"Transforming your fragility into courageous imperfection is the beginning of a lot more joy."Courtney E. Martin
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Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn with their baby boy
Our Latest Episode:

Béla Fleck + Abigail Washburn —
Beauty in Banjo and in Life

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They are partners in music and in life — recovering something ancient and deeply American all at once, bringing both beauty and meaning to what they play and how they live. Béla Fleck is one of the greatest living banjo players in the world. He’s followed what many experience as this quintessential American roots instrument back to its roots in Africa and taken it where no banjo has gone before. Abigail Washburn is a celebrated banjo player and singer, both in English and Chinese. Experience our public conversation with them on stage before an adoring crowd at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Trent Gilliss

Until the Heart Stays Open; Paying Attention to Where You Live; A Quiet Hero; Democracy with Leonard Cohen; A Letter That Will Move You to Mist.

by Trent Gilliss (@TrentGilliss)

I'm on vacation this week and am writing to you from the pine forests of northern Minnesota. Read on...
Sanjhana Tamang takes care of her daughter Simran Tamang, 3, as she lays in bed at a temporary hospital suffering from Typhoid fever after the earthquake in Shanku on April 30, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by David Ramos.
"God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open."
This quotation from the Sufi master Inayat Khan begins Laura Kelly Fanucci's lovely exploration into what it means to grapple with suffering, parenting, and the nature of love.
Sharon Salzberg at Barre, Massachusetts
Sharon Salzberg also considers what it means to open up:
"I’m learning that to be at home everywhere, I have to be sure to include the place I actually live."
As we become global citizens and focus on issues around the world, we neglect to look out the window of our back yards and into our local communities. Sharon offers some thoughtful advice to be part of the locality where you live too.
SAS at Aspen Ideas Festival
The man pictured above is Samuel Kargbo. Courtney Martin introduces us to this courageous doctor whose key insights turned the tide of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone through the act of opening up: by noticing, by caring, and by volunteering to do the work no one else would do.
People hold hands and sing during a prayer service in Marion Square, two blocks from where nine people were shot to death Wednesday at Emanuel African Methodist Church June 20, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
As we celebrate the Fourth of July in the U.S., Parker Palmer contemplates the hope, the promise, and the opportunity of "We the People" with a song from Leonard Cohen. "Democracy is always a work in progress," Parker writes, and he adds these marvelous words from William Sloane Coffin, Jr.:
"There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover's quarrel with their country..."
A Jewish man stares at an artistic rendering of an American flag
And on this celebratory day that launched the American experiment 239 years ago, I turn to one of my favorite Krista Tippett conversations on the "inward work" of democracy. I'll admit I'm one of those proud flag-raising, wrap my house in stars-and-stripes bunting Americans. But, Jacob Needleman calls me back to what this all means with words like these:
"A democratic citizen is not a citizen who can do anything he wants; it's a citizen who has an obligation at the same time. If I have the right to speak, I have the duty to let you speak. Inwardly, I have to work at listening to you. That means I don't have to agree with you, but I have to let your thought into my mind in order to have a real democratic exchange between us. And that is a very interesting work of the human being, don't you think?"
Political cartoon
Love this cartoon from Politico. And, yes, I'm still reading Rod Dreher's How Dante Can Save Your Life, but I am revisiting Pema Chödrön's helpful guide, The Places That Scare You. And I'm also delighting in these shorter forms too! My inboxes and social accounts are always open. Let me know how I can make this newsletter better (including calling it something other than a newsletter?!) My email address is and my Twitter handle is @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.

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About On Being

On Being is a spacious conversation — and an evolving media space — about the big questions at the center of human life.

Send us your comments about our work, and let us know how we're doing! If you have an idea for a radio show, drop us a line at If you would like to support On Being and Krista Tippett Public Productions — or if you are interested in underwriting the show — please contact Trent Gilliss at

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