Becoming Wise (Penguin Press 2016) is the third book from Krista Tippett, host of the popular On Being (public radio) program which eloquently examines what it means to be human in the 21st century. The show, which airs on more than 400 public radio stations across the United States, is treasured for its rich conversations with today’s thinkers – from the poet Mary Oliver to Jon Kabat Zinn to yogi Matthew Sanford to the writer Pico Iyer. In Becoming Wise, Tippett curates from the bounty of captivating conversations she has originated in her 15 years at the show’s helm. In vintage Tippett style, the author uses the book’s pages to continue the conversation. As you turn the pages, there’s a feeling she is seated just across the table. And rather than painting any tidy conclusions from her personal and professional experiences, she sits with the questions.
Carved into five slices (Words, Flesh, Love, Faith, Hope), the book takes a particularly touching turn in the pages section devoted to Flesh. There, she speaks with Matthew Sanford who she declares her wisest teacher on “the body’s grace”. Mr. Sanford, an innovator and yoga instructor who has been in a wheelchair for 30 years since he was paralyzed as a teenager in a tragic automobile accident, has taken that trauma and its teachings to serve adaptive forms of yoga to people with disabilities, veterans and young women with anorexia. In this section of the book the two engage in a thought provoking exchange in and around the concept of body awareness. “I was a swimmer for many years and then, after meeting Matthew Sanford, I began to do yoga,” writes Ms. Tippett, “As much a anything I’ve done as an adult, yoga has saved my life… I was a beginner at something in midlife, and for the first time in my life I enjoyed the fact that being great at it was not the point. In yoga, the transitions between postures are a measure of grace as much as the postures themselves.”
Becoming Wise is a treasured collection of honest conversations with some of the world’s most beloved voices. It’s a great read and a thoughtful gift for anyone pondering the vast mysteries of the human condition. While the “big questions of meaning” do come alive off of the book’s pages, the audio vault of Ms. Tippett’s conversations are archived at On Being. Sampling the dialogue in that format, just as they unfolded, makes for a perfect primer to Becoming Wise.