"Paradoxical connections intrigue me," writes Tippett in her poetic, candid inquiry-cum-memoir Becoming Wise. "The way our technologies are reopening a sense that literal reality is not all there is; the robust vocabulary scientists and mathematicians have of beauty and of mystery." After over a decade doing in-depth interviews and accumulating spiritual knowledge on her popular podcast On Being, Tippett pulls from that well of conversations to reconstruct her trail of investigation into the nature of wisdom. The transcribed interviews, the bones of the book, are rigorous, intimate, affecting, and varied. She speaks to all types of "spiritual geniuses" (a phrase taken from Einstein)— from religious and spiritual leaders, to scientists, poets, politicians, and activists, usually those on the frontiers of their professions, bridging divides and opening new avenues into traditional ways of thinking. Tippett does an impressive job weaving so many voices into a coherent whole.
Organized into five sections based on what she considers the "raw materials" or "breeding grounds for wisdom"—words, flesh, love, faith, and hope—the book works because Tippett stands at the center, always questioning, learning, explaining. She tells her own life journey—her Oklahoma upbringing, her wide-eyed years in divided Cold War Germany, her decision to attend Yale divinity school—alongside the spiritual evolution that came while hosting the podcast. During initial drafts of the book Tippett included only a small section about her father which she hid in the middle. Originally it was a throwaway. But then in rewrites, when a friend suggested she expand the section, Tippett decided to explore including her father more and suddenly her own history began bleeding more into the book. The result is beautiful. "I can disagree with your opinion, it turns out, but I can't disagree with your experience," she writes. "And once I have a sense of your experience, you and I are in a relationship, acknowledging the complexity of each other's positions, listening less guardedly. The difference in our opinions will probably remain intact, but it no longer defines what is possible between us." Pulling together and going beyond the accumulated knowledge of her interviews, Tippett's book is an incantatory trip into the paradoxical and profound.