On the Brink of Everything

Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old

Parker Palmer (Author)

Publication date: 06/26/2018

On the Brink of Everything
Parker J. Palmer On the Brink of Everything Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old From beloved and bestselling author Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, Healing the Heart of Democracy) comes a brave and beautiful book of reflections on eight decades of life and work. Reframing aging as "a passage of discovery and engagement," Palmer says, "Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good." On the Brink of Everything is not a "guide to" or "handbook for" getting old. Instead, it's Palmer turning the prism of insight on his experience as a way of encouraging readers to do the same with theirs. In elegant prose and lyrical poetry, he offers a set of meditations on the meanings of one's life, past, present, and future. "The laws of nature that dictate the sunset dictate our demise," Palmer writes. "But how we travel the arc between our own sunrise and sundown is ours to choose: will it be denial, defiance, or collaboration?" With gravity and levity, compassion and chutzpah, Palmer writes about cultivating a robust inner and outer life, a sense of meaning and purpose amid pain as well as joy, and the intergenerational relations that enhance the lives of young and old alike. Here's a book not only for elders but also for those younger folks we call "old souls." And this book sings! It includes three songs by Palmer's longtime friend and colleague, singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, written in response to themes in the book. At the download site for the songs, Palmer and Newcomer hope to engage readers in an ongoing conversation about what Howard Thurman called "the growing edge" of our personal and public lives. Ultimately, Palmer sees age as a precious gift: "The fact that I've come this far makes me one of the lucky ones." Surprised by the fact that he likes being old, he writes, "Welcome to the brink of everything. It takes a lifetime to get here, but the stunning view and the wake-up breeze in your face make it worth the trip."

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Overview

Parker J. Palmer On the Brink of Everything Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old From beloved and bestselling author Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, Healing the Heart of Democracy) comes a brave and beautiful book of reflections on eight decades of life and work. Reframing aging as "a passage of discovery and engagement," Palmer says, "Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good." On the Brink of Everything is not a "guide to" or "handbook for" getting old. Instead, it's Palmer turning the prism of insight on his experience as a way of encouraging readers to do the same with theirs. In elegant prose and lyrical poetry, he offers a set of meditations on the meanings of one's life, past, present, and future. "The laws of nature that dictate the sunset dictate our demise," Palmer writes. "But how we travel the arc between our own sunrise and sundown is ours to choose: will it be denial, defiance, or collaboration?" With gravity and levity, compassion and chutzpah, Palmer writes about cultivating a robust inner and outer life, a sense of meaning and purpose amid pain as well as joy, and the intergenerational relations that enhance the lives of young and old alike. Here's a book not only for elders but also for those younger folks we call "old souls." And this book sings! It includes three songs by Palmer's longtime friend and colleague, singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, written in response to themes in the book. At the download site for the songs, Palmer and Newcomer hope to engage readers in an ongoing conversation about what Howard Thurman called "the growing edge" of our personal and public lives. Ultimately, Palmer sees age as a precious gift: "The fact that I've come this far makes me one of the lucky ones." Surprised by the fact that he likes being old, he writes, "Welcome to the brink of everything. It takes a lifetime to get here, but the stunning view and the wake-up breeze in your face make it worth the trip."

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Table of Contents

With Gratitudep. 6 Preludep. 9 I. The View from the Brink: What I Can See from Herep. 17 Introduction On the Brink of Everything Does My Life Have Meaning? Withering into the Truth Grand Canyon II. Young & Old: The Dance of the Generationsp. 34 Introduction The Music of Mentoring Welcome to the Human Race Living from the Inside Out November 22nd III. Getting Real: From Illusion to Realityp. 54 Introduction Contemplative by Catastrophe A Friendship, a Love, a Rescue Down Is the Way to Well-being Notes from a Week in the Winter Woods Welcome Home IV. Work & Vocation: A Life in Writingp. 82 Introduction The Accidental Author Born Baffled The Poem I Would Have Writ Begin Again The World Once Green Again V. Keep Reaching Out: Staying Engaged with the Worldp. 109 Introduction What's an Angry Quaker to Do? The Soul of a Patriot In Praise of Diversity Seeking Sanctuary The Winter Woods VI. Keep Reaching In: Staying Engaged with Your Soulp. 134 Introduction Embracing the Human Frailty Confessing My Complicity Heartbreak and Hope for New Life A Season of Paradox Appalachian Autumn VII. Over the Edge: Where We Go When We Diep. 156 Introduction Fierce with Reality A Wilderness Pilgrimage Waving Goodbye from Afar Postludep. 166 Why Should I Ever Be Sad? Two Toasts About the Authorp. 168 Endnotesp. 169

