notes from on being interview with agustín fuentes

some highlights from my listen to On Being with Krista Tippett: Agustín Fuentes - This Species Moment

Fuentes: I think something that’s really important to point out is that everyone says, “Well, communism failed.” Yes. Soviet communism failed miserably. That doesn’t mean that American capitalism is working wonderfully. Those two things are actually not even related.

Tippett: Right. Again, it’s a false binary.

Fuentes: So let’s get rid of that binary, and let’s ask ourselves, how does our economy work? Are people getting paid the level, the value of the quality of their work? Is there equal access to different things?

Fuentes: …The thing is, we gotta get away from this idea that anything in the human or for the human can be all in your head. That — [laughs] it just doesn’t work that way, because the head is connected to the body, the body’s connected to the world, and so how we think about things really matters.

Tippett: …I always think about how homo sapiens means “the creatures who are wise,” and can we grow into that, into our name?

Fuentes: Yeah, you know, I’m not sure that was the best idea, to right up front name us homo sapiens. Especially — we’re the subspecies sapiens sapiens, “doubly wise” — you know, lately, we’re just not living up to that label.

Tippett: It’s aspirational.

Fuentes: It’s aspirational, exactly. So this is another one of those incredible examples where pulling out of the lab, or field research and statistics, and sitting with theologians and philosophers and people who really, deeply think about why people are the way they are — not so much the biological end of it, but all these other ends, all these other processes — help me. And wisdom, I think, is important, because I’ve come to believe — to be convinced — that wisdom is the capacity to learn, to understand, and to experience, through perceptions and ways that facilitate different kinds of effectiveness and success in human lives. And so becoming wise is not so much, necessarily, the accumulation of information, but it’s how you engage information and how you use that with others and for others. So wisdom is this capacity to take knowledge and experience and do something with it, and do something with it that offers the opportunity for change.

And I like to connect wisdom with hope, because I think it’s that deep perspective, that thinking, that offers you this incredible thing that humans have the capacity for, which is hope: this ability to really, despite what’s materially going on around you, to imagine possible futures that are better, and to strive for them.

This also, with wisdom, is another thing that really concerns me, because there is a connection — not exclusively, but a strong connection — with age and wisdom, the idea that the more experience you have in life, the greater the possibilities are of accumulating knowledge and experiences and thinking with them and sharing with them. And for many people — for example, here in the United States — to be flippant about the real, serious damage that this COVID-19 landscape is inflicting upon elderly individuals — that terrifies me, because to devalue our elders is to devalue the very source of a lot of human success.