After listening to the program, I decided to purchase and read Needleman's book, The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders. I'm even entertaining the possibility of using this thoughtful book as a Valley Book Club selection this fall. Some deeper reflection about American history, values, beliefs, and principles will surely be a welcome counterbalance to the flood of soundbites and polarized propaganda we'll all be drowning in this fall.
From Krista Tippett's Journal for that program:It's easy to forget, especially around U.S. Independence Day, how much trial and error went into the creation of American democracy, how much of what Americans now take for granted wasn't fully formed for decades after 1776.
The warm and wise philosopher Jacob Needleman looked back at the American founders with this in mind for his book The American Soul. He took apart the ingredients that grew up our democracy. And he found that every iconic institution, every political value, had "inward work" of conscience behind it. Every hard-won right had a corresponding responsibility.
Author: Jacob Needleman
Publisher: Tarcher (2003)
Binding: Paperback, 400 pages
From Krita Tippett's Book Recommendation:This is a lovely book, rich in history and ideas. I knew immediately when I read it that I wanted to interview Jacob Needleman. What makes this work sing is the passion Needleman brings to his loftiest thoughts — such as his unique exploration of the "mystical" bent in American history, via the Quakers and early Utopians.
I read with a sense of discovery, heightened by the way in which Needleman's own sense of surprise never flags. "I was astonished and strangely joyous," he writes in the book's opening chapter, "when I finally turned directly to studying the history of America and found almost everywhere that the men and women who carved out the ideals of America were driven by the same transcendent questions that had always been my own as well. I began to see that for many of these men and women America meant the struggle for conditions of life under which these ultimate questions could be freely pursued."