Parker J. Palmer is a world-renowned writer, speaker, educator, and activist whose work explores issues and concerns related to spirituality, education, community, leadership, and social change. He is the author of many books, including Let Your Life Speak,A Hidden Wholeness,The Promise of Paradox, and The Active Life.
He is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers.
“The impact of silence is not only solace, but disturbance. Silence forces you to look at your life in some very challenging ways. I think in our culture that’s once of the reasons silence is not popular. It’s one of the reasons we fill the air with noise, and
we fill our minds with noise, because we avoid having to take that deep dive into ourselves.” — Parker J. Palmer
Parker joined us in July for a splendid conversation including insight into his latest book,On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old — and so much more. He proved to be so generous with his time that our conversation extended well over an hour — and so we are pleased to present our first “two-part” Encountering Silence interview! Episode 33 begins the conversation, and the conclusion of the interview is found in Episode 34.
“First the silence broke me down, and then it gave me a context, once I understood what was happening, a context in which to rebuild a faith that was rooted in experience. That’s an incredible gift.” — Parker J. Palmer
He shares early memories of silence — from solitary hours in childhood spent reading and building model airplanes — and then muses on how silence accompanied his adult life as a social activist, community organizer, and Quaker educator. After a serendipitous encounter with the writings of Thomas Merton, Palmer discovered that silence was essential not only to his spiritual practice, but to discovering both the riches — and to the shadow — of his own soul.
“I began to recognize that the burnout that I was beginning to feel was about six months away as a terminal burnout, if I didn’t start practicing some things that would help me avoid it, and silence was one of those things.” — Parker J. Palmer
Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:
- Parker J. Palmer, On the Brink of Everything
- Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach
- Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy
- Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
- Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
- Parker J. Palmer, The Promise of Paradox
- Parker J. Palmer, The Active Life
- Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain
- Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
- Martin Luther, The Ninety-Five Theses and Other Writings
- Sydney Carter, The Present Tense: Songs of Sydney Carter
- John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
- Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas
- Barbara Holmes, Joy Unspeakable
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“Truth isn’t in the conclusions, because the conclusions keep changing — in every field I know anything about. It’s in the conversation. If you want to live in the truth, you have to know how to live in the conversation.” — Parker J. Palmer
Episode 33: On the Brink of Silence: A Conversation with Parker J. Palmer (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Kevin Johnson, Carl McColman
Guest: Parker J. Palmer
Date Recorded: July 13, 2018