Contemplative-Curious: What Happens on an 8-Day Meditation Retreat?

Carrie Newcomer is a Quaker singer-songwriter. And there is a line from one of her songs that has lingered with me since I first heard it a few years ago. She laments—or maybe she confesses—that we’ve “Been traveling faster than our souls can go.” Can you relate? In our globalized, always-connected, Internet Age, I suspect that at some point most of us have found ourselves “traveling faster than our souls can go.” Don’t get me wrong. I like to move… Read more

“The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”

Edward Baptist, a history professor at Cornell University, is the author of a powerful book published a few years ago titled The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. When I first heard buzz about this book, I only knew vaguely that it was about the U.S. Civil War. And my first thought was skeptical: how is it possible—with all that has been said, written, and filmed about the Civil War—that half the story has… Read more

“Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Navigating the Bioethics of the Near Future”

The best guide I have found recently for glimpsing into forthcoming bioethical challenges to come is Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future (Beacon Press, 2016) by Michael Bess, a professor at Vanderbilt University who specialized in the history of technological change.  Bess also helpfully points beyond the pages of his writing to some of the best science fiction films and TV shows, which are among the more fun ways of opening our minds to the ethical… Read more

Where Does Creativity Come From? David Lynch, Twin Peaks, & Transcendental Meditation

Have you ever wondered where creativity comes from? And why do some people seems to have so many original ideas? The best book I have read about how each of us is much more creative than we have sometimes been taught is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Relatedly, one of my favorite quotes about why each of us should explore our creative side is from the modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham (1894-1991) who said: There is a vitality,… Read more

“Daring Democracy”

Democracy was born in ancient Athens. 2,500 years ago, around the turn from the 5th to the 4th century B.C.E., when revolts against the rule of tyrants gave people (δημο/dēmo-) the power (κρατία/-kratia) to rule. Those uprisings gave us the word democracy (δημο-κρατία/dēmo-kratía) (Crick 14). But beyond that basic definition of “rule by the people,” we need to be honest that democracy is a word that is widely used and abused. Indeed, democracy is an example of what philosophers call “an… Read more

Martin Luther & the Law of Unintended Consequences #Reformation500

Today, the celebration on most people’s minds is Halloween. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for trick-or-treating! But today is also: the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517,  a thirty-four year-old monk nailed a large parchment with Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Typically, a list of propositions for debate would find a limited audience within the ivory tower of academia. But in this case, Luther’s ideas spread quickly, sparking a controversy that… Read more

“You Say You Want a Revolution”: Insights for Today on the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

This month marks both the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. And I would like to reflect on these two events, in turn, in this post and next week’s post. What lessons are there for us today from looking back on these two historic events? To begin responding to that question, I invite you to consider one of my favorite quotes from the late American Pragmatist philosopher Richard… Read more

Immigrants Make America Great

“I remember standing in the hallways of that same CNN where Lou Dobbs worked, and meeting the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust. This person, who is the most unlike me, was the one who taught me to question the use of the term ‘illegal immigrant.’ Those who accuse me of having an agenda might believe that I chose as a journalist to question that because of some radical Latino, Chicano Studies professor in college. But… Read more

Cynic or Fool? How to Not “Go Low” When We Can’t Agree on Facts

Michelle Obama famously called us to be our best selves as citizens: “When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.” But that standard is difficult to maintain in our increasingly Orwellian world of “Alternative Facts.” As guides for such a time as this, Oxford University Press has published an excellent and accessible book related to this topic each of the last two… Read more

Universalism, Then & Now: Insights from the Life of Orestes Brownson

Patrick Carey, a theology professor, who has written the best modern biography of Orestes Brownson (1803-1876), calls him, with affection, an “American Religious Weathervane” because his theological orientation changed so many times. More charitably, we might call Brownson a maverick. And in contrast to the many politicians who like to call themselves “mavericks”—but whose behavior is often more conformist than independent-minded—Brownson was a maverick to a head-spinning degree: During his time as a Unitarian minister, he joined the rebellious wing… Read more

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