" "Who will we be to each other?"
And that who will we be to each other question to me is the question that we rise to in this century as a species if we flourish. And if we don't rise to it, you know, maybe we survive.
And poetry is a force in picking up that question. So, we had a friendship that has evolved over many years with this Northern Irish poet who is using On Being in the most, the ways that just kind of just blew me away.
Pádraig Ó Tuama his name, and he was the head of the Corrymeela community, which was a place in Northern Ireland through all of their violence where people from both sides could come and take refuge and feel safe. And there was no other place like this. And since the Good Friday Agreement, it's become a key kind of force in that country's courage to get up everyday. And figure out. You know, they say like, the Good Friday Agreement wasn't the fulfillment of peace, it was the beginning.
And Pádraig was just saying the other night that, you know, there's a, there's a theory in conflict transformation that, you know, you need as long to fully heal from a conflict as the conflict unfolded.
you think about it, I mean, let's use some examples from our world. Racial healing, right? This is a long. I mean, so it's hard to know this, and yet it's also a relief, I think, because culturally we tend to think that if we can't rush it, we're failing or it's doomed.
And there are things that are, that must be urgent. But to know that this is generational work
Helga: But it's so hard to remember that, especially if you're the one. You can't, you can't get the mortgage. You can't get the job. It becomes really.
Krista: That knowledge can't supplant the work that needs to be done right now. And it can't supplant the fact that on the on the front edges of the unfinished work there are people dying and being damaged.
And so I feel like we have to be able to make both moves. And I think if we also keep in mind that the work is long, that it's the arc of the moral universe that we're bending. I think it will make the quality of our engagement with what is urgent and immediate, I think it will make that better.
Helga: What does it mean for you to be doing your show in the middle of the country?
And I ask you this because I have a residency. I'm a fellow at The University of North Carolina. And I have to say, so much gives me pause about being in North Carolina.
It's not that I want to stay in my New York bubble, but I know that part of part of doing this work and whatever it is that I mean by that, has to do with putting it in places where it's needed. And putting myself, my body, in a place where it's needed.
Krista: Across those chasms.
Helga: We were just talking about it. And so, I'm wondering, what's your community like? And what does it mean at the end when you say that you make the program on Dakota land?
Krista: Yeah, well, that's where we're located. We are in Minneapolis. To be honest, across the years of the show, I have wondered and had sleepless nights about, you know, would it be good for the show if we'd been based in New York? You know, I think, you know, you get more buzz, you get more hype. I would be more connected to the larger media and arts community.
I stopped worrying about that a few years ago. I realize we were going to be fine in terms of growing, but the interesting thing that's happened since 2016, is that I am so glad we're based in the middle of the country. And I am so glad that I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. Which I've never been glad about before.
Because, like you, it's an uncomfortable way to be. And it's, like this discomfort is necessary. You know? I know I'm not the only person to make fun of the flyover country language, but it's, it's so offensive.
And I even think, you know, the rust belt, the way we talk about entire regions where people come from. And so, what we've done intentionally in these last years is really privileged. Because we get invitations to do, you know, live events. Public events had become a really important part of Civil Conversations Project. And ,it has been life-giving.
And, you know, everybody doesn't have to make this move, right. But some of us are safe enough and just so inclined to be bridge people. And, you know, I feel that way and I feel it because of my personal history as much as just what I believe in. And then I think we need to kind of culturally start, I would like for us to acknowledge and see that work as part of that.
I was talking about, you know, I want to stitch relationship across this rupture. I mean, there's so much work to be done. There's so many different kinds of work to be done. And there is, there is also the work of some of us have to throw our bodies in front of other bodies in danger. Right.
And, but I guess, my point is we need to be doing all of these things. And I think everybody has to figure out, "What is my calling?"
And also, social transformation doesn't come. The big movements that we see eventually, they are long in building and they start close to the ground. That's where they're fermented. And that's where the human, you know, it is in one, one life, one life, one life that the relationships happen. That the internal transformation happens. That makes social transformation possible.
So, this is not just about those of us who have media platforms or, you know, 501(c)(3)'s. It's about everybody just saying, "Where do I start?"