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Endorsements

"Parker Palmer is one of our wisest minds and lives and one of my greatest mentors. He has the spirit of a poet and the stature of a prophet. There is no one I'd rather eavesdrop on as he ponders the brink of everything.' This book is a companion for not merely surviving a fractured world but embodying like Parker the fiercely honest and gracious wholeness that is ours to claim at every stage of life." Krista Tippett, founder of On Being Studios, author of Einstein's God and Becoming Wise, and winner of the 2013 National Humanities Medal "Parker Palmer is the most integral and wholehearted teacher of our age. For nearly eight decades, he has seen much, questioned everything, and returned with a wisdom essential to everyone. His latest book, On the Brink of Everything, is a deep reflection on aging that offers a master's earned view of the large and the small and how we're all vital threads woven together by life. This book will stir your soul and bring you closer to everything." Mark Nepo, author of More Together Than Alone and The Book of Awakening "Parker J. Palmer's tenth wise book, On the Brink of Everything, is a wondrously rich mix of reality and possibility, comfort and story, helpful counsel and poetry, in the voice of a friend. It's an honest wake-up chime, no matter where you are in your own time line, because somehow, these pages hold all of time past and present, stirring together refreshing the spirit. This is a book of immense gratitude, consolation, and praise." Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Transfer and Voices in the Air and National Book Award finalist "Our entire culture is deeply in need of true elders, and you can't be one until you have arrived there chronologically, spiritually, and intellectually. Parker J. Palmer is a writer and a man who has clearly earned the title of elder. And he elders with such readability and humor! This book is a generous gift to all of us and to our attempts at a truly human civilization." Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation and author of Falling Upward and Adam's Return "Parker J. Palmer's books are long-treasured companions on my personal journey. His newest offering is clear-eyed and good-humored, luminously prophetic and disarmingly honest. It is tender to the core for our shared human condition and fierce with love and unguarded hope for our shared human possibility. It has the feel of a lovely kitchen table conversation between the author and reader, exploring thoughtful aging, finding meaning in hard times, and how we can deepen and balance our inner and outer landscapes at any stage of life. This book is a generous gift to a worried and weary world." Carrie Newcomer, musician, recording artist of The Beautiful Not Yet, author of A Permeable Life, and Grammy Award winning songwriter "Parker Palmer has given me so many gifts through the years. His writing has done for me what I can only hope mine does for others. On the Brink of Everything has given me new and special gifts. Parker, now in his late seventies, has helped this guy in his early sixties think of my years ahead as triple wrapped in mystery.' Savoring this book is a kind of mentorship in aging, and it ends in a crescendo of poetry. My first thought when I turned the last page: I want to read this again from the beginning, starting right now.'" Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration "Parker Palmer has been a mentor and midwife to countless young people in my generation, including me. When I was in my twenties standing at a crossroads, his book Let Your Life Speak inspired me to pursue an untraditional path as an activist-artist; he released the music within me. Now in my thirties, as the cacophony of vitriol and violence becomes deafening, his friendship teaches me how to remain faithful to my own melodies and keep playing them. In the darkness, Parker has taught me how to wonder at the night sky, keep death in my mind's eye, and listen to the wisdom of my grandfather and ancestors, whose music lives within mine. He has poured these insights into a book that feels more like a treasure chest. On the Brink of Everything is filled with gems of wisdom, each a prism that helps us see our own vast interiority and sing our own truths. My greatest aspiration is to journey through life and arrive at the brink as Parker has, with humility and faithfulness, and pockets full of gems." Valarie Kaur, civil rights activist, lawyer, filmmaker, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project "One of the wisest people on the planet has written one of the finest books on growing b/old gracefully. This warm and witty book will delight and inspire readers of all ages." Richard Leider, bestselling author or coauthor of The Power of Purpose, Repacking Your Bags, and Life Reimagined

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