Oprah and the Bigger Picture


Yesterday on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah sat down with three of her favorite thinkers—Rev. Ed Bacon, Elizabeth Lesser and Mark Nepo—to deep dive into the news and look at the bigger picture. Using a different lens, this soul spiritual team addressed prescription drugs, gun violence, celebrity culture, gay marriage, and pets.

Prescription Drugs

The 2011 statistics are alarming: nearly 4 billion prescriptions were filled; 16 million Americans use painkillers; 5 million use sleep aids; and 18 million use antidepressants.

Oprah asked, “Do these numbers point to a collective hole in the soul of the country?

Rev. Ed was the first to respond. He revealed that he had experienced clinical depression and spent eight years in psychotherapy during his thirties. He carefully laid out a foundation of respect for anyone who has a chemical imbalance. According to Rev. Ed, these pills are okay if they help you enter life. They are not okay if they help you avoid life. Question to ask: Are you isolating yourself or living in community?

Elizabeth Lesser shared her marital problems and commented, “If I had medicated myself, I would not have had the courage to change.” Many people are replacing journeys of self-discovery with medication and choosing to stay asleep.

Mark Nepo’s wife also experienced depression. Mark thinks of medication as necessary aids and tools and strongly advocates psychotherapy which he believes is “attention to the soul.”

Gun Violence

With over 250 million guns in the United States, Americans are the most well-armed civilian population in the world. In 2010, there were 31,672 gun deaths; more than 19,000 of these were suicides. Unfortunately, it took the death of children to trigger a turning point in the gun control debate.

Rev. Ed believes that the Connecticut effect is here for a long time. In less than five minutes, 154 bullets emptied into the bodies of innocent children and adults. Elizabeth Lesser admits that we are hard-headed as a species and need big things to wake us up.

Oprah asked, “Why is arming ourselves so important?”

Mark Nepo believes there is an epidemic of fear and self-centeredness in our culture. People are arming themselves instead of facing their fears head-on. According to Rev. Ed, there is definite tension between the myth of the separate self and an understanding that we are all connected. He advised us to really listen to our adversaries and people who have a different perspective on the gun control debate.

Celebrity Culture

Oprah calls it the fallen celebrity syndrome.

Mark Nepo believes that people are obsessed with celebrity while quietly aching for things to celebrate. They want to pull people up so they can knock them down later. Rev. Ed referred to the shadow side of the celebrity syndrome. Many people prefer to avoid their own lives and project themselves in the scripts of others. Elizabeth Lesser suggested that when celebrities fall, people take comfort in the fact that everyone suffers in this life.

Gay Marriage

Public opinion has definitely shifted. In 1996, 27 percent of Americans supported gay marriage. In 2012, 53 percent supported gay marriage.

Elizabeth Lesser was educated through love. Growing up, she had no encounters with the gay population, but after nursing a friend with AIDS, she became more open and accepting. Rev. Ed believes that where you stand on this issue depends on where you sit Sunday mornings. According to Rev. Ed, gay marriage will enrich the institution of marriage. Everyone agreed that the institution of marriage was in trouble long before the advent of gay marriage.


Americans spend $53 billion annually on their pets. These animals bring delight, comfort and joy along with unconditional love and acceptance.

The three spiritual teachers were not surprised by this statistic. Mark Nepo shared an insight about the predominance of animals in Native American storytelling. An elder informed him that the Great Spirit, in his wisdom, realized that animals never forget their original instructions while human beings do.

Oprah asked, “Are we using our pets as a substitute for human interaction?”

Rev. Ed admitted this is the shadow side of having pets. They can keep us from the pain and messiness of human relationships. He ended on a lighter note by describing the Blessing Ceremony on St. Francis Day. When people bring their pets to church, they are really bringing more of themselves.

Oprah and Rev. Ed Bacon

Rev. Ed Bacon doesn’t want everyone in church on Sundays. More concerned with filling hearts rather than filling pews, he has no problems with anyone who enjoys wonderful Sunday morning experiences elsewhere.

Taken aback by his statement, Oprah asked him to elaborate on spirituality, the main theme of yesterday’s Super Soul Sunday session. He came up with the following definition which resonated with Oprah and many of her followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Spirituality is the experience of feeling unconditionally loved so powerfully that you know there is some Power greater than you. And it fills you so much that you want to share that feeling with others.

He went on to discuss the difficulties encountered by people who choose to live in a house of fear. Dependent upon someone else’s dogma, these people are not interested in developing their own inner voices. Spirituality empowers people to think for themselves and make the choice to live in a house of love.

Throughout yesterday’s program, Bacon stressed the fact that everyone is equally advantaged before God and we should all be moving toward creating a human family.  He acknowledged the challenges and gave practical advice on dealing with anger and conflict.

Stop | Take a breath | Become an observer

I was very impressed by this extraordinary thinker, often referred to as the chief spiritual officer at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. While reading about his early life, I discovered that Bacon was greatly influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A chance meeting at the Atlanta airport in 1967 inspired Bacon to reread the Bible using a different lens, one inspired by universal compassion.

Quotable Quotes…

The kingdom of God is within you. You are your own priest.

Satan and the ego are the same thing.

Save us from those who think evil is external.

In every moment, there is something sacred at stake.

You don’t order grace; it just comes.

The cockpit shakes the most just before breaking the sound barrier.

Spiritual nourishment at its best!