Hunger for Wholeness

Hunger for Wholeness: Playfulness, Technology, Embodiment and Racism with Brie Stoner (Part 2)

June 05, 2023 Center for Christogenesis Season 2 Episode 14
Hunger for Wholeness
Hunger for Wholeness: Playfulness, Technology, Embodiment and Racism with Brie Stoner (Part 2)
Show Notes Transcript

Hunger for Wholeness: Playfulness, Technology, Embodiment and Racism with Brie Stoner (Part 2) with Ilia Delio and Robert Nicastro.

In the second part of Ilia’s interview with musician Brie Stoner, they share about wrestling with egos in both music and academia. They discuss the importance of insight, instincts, playfulness and embodiment and Ilia asks Brie how we can move beyond racism.

“Power over always functions in a pyramid structure in which there are not enough places at the top. So it elicits fear, it cultivates fear, it propagates fear, it runs on fear. But the paradigm of communion runs on that rhizomatic view that we are all of us connected, and in a non-hierarchical way, our co-creating possibility through love and through the adventure of becoming.” (Brie Stoner in Hunger for Wholeness)


Brie Stoner is a musician and songwriter who pulls from her multilingual and multicultural background in her indie dream-rock music. As a musician, Stoner has worked with producers Jay Bennett (Wilco) and most recently David Vandervelde (Father John Misty, Secretly Canadian) who produced her new album. Stoner’s music has also been featured by Victoria Secret, Orange is The New Black, The Affair, as well as many other international TV and film campaigns. As a writer, her work has been featured in “The Call To Unite: Voices of hope and Awakening,” a book featuring inspirational voices such as Oprah, Tim Shriver, Elizabeth Gilbert and many more. Brie was a co-host to the “Another Name for Every Thing” podcast which garnered millions of downloads, before launching her own podcast “Unknowing” in 2021, exploring the path of creative possibility in conversation with artists, authors, and activists. Her new single “Loved Me Like a Weapon” is out now! Her new album ME VEO will be out in late 2023.

Support the show

A huge thank you to all of you who subscribe and support our show! Support for A Hunger for Wholeness comes from the Fetzer Institute. Fetzer supports a movement of organizations who are applying spiritual solutions to society's toughest problems. Get involved at

Support 'Hunger for Wholeness’ on Patreon as our team continues to develop content for listeners to dive deeper. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for episode releases and other updates.

Robert: Welcome to Hunger for Wholeness. I'm your host, Robert Nicastro. Today, we rejoin Ilia and Brie Stoner as they share how they wrestle with egos encountered in both music and academia. Please enjoy the rest of their dialogue about insight, instincts, playfulness, and embodiment.

Ilia: You're saying about musicians, but academics are about the absolute worst when it comes to ego possession stuff. Like, "Yeah, my position." I've come across at least one theologian, if not more, and it'd be usually male quite honestly. Every dogmatic about theology. If I ask, "What do you think about Teilhard de Chardin?" "I have no time for Teilhard, he wasn't a theologian." I'm like, "Okay. Good to know." Someone says, "Well, we should study, blah, blah." It's just the way we are trained to possess our very highly structured and educated opinions and physicians on things. Actually, we have shot ourselves in the foot because it becomes then a discipline that is not open to the creative future. It's not open to new ideas. One thing, as you were talking—Well, two things.

One is, unless you don't possess—this is another Franciscan value; to live without possession. It's not having ideas or concepts, it's what we do with them. Do we possess them? Like, this is it. This is the truth. This is absolutely where anything is. Or it's relative, it works. But I'm really open to hear what you have to say. So it's the non-possessiveness, the living sine proprio—to use our Franciscan expression, without possessing, that allows us to be open to engage new ideas. And to engage new ideas means you have to leave your hole and you have to enter across the threshold of another. Maybe a whole different worldview, a whole different universe. But isn't that the beauty of travel? We get to see what others are like in their worlds.

And I think if we're going to really move toward a planet of unity or oneness, we do need certainly a shift in how we're thinking about what we're thinking about. And then secondly, we need then an unlearning process of what we've learned. And then I think also a little right brain training in like getting in touch with the wider field of your senses in your body and your imagination. Plus all that you're talking about here, Brie, I think one word I'd like to include here is intuition. So you're not just taking blind risks. We know, and that's it, we feel. So I've always felt that feeling, and that's our energy direction, our "spiritual direction." We feel more than we intellectually know sometimes. You know when you meet someone, you know, "Yeah, that's a really cool person or really interesting, but I can't tell you why." Or why you might even like someone or fall in love with someone.

