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Photo of Parker J. Palmer

My peers agreed it would be an excellent focus for our small discussion group – Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. PalmerSam M. Intrator (ed.), (Jossey-Bass, 2005).

I had not previously heard of Parker J Palmer, but was attracted to his deliciously alliterative name. Google led me to discover that he is a sociologist/educator of significant standing across a multi-discipline spectrum. Many human services workers – teachers, lecturers, sports coaches, community workers, religious leaders – have benefited from his service of leading them to nurture and trust their deeper wisdom in the unique expressions of their calling.

This collection of essays seeks not to fete the life work of Palmer, but to extend the conversation stimulated by his skilful prodding.

Reluctant in attempting to trap Parker Palmer’s thinking in a reductionist “dot point summary”, the editor Sam M. Intrator nevertheless grasps the nettle, which is helpful to new initiates such as myself.

He thus summarises the body of work that inspires this collection of essays:

  • All human activity emerges from our inwardness, for better or worse. As we work and live, we project the condition of our souls onto our relationships. Sustaining good relationships among those with whom we work and live requires self-knowledge of our inner terrain.
  • There are pedagogies and ways of knowing that can invite and welcome the soul and heal the person. For Parker, being a writer who honors the sacred and being a teacher whose practice invites the soul into circles of trust are important life callings.
  • The route to enduring social change runs through individuals who join together after making a decision to live with integrity and wholeness. Despite his affection for the monastic life, Parker is a man of action who calls on us to understand the dynamics of social movements and participate in “right action.” 

I find this very inviting. Vocation ceases to be moulded in terms of career path and becomes integrated withe expressions of the inner self, something that became increasingly important for me as self-awareness came more and more to the fore in my day to day dealings.

I look forward to reading and pondering the essays.

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