Introduction - Seeking Christian Wisdom for Life's Big Questions (Season 1, Episode 1)
00:00 – The ultimate fear of any parent face to face with a child
00:21 – Ridiculous (ly awesome) questions
01:25 – The business of big questions
01:40 – Why is wisdom is still important?
02:15 – What to expect from The Table Audio
2:57 – Who and what we’ll be featuring, what kinds of questions?
3:36 – What happens when you’re in front of a truly wise person? What’s the best stance? What does it feel like to stand transparent before a wise person?
4:35 – Why ask why?
5:22 – Why we interview who we interview, and what we hope to get from them
6:10 – Back to wonder
6:45 – An invitation for life’s way, grounded in the Christian tradition of
07:07 – Upcoming guests on The Table Audio (nine featured here – can you guess who they are? Stay tuned and maybe we’ll tell you.)
11:47 – Show credits
Transcript “Introduction – Seeking Christian Wisdom on Life’s Big Questions”
Evan Rosa: Any parent, teacher, auntie, uncle, gramma, even babysitter… knows that singular, ultimate fear. It’s enough to make your palms sweat – your knees knock – your heart to jump into your throat – it’s to get stuck in the event horizon of a child’s ultimate loop…
Kid 1: Why did the world have to exist?
Kid 2: How do you make cement?
Kid 1: Why do bugs bite?
Kid 2: How did God create puppies?
Kid 1: Why do we have to brush our teeth?
Kid 2: Why do you need a president?
Kid 1: But dad.
Kid 2: How do you make a bagel?
Kid 1: How did God make stars?
Kid 2: Hm
Kid 1: How do things grow?
Kid 2: What did cats come from?
Kid 1: Who made our house?
Kid 2: Who was Martin Luther King, Jr?
Kid 1: Is this a dream?
Kid 2: Why are black holes in space?
Kid 1: Why?
Kid 2: Why do?
Kid 1: What?
Kid 3: Why daddy?
Kid 1: How?
Kid 3: Why?
Evan Rosa: Some people – let’s be honest – we get a little annoyed – after the 17th why it starts to seem like the question doesn’t really matter. But on my better days, I’m not annoyed. In fact I identify with it, because my job’s not all that different. As a scholarly type person, I’m in the business of big questions. Questions of why and how and whether about the things that get us out of bed in the morning, and keep us up at night.
My name’s Evan Rosa, and you’re listening to The Table Audio, a podcast that explores Christian wisdom for life’s biggest questions.
Wisdom isn’t more important today than it was long ago. But it’s as important, and our constantly changing cultural contexts will always leave us wondering how to find wisdom given daily, dire, and sometimes really strange circumstances. So our goal here is to keep you connected to ideas and sources of wisdom that will help you live life deftly, with beauty, humility, and loving encounter.
Every week we’ll post a short podcast — let’s say in the 5-20 minute range? – something manageable for your commute, while you vacuum or prep dinner, or [background music] maybe we could revive that cool antique family practice of gathering around a classic large radio before bedtime for some tasty sonic treats. Don’t have a giant radio in your living room? Get your head in the game.
We’ll feature conversations with scholars, pastors, and public intellectuals – stories and interludes from film, music, literature, and real life – that embody and highlight beautiful and fascinating stories related to our biggest questions. Each episode we’ll be looking to culturally long-standing ideas and practices that speak to the livability of Christian thought and wisdom today, utilizing and enjoying ideas that have spanned the centuries.
My job will be to bring together wise voices and learn with you about topics like the meaning of love in today’s political context, how to be humble, what it means to be human in modern technological society, how we’re to live through and respond to deep personal suffering, and much much more.
When I find myself in proximity to someone bearing wisdom, I’ll be honest – my first inclination leans toward pride — to speak up and show them I’m worth talking to – to try and reveal my own aptitude and intelligence – to keep them in the conversation and make them think I’m wise. But my second inclination leans toward denigration – to keep quiet or simply run away, afraid that I’ll be found out the fool, ashamed of my own apparent lack of wisdom. It’s only when I work through to get to my third inclination that I get it right: the humble readiness to ask why, embrace my limitations, get over myself, patiently explore, and just try and gain whatever insight I can — to keep this person talking – just to keep them going. There is a rich and unique feeling of standing transparent and teachable before a wise and gracious person, allowing them to know you well enough to guide you. That’s what I’m on the look out for.
When I say, “Why” the question “why” is not a why of criticism, cynicism, or skepticism. It’s the why of joyful wonder. The why for its own sake. The why of wisdom is a confident, patient, loving invitation — not a command – to be swept up into the loveliest of thoughts. Or maybe to resist the damage and decay of our darkest sides as human beings. Amid st our ability to hurt one another and break apart, these voices of wisdom seek to reintegrate, heal fracture, and find goodness in the wake of injustice, trauma, and suffering.
