What Does it Mean to be Human?
What does it mean to be human? In 2016, we comprehensively explore facets of the human experience, of the human project. When we say we’re dedicated to “the best in human values,” what do we mean? As human beings, we are capable of great good, and capable of being catalysts for destruction. We are stewards, explorers, healers, thinkers, feelers. We have a body, a brain, a fully-functioning computer of the highest caliber. But we are more than our machine. To be human is to love, to laugh, to hurt. It is to be self-aware if not self-actualized, and that grasping for something more, something higher, is perhaps the greatest expression of the human condition. Human beings are flawed, but we hold fierce potential. In this summer as we explore our history, our future, our hearts, bodies, minds and souls, we look at the state of being human today — offering an unflinching look at humanity at its worst, and celebrating what it means to be a people striving for its best.
Week One :: June 27–July 1
Roger Rosenblatt & Friends: On Creative Expression
In collaboration with author Roger Rosenblatt, this week features a writer talking to writers about writing and the art of creative expression as a uniquely human quality. These conversations reveal much about the artistic process, the different demands dictated by the various genres, the influence of teachers and mentors, and the courage, discipline, imagination and originality necessary to a creative life. The week offers an abundance of both wit and wisdom and will touch upon fiction, memoir, poetry, editing, songwriting and more.
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy
This week is about Jewish storytelling. John Shelby Spong explores the Bible’s literary and liturgical roots—its grounding in Jewish culture, symbols, icons, and storytelling tradition—to explain how the events of Jesus’ life, including the virgin birth, the miracles, the details of the passion story, and the resurrection and ascension, would have been understood by both the Jewish authors of the various gospels and by the Jewish audiences for which they were originally written.
Week Two :: July 4–July 8
Money and Power
Money, it has been said, makes the world go ‘round. It plays a role in everything we do, from our groceries to our government. Money spent by our elected politicians reflects our values as a society. Are politicians held accountable to society’s values? Beyond government, we look at our economy and into the sectors of business, nonprofits and education. How much is something worth? We look at how we can buy power, and what that means for those who can’t afford it.
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Money and Power through a Spiritual and Ethical Lens
Religious communities and individuals of conscience take seriously their stewardship over money and relationships to the material world and power, and are especially cautious about the corrosive and corrupting effects of wealth on virtue and the tendency to greed and absence of caring for the good of all. In this week we will take a closer look at money and power from ethical and spiritual perspectives.
Week Three :: July 11–15
Moral Leadership in Action
Is it time to demand that all of our leaders are moral leaders? We look to the public and private sector, from technology to business, from government to education to explore what it means to have leaders dedicated to the public good. We hear from five moral leaders — some well known and some flying under the radar — to learn of their own daily practices, their personal disciplines. We focus on ways to make those precepts come alive in actual context, as this is more than a philosophical examination; this week is a call to moral action in all ways large and small.
Week Three Program Sponsor:
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Moral Leadership in Action
Authentic faith expresses itself in moral action. All faith practitioners are called to be moral leaders who live and lead with integrity and imagination while inviting others to join them. This week spotlights just such exemplary Faith leaders.
Week Four ::July 18–22
Our Search for Another Earth
What would it mean to find “another earth,” another habitable or inhabited planet in the far reaches of space? What would it mean to transfer humanity from its birthplace? Are there other humans — and what would that mean for our own sense of humanness? Looking into the near and far future, what are the economic and political hurdles to space exploration? Space exploration has long captivated the human imagination. Is there something out there that we cannot imagine?
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Searching for an Inter-Stellar Spirituality?
Through Science we no longer need religion to explain how the universe works. Do traditional religions, which have largely been earth-based belief systems, hold together when transplanted into outer space? Connection to our earth is a central value in all religions, while outer space is not fully theorized by these traditions. This week provides an opportunity to revisit how science, religion, and philosophy would strive to cohere in an inter-stellar context.