Helga: I feel like the answer to that question is right where my feet are. It's so easy to look at the news or to look at some program and say, "Oh, those people over there, those people over there." And one of the things that has been a practice for me for some time now is to say good morning to every person I pass.
You know, I have my days when I really feel like to hell with all the people I'm passing today. Because I can't get anyone's attention. I don't feel my weight in. And then I have to take the step back and say, this is not about you. This is your way to begin to stitch these relationships together, right where your feet are.
And I'm looking for more and more and more opportunities to make that happen. And I think part of it, part of my being in North Carolina, has very much to do with that. So, I go sometimes I'm there for a week. In the future, I will be there a little bit longer, but never really more than two weeks or so. But it's the consistency.
So, I will go back and the work that I'm doing there involves an artist, a community arts organization, and a professor. So, it's a beautiful three pronged approach to, and calling attention to, working through an audience, with some question with an audience. Trying to find some healing around something with an audience.
So, it's not me going there singing a bunch of songs. It's my collaboration with the community organizer, and a professor to sort that out. And that's the first, it's the first time I've been called to do this kind of work. To get more bodies on my side. Right. So, then I'm not alone. And that the bigger thing can emerge. The larger conversation can emerge. And, and that's not necessarily something I would know on my own.
But to be in conversation with other people forces this other way. This fourth way to exist. And it's very, very exciting.
Krista: Yeah. I could not prove this with a poll, but I know that most of us across all of the divisions and differences we could, name don't want to live this way.
But you know, part of the crisis now, is people know how to step into this space of being different. And in fact, it's not reasonable. And with many of the spaces we have, including media spaces, it's not reasonable to invite you to come in and be vulnerable and be curious and want to be surprised. Or think you can be friends with this person.
So, we have to create the new spaces for something new can happen. And also, it's not about us, it's not about us stepping into those spaces and suddenly being more alike. It's not about us not having really meaningful disagreement. But it's about claiming that we share a life. And that those disagreements and those differences don't define what might be possible between us. If we claim the fact that we share life. And that we can start walking forward.
Helga: I was in Philly for a couple of weeks and I really thought about this as a public action. Every day I passed a Planned Parenthood. And there was the same man with his sign and his opinion. And I could talk to you for a long time about what I've felt and feel about that.
But then I had the thought, what would it be like if I actually went and stood with him in that place. And that then, he would have to come with me somewhere and stand with me and be with me. I haven't given up on it as an idea yet. I have to figure out how to make it safe.
Helga: But to really to be in someone else's shoes. It's easy, easy, easy, easy, easy to understand why I could like or not like this person. And I agree with you. The language that we're using to describe one another in the rust belt or wherever it is we come from, it isn't kind.
Krista: Yeah. And we're often describing other people, like we are kind of a locking them into the worst things that have happened to them.
Krista: To their trauma. And. I just, I feel alternately so despairing and so excited about this moment. I mean, because we are, we are really actually learning for the first time in history of our species about what trauma does to us, for example.
How our brains work. How if somebody gets locked into their trauma, you can't reason with them and they can't reason with you. That's too much to ask, right?
But there's intelligence in that about how do we then approach that? Like we are learning about how we can, how we can work with it. But we have to be realistic. You know that if we, you know, if we lock people into their trauma, then we can't blame them for not behaving the way we think they should behave.
And by the way, how rational is the way we think they should behave.
Helga: Filtered through all our trauma.
Krista: Exactly. Exactly.
Helga: I have to let you go.
Krista: Well. Here you are a kindred spirit. This conversation where you're like, this longing, this also this, a willingness to engage it. I think this is as much the story of our time as what was in the New York Times today. And we just have to keep saying this out loud. And letting people know who are thinking it, but don't know they can say it out loud. Like, just raise their voices.
Helga: Thank you so much.
Helga: And to you.
I'm Helga Davis and that was my conversation with Krista Tippett. Helga is produced by Krystal Hawes Dressler, and myself. Our technical director, composer, and sound designer is Curtis Macdonald. Lukas Krohn-Grimberger is our Executive Producer. Special thanks to WNYC Program Director, Jacqueline Cincotta and Alex Ambrose.
Be sure to visit us online at wnycstudios.org/helga.
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