The Table Audio is all about the project of identifying people who represent theoretical and practical wisdom, and egging someone on to venture out and share their wisdom – to hear their voices speak into the cavernous, sometimes-deafening silence of our own perplexity or insulated safe certitude, to hear the voice of the other call back instead of just our own echo. To request of them just to wonder together — to hear of someone’s life experience, someone’s knowledge, someone’s doubts, hopes, fears, failures, and their loves – hopefully, in-so-doing, to get a little closer to them.
In the end, we all ought to get back to the childlike love of wonder – and this is I think what is happening when a child pulls you into their Why tractor beam. It’s an invitation to think together. To seek play and rest and hard work through big questions and big answers, around a Table of inquiry and connection. To find friendship around a love of creativity and steadfast curiosity, and a calling — a mutual calling to wisdom.
That’s what we’re pursuing in this podcast. It’s an invitation to wisdom for life’s way, grounded in the Christian intellectual tradition of wonder, humility, open-mindedness, and knowledge for love’s sake.
And now, just to whet your appetite a bit, here are a few clips from interviews you’ll be hearing soon. But for now I’ll leave just who these lovely folks are a bit of a mystery.
Speaker 1: What I’m writing about and seeing is not just there for the Mandelas, and the Kings, and the Mother Teresas of this world. It’s not just for Dorothy Day. I started to use this language of the “spiritual genius of the everyday.” That the raw materials of wisdom are in the stories of our lives, the raw materials of our lives. These spiritual geniuses are everywhere. They’re not just the great lives of the ages.
Speaker 2: my experience has been so many people have had all of these experiences that have produced this firehose of experience and trauma and emotion and joy and revenge and regret and wisdom, and the wisdom after wisdom allows it to all come up. We need that. We need teaching in the wisdom after wisdom. As well as, of course, regular, old‑school, “Here’s how you change a tire wisdom.”
Speaker 3: When I came out of the execution chamber in Louisiana and watched a man who was guilty, with his brother, of a terrible crime. Watched this man I’d known for two years, walked across a room, strapped down, killed in front of my eyes. Coming out of that chamber in the middle of the night, and I vomited. And I remember thinking very clearly to myself that people are never, ever going to see this close up. They’re going to hear about it. They’re going to hear about the crime. They’re going to say, “Justice was done,” But I’ve been a witness, so I’ve got to tell the story and bring people close.
Speaker 4: Memory is central to forgiveness because forgiveness concerns the past, and the only way in which the past is accessible to us is through memory, the way in which past bears upon our lives, in a significant degree, it bears upon us through our memory, and so the way in which we remember wrongdoing suffered will be decisive for whether we are able to forgive or whether we will seek something like revenge.
Speaker 5: Well, if you look at history, what’s happening right now isn’t new. It’s what always happens when there are scarce resources. We are in a time of scarce resources, or at least perceived scarce resources. Realistic conflict theory and social psychology talks all about this. When we feel like we’re competing over scarce resources with other people, we turn hostile really quickly.
Speaker 6: I think we ought to own our grief. I put it like this, if Eric was worth loving when he was alive, then he’s worth grieving over when dead. Why would he not be? Why would I want to stifle my grief? What would be the point? Especially of men in American culture, it’s expected that, “we be strong.”
Speaker 7: We had been studying forgiveness scientifically about six years, and we’re starting to do quite a number of studies on it. In 1996, my mother was murdered. And I thought, “Who’s heart is darker? This young man who’s reacting out of impulse or this Christian psychologist who’s reacting out of just hate?”
Speaker 8: Boredom. You know we do so many things to escape boredom. And I think the early monks would tell us, “Hey, just face it head on, that’s the only way you can deal with it.” Video games, television, all kinds of things, overuse of the Internet. I think human beings are good at finding almost any way to escape their responsibilities, their true selves, the fear of being alone.
Evan Rosa: What does love have to do with knowledge?
Speaker 9: With regard to abstractions, almost nothing. With regard to things like rocks or galaxies, a little. With regard to people, everything. Only if you love somebody do you really know them. This is why God is so wise, because He loves. Love opens the eye, the eye of the heart, the deepest eye.
Evan Rosa: Thanks for listening. That’s it for now, but we’ll have more for you in the very near future.
Music (“Brother”, The Brilliance): Open up our eyes to see the wounds that bind all of humankind, May out shutter heard greet the dawn of light with charity and love. When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother. I see my brother.
Evan Rosa: The Table Audio is hosted by me, Evan Rosa, and is produced by the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, which is supported by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, and The Blankemeyer Foundation, along with people like you who care about seeking Christian wisdom for life’s big questions. Theme music is by The Brilliance. Special help in this episode from Nan, Lux, and Ben – three grand inquisitors that happen to live in my home. To subscribe to The Table Audio, check us out on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever podcasts are found — just search “The Table Audio.” And if you like what we’re up to want to support us, or help others get connected, please give us a rating in Apple Podcasts and leave us a comment. You can follow me on twitter @EvanSubRosa and you can follow the Center for Christian Thought @BiolaCCT or visit cct.biola.edu
Music: I see my brother.
Kid 1: Why does my dad have a beard? [laughs]