Week Five :: July 25–29
People and Environment In Partnership with National Geographic Society
How do we survive in a natural world we are increasingly out of touch with? How has our sense of our surroundings changed? How has the role of government in preservation changed? In this week we examine our surroundings and the ways we can preserve and save our home land and seas. Fifty years into the environmental movement, and 100 years after the National Parks were founded, we look to learn from our past, explore our environments and prepare for the future.
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: A Theology of Ecology
The Jewish vision of ‘tikkun olam’ (repairing the earth) is a promising foundation for dialogue about religious stewardship of the earth, with counterparts in all Faith Traditions. How can theology help humans to seek a relationship with the natural world that can counteract the psychic disintegration of everyday life that comes from exile from Nature? In this week we will hear major voices from the world’s religions who will inspire us with hope and commitment for our collective future.
Week Six :: Aug 1–5
The Future of Cities
The realities of where we live are changing. We are a concentrated society, and by 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. Can urban centers keep up? Will the cities of the future be prosperous and equitable, or will they be impoverished slums? There are the basic needs of a city — housing, infrastructure, transportation — but what of the less tangible “needs” for a prosperous society? How can our future cities nourish and support the human condition?
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Religious Voices in the City
“The Bible starts in a garden and ends in a city. Ethicists, in speaking of the ‘suburban captivity of the church,’ wonder if religious traditions have neglected the city. As public space where strangers can meet, cities offer diverse groups opportunity to interact, but also to collide, and for individuals to both thrive and compete for limited urban living space and resources. How can religious and spiritual people and organizations foster urban spaces and environments that are humanly kind and just for all?
Week Six Presenting Sponsor:
Week Seven :: Aug. 8–12
Pushing Our Bodies’ Limits
In this week, we look at the limits of our humanness — our brain and our body — and how we are able to alter, push, or even defeat those limits. We have constantly pushed against our natural state, even our natural lifespan. We modify and enhance, overcome and transcend. Our natural states — our gender, our disabilities, our aging — are up for debate. How do we, and how can we, push our boundaries and transcend our humanity?
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: The Limits and Transcendence of Our Humanity
“The concept of limits is often a central religious theme, but so also is transcendence. Self-transcendence is an attractive notion to mystics, who seek altered and expanded states of consciousness, etc. Transhumanism incorporates technology to enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. What are the ethical questions we should pose and possibilities we should explore regarding the limits and transcendence of our human experience?”
Week Eight :: Aug. 15–19
War and Its Warriors: Contemporary Voices
Is war a condition of humanity? Throughout this week, we explore the anthropology of aggression, how war changes human beings and shapes the human story — all through the voices of contemporary warriors. As Americans, what are our justifications for war? What are our responsibilities to our veterans? Wars may end, but not necessarily for the men and women who fought. This is a week to honor those who have served, explore ways we can better serve them, and examine our consciences.
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: The Ethical Realities of War
The human cost of war goes beyond the litany of the dead. Moral injury is an ethical consequence of war among those who survive. In an era of seemingly endless war, we reconsider the challenges of the Just War theory, religious zealotry, and conflict transformation. In this week we will seek to learn to heal wounded souls, with a vision toward global peace and the cessation of war.
Week Nine :: Aug. 22–26
America’s Music with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center
Musical and artistic expression is a key characteristic of being human. When it comes to our cultural identity, few things are distinctly American as our music, and jazz is America’s singular contribution to the arts. No music tells us more about ourselves as Americans — or as human beings.
Interfaith Lecture Theme :: America’s Spiritual Songbook
“From the theological and social evolution of liturgical hymns, to Spirituals and Gospel, to the ambivalent gospel of Motown, to the Jewish Hazzan, to the songs written by Jewish Americans inspired by African American Spirituals, America has not only embraced – but joyfully celebrated – the spirituality of music, and used it to bring an experience both exquisitely human as well as divine, both from and into human hearts, minds, and souls. In this week we explore the rich musical heritage of the American soul.”