You may not have reasons, like concrete, logical reasons, but you know that there's something really good there. And the same thing with ideas; that they're good. So when we can free ourselves up, we can start exploring in this rhizomatic kind of texture of the learning process, and very, very adventurous and creative.

Brie: It is. And I'm grinning that you brought up insight because I teach that the body's intelligence, true embodiment, is comprised of harmonizing your instinctual center with your insightful center. So the insight and instinct can come together at the seat of the will into creative action, which is so important. But yeah, I think that fear-based mindset, that risk-averse mindset is still so locked in this worldview of scarcity versus a worldview of abundance. It's also the mindset that says, "I have to cling to these beliefs because I don't know what those beliefs are and not knowing scares me."

When in reality, if we're in humility, we're in curiosity and if we're curious, we're playful. So this is one of the words that I use. I'm always doing these terrible alliterations, Ilia. I don't know what has gotten into me, but I'm like talking about reframing the erotic, and I'm like a life of pleasure and presence and playful possibility. It was like, "Oh my God, shut up." Anyway, but the idea of playfulness is rooted in humility. The humility to say, "I don't know." And that's what allows me to be flexible and collaborative. Now, I'm thinking about times when I'm in the studio. I'm working on my next record right now. If I go in with the absurd audacity to think that I know exactly how this song needs to be produced, well then I'm missing the opportunity to allow this song to be enliven by the drummer that we hired to come in, or my producer's instincts, or the insight of an engineer who says, "I think we should use this mic, not that one."

So it's really playfulness is at the heart of our capacity to connect; to connect with each other, and to connect with that creative possibility. If we're not playful, then we're unable to imagine more because we're so certain; we're locked away with our certitudes, and we're unable to collaborate with others or be enriched by others into that greater fullness, that wholeness of being.

Ilia: We tend to associate play with children. "Children play, adults work." And yet there's something—I mean, Jesus said, "Unless you become like a little child, you really can't enter this reign of God, this new kingdom that's coming about." And there's something about that, the openness. I find play an open system. It's the openness to any possibilities. And I too, I used to love to play and invent things, so I probably was heavily right-brained before a few head injuries and then I got a little left-brained, and maybe balancing now or something. Humility is also a really important virtue here to humus, to stand on the earth, to be earthy, two feet on the ground. So I'm not floating in the air like I'm someone really, really important that you have no idea who you're talking to.

Brie: “Teilhard wasn't even a theologian.

Ilia: It's so sad, but I'm so unimpressed by anyone's credentials. I mean, I am so unimpressed by it. I couldn't care less where you went to school. "Very nice. Great, so what do you do for a living?" I'm interested in people, how they're thinking about things. I'm interested in their openness to new ideas and what they feel about being a human person in today's world. I do think one of the things that's important to bring in here—and you kind of mentioned along the way, is I'm very interested. We are here at the center in the way technology is kind of reforming the human person. I've met people who had the television on like Fox News at five in the morning, and they're listening to news stations all day. They're like wired with latest information.

These newsfeeds are just so unhealthy. It's like they might be tied into pharmaceutical companies because as they wear down your health, you will need blood pressure medication and heart medication. They're going to wear you away. We can't somehow disconnect ourselves. It's like the FOMO thing; the fear of missing out. Like, "I've got to be attentive because just in case Korea blows up I want to make sure my family is ready." Seriously, that isn’t going to happen. But here's the irony of it all. We are so wary that we're not going to make it into tomorrow, we're actually killing ourselves. And therefore, if we could in a sense, slow down and take some of the incredible wisdom that you're putting forth here and these ideas of being right-brained and being attuned to our intuitions and being open and playful, we would actually have probably a more sustainable earth and perhaps a greater shot at a sustainable future.

But we're unraveling ourselves precisely based on these structured left- brain launched ideas about rightness or wrongness, about who's in and who's out, about who has power. I mean, knowledge is power. And so we've made knowing, we've taken it out of play and intuition and creativity, and we've lodged it into positions of power and wealth and status. The knowledgeable ones are the ones who control the world and it leaves everyone else out. This is really, really unhealthy. Not only unhealthy, we have the potential for a new unity, and we also have the potential to completely unravel ourselves.

Robert: Next, Ilia and Brie talk about technology and how a centered, grounded spirituality helps us navigate a challenging world. And later, Ilia asks Brie how we can move beyond racism.

