As a descendent of Norseman, our family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. This has been handy as divorce and distance has challenged gatherings. It also means that Christmas is a quiet day of reflection for me. Worship at St John’s Lutheran wasn’t until 10 a.m. so I listened to your On Being podcast interview with Eugene Peterson. It was such a blessing and I felt such peace and love. I still had time and I was waiting for scones to come out of the oven. I searched for something similar on your website and found April 16, 2016 interview with MIT physicist Frank Wilczek. Wow!
The interview was over just as I needed to leave for church. I came home and listened to the unedited version. And I am inspired to write this open letter to you.
First, thank you for providing a place for profound conversations about such widely varied topics as physics, poetry, faith, and life in the public space. Where else would I learn that Eugene Peterson loves Wallace Stegner’s books as much as I do? Every week I am invariably challenged or inspired or made to think or all of these at once.
In the Frank Wilczek interview you spent much time conversing with him about beauty. As he said, “There’s a remarkable intersection I think, a remarkable overlap between the concepts of beauty that you find in art and literature and music and things that you find as the deepest themes of our understanding of the physical world.” You shared your discoveries in discussing beauty with Islam and Jewish scholars of the deep shared value for beauty.
In 2017 as we all struggle to make sense of what is going on with our world–with the poles melting, Aleppo burning, and many other pressing needs–it may seem frivolous to focus on beauty. Yet I am writing today to ask you to host a conference across all of the disciplines that you feature on your show to discuss beauty and help us all learn more about what beauty can tell us about the deepest meaning in the universe. Ask the powerful questions of these deep thinkers that we listeners only have access through you. Ask them what beauty can tell us about how we should then live in 2017.
This is my Christmas wish for On Being. Thank you for listening so well to your guests and modeling meaningful conversation.
Julie Pieper Spezia