Parker Palmer

The Way Our Lives Speak

Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, January 13, 2010

"Verbalizing is not the only way our lives speak, of course. They speak through our actions and reactions, our intuitions and instincts, our feelings and bodily states of being, perhaps more profoundly than through our words. We are like plants, full of tropisms that draw us toward certain experiences and repel us from others. If we can learn to read our own responses to our own experiences — a text we are writing unconsciously every day we spend on earth — we will receive the guidance we need to live more authentic lives." 

~ Parker J. Palmer, from Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Fully Open to the Reality of Relationship

Parque del Retiro, Madrid, August 2012

If we are to hold solitude and community together as a true paradox, we need to deepen our understanding of both poles.

Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one's self. It is not about the absence of other people — it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.

Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people — it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.

~ Parker J. Palmer, from A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life


[Thanks, Pat!]

The Tragic Gap

Parker Palmer, in conversation with Bill Moyers (Feb. 20, 2009):

I think the opportunity now is for us to get real. And I think that's going to make us, in the long run, more happy. The tragic gap, and I call it tragic not because it's sad. It is. But more fundamentally because it's an inevitable part of the human condition. Tragic in the sense that the Greeks talked about it. Tragic in the sense that Shakespeare talked about it. The tragic gap is the gap between what's really going on around us, the hard conditions in which our lives are currently immersed, and what we know to be possible from our own experience.

We don't see it every day. We may not see it very often. But we know it's a possibility among real people and real space and time. Now, what happens when we don't learn to hold the tension between what is and what we know to be possible?

I think what happens is we flip out on one side or the other.

Parker Palmer Flip out into too much reality and you get what I call corrosive cynicism. And corrosive cynicism is partly what's got us where we are. Corrosive cynicism is, "Oh, I see how the world is made. It's dog eat dog. It's whoever gets the biggest piece of the pie gets the biggest piece of the pie. So I'm going to take my share and run and let the devil take the hindmost." That's corrosive cynicism.

Flip out into too much possibility and you get irrelevant idealism. Which sounds very different from corrosive cynicism but both have the same function in our lives. Both take us out of the action. Both keep us out of the fray...Because if you don't have a capacity to hold the tension in your heart between reality and possibility then you're just going to give up eventually...I don't think in this culture we teach very much or have very much formation around the holding of these great tensions, which is so critical to our lives. We want instant resolution. You give us a tension. We want it to get it over within fifteen minutes.   

[Thanks Kit!]