On June 24, 2011, Krista Tippett was the speaker at the Westminster Town Hall Forum at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. Her topic: Spiritual Genius: Lessons for Living.
Tippett started her presentation by talking about Albert Einstein, who found Jesus, Gandhi, St. Francis of Assisi and Buddha to be geniuses in the art of living. Such Spiritual Geniuses, Einstein thought, were more necessary to human dignity, security and joy than those who are concerned with discovery of objective knowledge.
Tippett then discussed the qualities of Spiritual Genius that she has gathered from her conversations with serious people in her radio program and her own thought and reading.
First was understanding that spirituality was a whole body/whole self experience. Spirituality was embodied in time and space. Such an understanding is associated with a reverence for mystery and a sense of wonder at all of life. It leads to a deepened sense of place in the cosmos and greater compassion for all of life.
Second was recognizing that living better, loving better and being more compassionate are difficult to do. We often fail. We are imperfect. Acknowledging our failures and imperfections is essential to being at home with ourselves. Strength and weakness are a core message of Christianity. How we carry what has gone wrong with us is important.
Third was practice. Virtues are spiritual technology or “apps” that help us to live better. She noted the discovery of neuroscientist Richard Davidson that the brains of Buddhist monks who regularly engaged in meditation were physically changed. These virtues include the following:
- Beauty. We need to be attentive to beauty, which is a mark of God. Islam holds that Allah or God is beauty and loves beauty. Scientists say if an equation is not beautiful, it is not true. Beauty is that in whose presence we feel most alive.
- Humor. Desmond Tutu told her that God has a sense of humor.
- Asking good questions. Wrong questions lead to wrong answers and wrong conclusions and then to meaningless arguments. It is redemptive and life-giving to ask good questions. Rilke in his Letters to a Young Poet told us to love the questions themselves, to not go searching for the answers to those questions, but instead to live the questions so that perhaps we will live our way into the answers.
- Hospitality. This was a virtue that was easier to practice than the virtues of forgiveness and compassion.
- Forgiveness. This was a complex virtue that she did not have time to explore in this presentation. She noted that we do not forgive and forget.
In response to a question about recommendations for books on the topic of her presentation, she mentioned Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.
Ms. Tippett is a journalist, author and Peabody-award-winning broadcaster. As the creator and host of the public radio program On Being (formerly Speaking of Faith), she explores with her distinguished guests the animating questions of human life: What does it mean to be human and how do we want to live? Her two books are Speaking of Faith and Einstein’s God.
The Westminster Town Hall Forum engages the public in reflection and dialogue on the key issues of our day from an ethical perspective. The Forum is nonpartisan and nonsectarian. Forums are free and open to the public. They usually are held on select Thursdays from September through May from noon to 1:00 p.m. (CT) at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nicollet Mall and 12th Street, in downtown Minneapolis. Each forum is preceded by music at 11:30 a.m. A public reception and small group discussion follow the forum from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. The Forum presentations also are broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio.
 Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (1999), http://www.amazon.com/Let-Your-Life-Speak-Listening/dp/0787947350/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311626881&sr=1-1.
 Westminster Town Hall Forum, http://westminsterforum.org; http://www.facebook.com/l/UAQAsQrFg/westminsterforum.org. See Post: Westminster Town Hall Forum (July 25, 2011). This particular Forum was co-sponsored by the Hennepin County Libraries.