Quotes from Krista Tippett's "Becoming Wise"

Updated on November 4, 2016

Krista Tippett


I was first exposed to Krista Tippett via the blog posts at www.onbeing.org. Although I usually didn't listen to her interviews, I was often intrigued by the topics she addressed and the varied individuals she spoke with. Not surprisingly, when her book Becoming Wise was released earlier this year, I added it to my already massive "books to read someday" list. My thinking was, since this happens far too often, I would never get to it. Yet, when a library copy was easily available, I decided to give it a go. It did not disappoint. With delicate, thoughtful, and luminous prose, she discussed complex subjects such as hope and love and spirituality. Because it included numerous references to the individuals she's interviewed for NPR's On Being, this book was textured in a way few are. In order to share her writings with others--and, more than this, to help me remember what I had read--I collected a handful of quotes from this volume. All of these quotes, by the way, are by her and not excepts from her various interviews. As is always the case, I've extracted quotes which appeal to me. Nevertheless, I hope they are of some interest to you. Enjoy.

“I’ve come to understand the cumulative dialogue of my work as a kind of cartography of wisdom about our emerging world. This book is a map in words to all important territory we all are on now together. It’s a collection of pointers that treat the margins as seriously as the noisy center. For change has always happened in the margins, across human history, and it’s happening there now. Seismic shifts in common life, as in geophysical reality, begin in spaces and cracks.”

“This daunting and wondrous century is throwing open basic questions the twentieth century thought it had answered.”

“Our spiritual lives are where we reckon head-on with the mystery of ourselves, and the mystery of each other.”

Krista Tippett holding a copy of her book.
Krista Tippett holding a copy of her book. | Source

“The question of what it means to be human is now inextricable from the question of who we are to each other. We have riches of knowledge and insight, of tools both tangible and spiritual, to rise to this calling. We watch our technologies becoming more intelligent, and speculate imaginatively about their potential to become conscious. All the while, we have it in us to become wise. Wisdom leavens intelligence, and ennobles consciousness, and advances evolution itself.”

“We create transformative, resilient new realities by becoming transformed, resilient people.”

“I’m not surprised by the fact that inexplicable and terrible things happen in a cosmos as complicated as ours, with sentient beings like us running the show. But I am emboldened by the fact that surprise is the only constant. We are never really running the show, never really in control, and nothing will go quite as we imagined it. Our highest ambitions will be off, but so will our worst prognostications. I am emboldened by the puzzling, redemptive truth to which each and every one of my conversations has added nuance, that we are made by what would break us.”

“You have your own stories, the dramatic and more ordinary moments where what has gone wrong becomes an opening to more of yourself and part of your gift to the world. This is the beginning of wisdom.”

“I take it as an elemental truth of life that words matter. This is so plain that we can ignore it a thousand times a day. The words we use shape how we understand ourselves, how we interpret the world, how we treat others.”

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“The world right now needs the most vivid, transformative universe of words that you and I can muster.”

“I have yet to meet a wise person who doesn’t know how to find some joy even in the midst of what is hard, and to smile and laugh easily, including at oneself. A sense of humor is high on my list of virtues, in interplay with humility and compassion and a capacity to change when that is the right thing to do.”

“In our somewhat chastened age, we’re circling back to the underlying reality that was there all along: the human condition, in all its mess and glory, remains the ground on which all our ambitions flourish or crash. The adage that ‘he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it’ doesn’t go far enough. History always repeats itself until we honestly and searchingly know ourselves. Now the chaos of global economies points at human agency.”

“Great leaps, however exhilarating, are hard on mortal creatures.”

“Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet. I meet others, with the life I’ve lived, not just with my questions. I’ve learned along the way to be grateful for the unlikely trajectory my life has taken, the perspective it’s granted.”

“There are places in human experience that politics cannot analyze or address, and they hold more possibility for change than we can begin to imagine.”

“Words are crafted by human beings. They take on all of our flaws and frailties. They diminish or embolden the truths they arose to carry. We drop and break them sometimes. We renew them, again and again.”

“Profound truth, like the vocabulary of virtue, eludes formulation.”

“I walk with people back and forth across the intersection of what they know and who they are, what they believe and how they live—and what that might have to do with the rest of us.”

“The word soul is one of those overused words of which some of us are understandably wary. But almost everyone, I’ve learned, has a story to tell about the spiritual background of her childhood.”

“My only measure of the strength of a question now is the honesty and eloquence it elicits.”

“There is something redemptive and life-giving about asking a better question.”

“Philosophers and physicians didn’t mean to divide us up. It’s what we do instinctively with great truths—we take them to extremes. We try to control this messy reality we are, tugged and torn by desires and needs and holes we fill with excess. Now, we’re bringing our sense of ourselves back to earth. We’re tethering our yearning for wholeness to the physiology we’ve known about for a while, the neurons we’re just learning to see. Physical, emotional, and spiritual are more entangled than we guessed, more interactive in every direction, and this knowledge is a form of power.”

“Our greatest aspirations and virtues have always relied on a measure of inner equanimity. And this is something many of us are learning to tend better, more consciously, precisely as the noisy world feels like it is pulling us apart. We are learning, if fitfully and always imperfectly, to nurture inner wisdom that shapes outer life and accordingly enlivens this part of the world that we can see and touch. This is a dialectic by which faith, in order to survive, lives more profoundly in its own deepest sense than it ever could before.”

“It’s one of the things that’s worth pausing every once in a while and taking in, isn’t it—this dramatic change in our lifetimes.”

“Once upon a time, maps that revealed the edges and frontiers of the known world were tools of the few, wielded as power, locked away in secret. But we live in a world whose contours are formed by story, not conquest, and shaped and reshaped continuously by connection.”


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    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 17 months ago

      Dear Deborah,

      Thank you for commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Take care,


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      deborah demander 17 months ago

      Great article. I can't wait to read the book. Thanks for writing.