This series of conversations about life’s challenges embodies the power of authentic positivism.
Posted in , May 24, 2019
At first, Kate Bowler’s story tumbles out like a dictionary definition of an enviable life—she is a professor of history at Duke Divinity School, researching and writing about a subject she loves. She is happily married, and she is a young mother.
But a closer look reveals Bowler, like all of us, has struggled. In 2016, at age 35, Bowler was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. In the three years since, she has undergone treatment and emerged to write a beautiful book called Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved). Her writing style is honest and probing, even as it explores some very challenging topics.
I wanted to hear more, and fortunately for all of us, Bowler has a podcast to enable us to do just that. “Everything Happens” features interviews with fascinating thinkers, religious leaders and authors who all have something in common—they are unafraid to speak truthfully about the tough stuff, and they don’t think doing so makes them any less optimistic or healthy in their thinking.
Among others, she interviews Emily McDowell, the artist whose greeting card line includes “empathy cards” with authentically positive messages like, “I know there’s no normal to go back to. But I’m here to help you build a new one (and I’ll bring snacks).” She also talks to the famous actor Alan Alda, who has spent years researching how human beings communicate with each other, and Margaret Feinberg, the author of Fight Back with Joy.
Each conversation is filled with humor, and a deep curiosity to explore the usually-hidden crevices of navigating a challenge. As Bowler reflected in a 2016 New York Times op-ed about her diagnosis, “Cancer has also ushered in new ways of being alive….I find myself returning to the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”
Conversation by conversation, the podcast chips away at what Bowler calls “the lies I’ve loved,” in pursuit of a more authentic truth.
She summarizes it this way: “This is part of my way of wondering whether we all just want the same things, and maybe offer a few suggestions of how some of the lies we’ve loved, like that everything’s going to work out, might not be as satisfying as other truths, like that God is here anyway, and that is enough.”