Brie: The topic of technology is very top of mind for me right now because I have a 13 year old who is the only one in his class who hasn't had a phone and doesn't have a phone. The only one in his class for like the last—I think it has been two years now where he's just lagging behind. So the conversation keeps coming up about technology. And again, I want to come back to the two paradigms that Bruto describes; the paradigm of domination versus the paradigm of communion, which I think is the creative paradigm, the abundant paradigm. So when we are in domination mindset, we are thinking about power-over; "How can information help me have power over the unknown, power over my body, power over your body, power over the earth? How can I get the most out of this? How can I ravage, just get the most profit?"

So power over always functions in a pyramid structure in which there are not enough places at the top. So it elicits fear, it cultivates fear, it propagates fear, it runs on fear. But the paradigm of communion runs on that rhizomatic view that we are all of us connected, and in a non-hierarchical way, our co-creating possibility through love and through the adventure of becoming. So it runs on a different OS; on a different operating system. So I don't have an issue with technology. I think it's about us learning to discern, "Is this particular tool or app, am I operating from a domination paradigm? Am I using Instagram to try to have power over or project some image of myself that makes me feel more secure or I'm trying to get validation? Or am I using this app or this technology in a way that's oriented toward power with that's co-creative, that's communal, that's about enlivening others and giving myself away to enliven others?"

So I think that discernment helps me and maybe it's helpful to listeners as well. Is that really that's kind of where I'm trying to navigate these questions. It's like, "All right, is this putting me in domination? Am I acting out of that structure or how can I move into communion paradigm in this facet?"

Ilia: And that's a really important point, Brie that you bring up because in a sense, if I hear correctly, what we're saying is the way we use technology cannot be based entirely on technology itself since technology is simply something we create to extend our function, so to speak. So we need other values and other tools. And here's where I do think spirituality or theology or religion or whatever—your inner operating system needs to be kind of fully functioning in a holistic way. So that when we use technology, we're using it out of that internal operating system of holism.

So instead of looking for the whole outside myself, I already in a sense am operating from within myself with a view and an energy of interconnectivity. So I'm using technology to help deepen that interconnectivity. But I think when we start using technology to supply what we lack, then we have problems; then we have problems of power, we have problems of manipulation, including the way we manipulate ourselves. We can create our own social profiles and kind of scale and buffer what we are and make ourselves look super cool and wealthy and beautiful and smart and all that kind of stuff. We can also tear everyone else down. So technology has infinite power really to do whatever we want it to do.

Brie: Exactly. I'm jumping in because exactly what you're saying is true of religion. It's like when we use religion or spirituality to supply what we don't have, that same truth applies. So it's really about the energy that you are bringing to any of these systems. These are just circuitries, these are tools and circuitries. You are the voltage. Are you running on love or are you running on fear? That's the difference for me.

Ilia: "You are the voltage." That's a great line. And here's what I want to say that this little plug for my new book. That this word God—we're taking God out of the sky. But then where do we find God? We find God at the root reality of our lives. So God is the name of that infinite field of—we might say the infinite field of love energy that's already rooting us in our own lives. Kind of that Mertonian idea. Like if I go within myself, all the way to that infinite depth of self, I find the, “I am.” Or in the Sufi mystics language, if I ask, "Who are you all Lord?" He says yourself. And that's it. I don't think we realize the divine nature of our own selves because we have divine nature as an ontologically distinct nature. And that ontologically distinct nature is the source of the problems of all other ontological distinctions.

So if we could find that root of that power of love; infinite love, divine love is already the source of our lives and we can maybe kind of plug into that center. Then we can use technology and our other creative inventions for a way that deepens what we already are. We're quickly exiting what we are because we're throwing our attention and our devotion to what technology can do for us. Look at ChatGPT. Now, I don't have to think anymore. I just type in, "What do you think of this podcast?" And ChatGPT is going to tell me in a way that I won't be able to decipher from one of my students.

And that's, "How did we get here? How did we get to this point where we're really thinning ourselves out and relying so much when we have so much at the heart of ourselves?" This is where I think religion has said, "No, you're not God. So don't even bother going there. God is not part and parcel of this material world. God is over this world." And make sure you get that straight. As long as we have that theology, we will exit homo sapiens for sure. And we don't know where we're going with technology.

Brie: Yeah. I'm mindful of how you used—is it humus? Is that the origin of humility?

Ilia: Yes. Feet on the ground.

Brie: I just love that you said that because it is—all circuitries need to be grounded.

