Parker J. Palmer

Parker J.

American Author, Educator, and Activist, Founder and Senior Partner of the Center for Courage and Renewal

Author Quotes

It is disconcerting to learn that while 73 percent of Americans can name the Three Stooges, only 42 percent can name the three branches of government.

My gift as a teacher is the ability to 'dance' with my students, to teach and learn with them through dialogue and interaction. When my students are willing to dance with me, the result can be a thing of beauty. When they refuse to dance, when my gift is denied, things start to become messy: I get hurt and angry, I resent the students ? whom I blame for my plight ? and I start treating them defensively, in ways that make the dance even less likely to happen.

Paradoxical thinking requires that we embrace a view of the world in which opposites are joined, so that we can see the world clearly and see it whole...The result is a world more complex and confusing than the one made simple by either-or thought - but that simplicity is merely the dullness of death. When we think together we reclaim the life force in the world, in our students, in ourselves.

Taken to extremes, scapegoating feeds the political pathology called fascism, a movement ideology centered on a radical and authoritarian nationalism that actively suppresses openness and opposition to the movement and the nation-state it hopes to commandeer. When this diseased brand of nationalism rushes in to fill our inner emptiness, its mildest manifestation is the belief that nation's critics are unpatriotic, even traitorous.

The human self also has a nature, limits as well as potentials. If you seek vocation without understanding the material you are working with, what you build with your life will be ungainly and may well put lives in peril, your own and some of those around you. 'Faking it' in the service of high values is no virtue and has nothing to do with vocation. It is an ignorant, sometimes arrogant, attempt to override one's nature, and it will always fail.

The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.

True self is true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one's peril.

We can put the chairs in a circle, but as long as they are occupied by people who have an inner hierarchy, the circle itself will have a divided life, one more form of living within the lie: a false community.

What happened to ?we have nothing to fear but fear itself??

Where conventional education deals with abstract and impersonal facts and theories, an education shaped by Christian spirituality draws us toward incarnate and personal is embodied in personal terms, the terms of one who said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.

It is not a voracious capitalism but the spiritual insight that we cannot buy the identity and security we seek.

My high school, like most high schools, had a pretty rigid stratification system. Kids were clustered into groups - the studious ones, the athletes, the popular ones - and we never crossed paths with each other. You stayed in your air-tight group, and you were suspicious of people in other groups.

People are always asking, "Is this person in front of me the same on the inside as he or she appears to be on the outside? Is there congruence between what's within that person and the words and actions I'm viewing and hearing externally?" Children ask that about their parents; students ask it about their teachers; parishioners ask it about their pastors and priests; employees ask it about their bosses; and in a democracy, citizens ask it about their political leaders.

Teaching like any truly human activity emerges from one's inwardness.

The human soul doesn't want to be fixed, it simply wants to be seen and heard. The soul is like a wild animal - tough, resilient and shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul may show itself.

The spiritual life is about becoming more at home in your own skin.

Truth cannot be reduced to aphorism or formulas. It is something alive and unpronounceable. Story creates an atmosphere in which [truth] becomes discernible as a pattern.

We can teach a good, formal lesson on forgiveness as a Christian virtue and all the doctrines that are attached to it. But to be in a real-life situation, a work camp or a trip or some other activity with young people where real forgiveness needs to happen, that's a different situation altogether. And that is where the deepest learning will occur.

What passes for political realism may make for lively academic debates. But it often functions, ironically, as a tool of social control, rendering us passive with an analysis that overwhelms and paralyzes us.

Whoever our students may be, whatever the subject we teach, ultimately we teach who we are.

It is well known and widely bemoaned that we have neglected our physical infrastructure ? the roads, water supplies, and power grids on which our daily lives depend. Even more dangerous is our neglect of democracy?s infrastructure, and yet it is barely noticed and rarely discussed. The heart?s dynamics and the ways in which they are shaped lack the drama and the ?visuals? to make the evening news, and restoring them is slow and daunting work. Now is the time to notice, and now is the time for the restoration to begin.

My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for wholeness is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident.

Perhaps, the answer is that my ravaged mind rails against the idea of God, but something deeper in me calls out as if God might answer. 'There are not foxholes,' I guess, and depression is the deepest and deadliest foxhole I've been in. It may be the 'dark night of the soul' that the mystics talk about but in depression it is not so much that one becomes lost in the dark as one becomes the dark.

Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one's inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge-and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.

The inner life of any great thing will be incomprehensible to me until I develop and deepen an inner life of my own.

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Parker J.
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American Author, Educator, and Activist, Founder and Senior Partner of the Center for Courage and Renewal