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Woman in a museum looks at portraits hanging on the wall.

In 1977, writer and activist Audre Lorde had to undergo surgery to remove a tumor. Though doctors eventually determined that the tumor was benign, the weeks leading up to her surgery were a time of deep reflection for her. She talks about this in a now-famous speech:

“In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my own mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for in my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid?”

I was first introduced to this quote in Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s book The Way of Tenderness and was reminded of it after listening to Krista’s conversation with Eula Biss on whiteness, which we are re-airing this week. In the episode, Eula Biss helpfully articulates a truth about the silence around this topic: “If you can’t talk about something, you can’t think about something.”

Listening to the episode, I was brought back to Audre Lorde’s quote — which talks about silence in the context of her experience as a black woman. In speaking her truth, much was at stake: “the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps of judgment, of pain, of death.” Though they are talking about breaking silence in different contexts, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between Biss’s words and what Lorde calls the “transformation of silence into language and action.” As Lorde writes:

“In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone we can survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth.”

There is something universally terrifying about this transformation. It involves trust and a painful level of vulnerability. For Lorde, though, articulating these truths — making them visible — is at the heart of what it means to live in courageous and deep connection with others.

I’ll leave you with the questions Audre Lorde asks of us in her speech: “What are the words you do not have yet? What do you need to say?” As always, I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on these questions — you can write me at

Kristin Lin
Editor, On Being Studios

P.S. — This fall, we have a number of live events across the country, and we’d love to meet you. Scroll down for more information.

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This Week At On Being Studios
Our Latest Episodes
Woman looks through foggy, frosted glass at camera.
On Being
Eula Biss
“Let’s Talk About Whiteness”

This conversation was inspired by Eula Biss’s stunning New York Times essay “White Debt,” which had this metaphor at its core: “The state of white life is that we’re living in a house we believe we own but that we’ve never paid off.” She spoke with us in 2016, and we aired this last year, but we might just put this conversation out every year, as we’re all novices on this territory.

Listen on:
Our WebsiteApple Podcasts | Google Play
David Whyte sharing poetry on stage at 1440 Multiversity.
On Being
Poetry from the On Being Gathering — David Whyte (Opening Night)

This year, we were thrilled to host our very first On Being Gathering. We greeted each day with verse from some of our most beloved poets — and now we’d like to share these delightful moments with all of you. Here is how David Whyte opened for us on Friday night.

Listen on:
Our Website | Apple Podcasts | Google Play
From the On Being Blog
Photo collage.

Here are three essays that help open conversations about whiteness:

“What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege” by Lori Lakin Hutcherson
We can begin to understand each other by asking the right questions — and listening to the stories we receive in turn. Lori Lakin Hutchinson sheds frank and essential light on the reality of racism in America.

“Transforming White Fragility Into Courageous Imperfection” by Courtney E. Martin
A passionate, grounded plea to recognize white privilege and the gut level pushback — the "white fragility" — that happens when talking about race.

“Owning Up to My Toxic Biases” by Parker J. Palmer
Parker turns a critical eye to his own convictions about race and white privilege. He finds there’s always room to face our hubris — and in that humbling experience, we find hope to do better the next time around.

What We’re Loving

We wanted to share a few books we’ve been enjoying this summer — for your fall reading pleasure:


This fall, we’re delighted to take part in live conversations across the country and would love to see you. More events will be announced later this fall, so please check back here in the coming weeks for additional information.

Newark, NJ
On Being at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival
Friday October 19 – Sunday October 21, 2018
New Jersey Performing Arts Center


We will be taping three On Being conversations at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry festival in North America:

  • Jericho Brown on Friday October 19, 2:00 – 3:10 p.m.
  • Gregory Orr on Saturday October 20, 12:30 – 1:40 p.m.
  • Sharon Olds on Sunday October 21, 11:00 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
Festival passes are sold by the day and will grant you entry into all programming for the day(s) you purchase, so you can enjoy not just these three On Being interviews, but also also a fantastic line-up of poetry readings and talks. You can purchase tickets here

Logan, UT
Utah State University Tanner Talk

Wednesday November 7, 2018, 7:00 p.m.

Krista Tippett will be speaking on the adventure of civility. The event is free and open to the public, and no registration is required. You can find more information here
Image: Banner for the Fetzer Institute — "Helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world."

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The On Being Project is an independent non-profit public life and media initiative. We pursue deep thinking and social courage, moral imagination and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.

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