Ilia: Yes, that would be true.

Brie: So what is the ground? Where are you grounding? And it's through that rootedness literally on the earth for me. Like my feet on the ground, I make it a prac. I love that you were talking about like, "Think with your feet." I try to make it a practice multiple times throughout the day to feel my feet, to envision root systems growing out of my feet into the earth itself, in that relational wholeness as love, as God, as relationality with the human and more than human world, with the ancestors who've come before me with this whole unfolding ecological story that I'm a part of. It's in that place that I can touch upon that non-con contingent worth, the strength of that I am that then allows me to have my own center. Because part of it too is that we're so uncentered and ungrounded that we're just going along with whatever technology or social media the news is telling us to think.

Ilia: Brie, one last thing that I was thinking of. I just finished this class; faith reason and culture with my undergrads. We talked about racism. I find it really deeply, deeply disturbing where we are still on the question of racism and the way white people have this sense of privilege like, "Why should we talk about racism?" Or black people just want their rights or this type thing. And it's just like, "This is just terrible." I mean, this is just completely against all that we're talking about, which is God, divine energy, divine love at the heart of every person. The beauty that every person has to offer to this creative flow, towards greater wholeness. And so what might be—as we move into the future, what kind of wisdom would you give to the question of, "How do we move beyond racism?"

And one person said, "We'll never get beyond racism." I don't think that's true. I think we will. I think there's a great desire to get beyond racism certainly among younger generations. But we need to shift—And again, we have to shift our focus, maybe realign our operating systems with the energies of life and the core energy of love, to use a Teilhardian term. And we have to begin to see one another with new eyes.

Brie: Yeah. I'm a big fan and student of Nigerian philosopher, Bayo Akomolafe and his work. He has a book called “These Wilds Beyond Our Fences.” One of the things he talks about as it pertains to racism is that we have to learn to face the monstrous not as problematic, but as the opportunity. The crack, the fisher that's running through our reality right now is actually the sight of birth and possibility.

So part of his orientation that I'm learning from is to turn toward the monstrous in myself, turn toward that inherited racism in myself. But I think to take it one step further, it's not just enough to acknowledge it or to talk about it. I really think that the key is for us to learn how to remember, to become membered to our bodies once more intimately because I think the domination paradigm that we have inherited as white people has been one of disembodiment, one of control over the body, control of other bodies. So the mindset of disembodiment allows you to be separate from yourself which allows you to then exert violence on the bodies of others.

Ilia: I'm thinking of a line of—I think it's Eve Ensler who said, "The most radical act we can do in the face of domination is to plug back into our bodies. Because when we are embodied, we will relate to ourselves and each other from embodiment." I'm paraphrasing a little bit, but it's something along those lines. So I think the work is really about coming home to ourselves as being members of the whole in a very visceral, active way to face the monstrous within us. Not as a problem, but as an opportunity.

Brie: Yes, I really like what you're saying here. And I do think returning to the body as the beginning of a creative healing and move beyond this terrible racist mentality. And there's something about that body—I was always attracted to Emmanuel Levinas' idea of the face; the human face as the trace of divine transcendence. That place that this face of this little face, that divine love like an icon shining through this face; this black face, this red face, this brown face, this distorted face, this disabled face. There's something about that.

And then I also thought when we meet one another, do we meet one another eye to eye? Do we look at one another in the eye? Because I don't think you can seriously look at a person within the eye and do them harm. If you see the eye, if you truly see; not just physical eye. I mean, we have to look with deeper sight, with deeper eyes. So I was thinking recently—For some reason I was thinking of George Floyd and that horrific act of a white policeman kneeling on his neck and he's saying, "I can't breathe. I can't breathe." I heard Jesus in the same, "I can't..." Who are we to take the life of another from position of power? Who are we? And I think—we want to talk about evil. Evil is not a thing. Evil is what happens when the body becomes disconnected from the spirit, what happen when the body becomes just mere matter. And if we don't get our heads around that matter matters to the wholeness of love, to the wholeness of what God is, then we shouldn't be—maybe we really should be just computer chips.

Robert: Many thanks to Brie Stoner for the inspirational energy and music she brought to this conversation with Ilia Delio. Next week we dialogue with author and Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown-Taylor. If you support Hunger for Wholeness on Patreon, you'll find new listening notes, episode transcripts, and other great content produced by our team at the Center for Christogenesis to deepen your experience. As always, a special thanks to our partners at the Fetzer Institute. I'm Robert Nicastro. Thanks for listening.