Parker J. Palmer

Parker J.
Palmer
1939

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

Author Quotes

Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching's great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.

Our equal and opposite needs for solitude and community constitute a great paradox. When it is torn apart, both of these life-giving states of being degenerate into deathly specters of themselves. Solitude split off from community is no longer a rich and fulfilling experience of inwardness; now it becomes loneliness, a terrible isolation. Community split off from solitude is no longer a nurturing network of relationships; now it becomes a crowd, an alienating buzz of too many people and too much noise.

Some journeys are direct, and some are circuitous; some are heroic, and some are fearful and muddled. But every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.

The Endless Argument Political life in a democracy is a nonstop flow of contradictions and conflicts. What shall we do when the will of the majority infringes on the rights of a minority? If we want both freedom and justice, what is the proper balance of unrestrained personal or economic activity and government regulation? Which is most effective in transforming various kinds of behaviors: education, incentives, or legal sanctions? In the face of a foreign threat, is our national interest more likely to be secured through quiet diplomacy or saber-rattling? In the face of divergent problems like these, what kinds of institutions will allow people who disagree to open up and work together rather than shut down and turn against each other? When America's founders wrestled with that question, they were motivated in part by a desire to grow beyond Old World traditions of resolving conflicts by royal decree. But their more immediate motivation was the need to deal with the serious conflicts among themselves. The fact that the founders were all white, male landholders did not make for a united approach to declaring independence from British rule and framing a national constitution. Far from it. Their own diversity of convictions compelled them to invent political institutions capable of surviving conflict and of putting it to good use.

The punishment imposed on us for claiming true self can never be worse than the punishment we impose on ourselves by failing to make that claim.

There's a lot of fear connected with the inner journey because it penetrates our illusions. Taking the inner journey will lead you into some very shadowy places. You're going to learn things about yourself that you'll wish you didn't know. There are monsters in there-monsters you can't control-but trying to keep them hidden will only give them greater power.

We are here not only to transform the world but also to be transformed.

We think it's about little techniques and tricks, but techniques only take you so far. We need teachers who care about kids, who care about what they teach, and who can communicate with kids.

When we generate utopian visions and hope to make them happen soon ? when we elect Barack Obama and expect all our problems to be solved, and solved quickly, by his presidency ? the outcome is both predictable and tragic. That is not the way to engage social change in a democracy. And it is not the way to help democracy itself survive and thrive. Democracy is a non-stop experiment. Each generation must help sustain it, which means being in it day-by-day for the long haul.

My core religious beliefs include this simple article of faith: the God who gave all of us life wants us to do the same for each other. When people or groups who claim religious motivation make their points by using violence in any form?spiritual, psychological, verbal, or physical?it seems clear to me that they are driven by fear rather than faith, committed to control instead of trust in God.

Our inner world has a reality and a power that can keep us from being victims of circumstance and compel us to take responsibility for our own lives.

Spirituality is not primarily about values and ethics, not about exhortations to do right or live well. The spiritual traditions are primarily about reality...an effort to penetrate the illusions of the external world and to name its underlying truth.

The English word truth comes from a Germanic root that also gives rise to our word troth, as in the ancient vow I pledge thee my troth. With this word one person enters a covenant with another, a pledge to engage in mutually accountable and transforming relationship...to know in truth is to become betrothed, to engage the known with one's whole self...to know in truth is to be known as well.

The reality we belong to, the reality we long to know, extends far beyond human beings interacting with one another.

There's often a distressing disconnect between the good words we speak and the way we live our lives. In personal relations and politics, the mass media, the academy and organized religion, our good words tend to float away even as they leave our lips, ascending to an altitude where they neither reflect nor connect with the human condition. We long for words like love, truth, and justice to become flesh and dwell among us. But in our violent world, it's risky business to wrap our frail flesh around words like those, and we don't like the odds.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.

Well-structured groups can be smarter than any of its members.

When we live behind a wall, our inner darkness cannot be penetrated by the light that is in the world. In fact, all we can see out there is darkness, not realizing how much of it is of our own making! As a young man, the wall allowed me to cast my own darkness on others while remaining blissfully ignorant of how they saw me.

My countrymen? think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it.

Our problem as Americans -- at least, among my race and gender -- is that we resist the very idea of limits, regarding limits of all sorts as temporary and regrettable impositions on our lives.

Storytelling has always been at the heart of being human because it serves some of our most basic needs: passing along our traditions, confessing failings, healing wounds, engendering hope, strengthening our sense of community.

The figure calling to me all those years was, I believe, what Thomas Merton calls 'true self.' This is not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another form of self-distortion), not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas, not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code. It is the self planted in us by the God who made us in God's own image ? the self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be.

The soul is like a wild animal?tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.

They should be encouraged to bring all of who they are and what they know into each class. By welcoming the whole student into our classes, unfamiliar aspects of who they are and what they care about suddenly come into view. What are the heartfelt questions they struggle with? Are they too scared to acknowledge the hopes and aspirations they harbor for their lives and for this world?

We are participants in a vast communion of being, and if we open ourselves to its guidance, we can learn anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth.

First Name
Parker J.
Last Name
Palmer
Birth Date
1939
Bio

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