Living the Question:
Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer



For forty years, Parker Palmer has written and spoken about subjects ranging from contemplation to community, the inner life to public life, education to social change. He is known as one of the nation’s most thoughtful voices, calling us all to ways of being in the world that honor the human heart and promote a humane society. These essays from thirty contributors—including university presidents, scientists, physicians, religious leadrs, philanthropists, and community organizers—bear witness to the depth, breadth, and reach of Palmer’s vision and work. I have been blessed to have Parker as both a friend and mentor and to have my essay, “Because of My Not Knowing” as part of this remarkable conversation in print.

From Because of My Not Knowing

Because of my not knowing,
angels close their wings
and whisper in meadows
that call me into the open.

Parker Palmer is that rarity among humans: authentic and sincere in a deep and lasting way that enables his mind to speak through his heart. He is more consistently who he is than anyone I know. This deep sense of being opens a space in which others can touch what matters, if they choose to.

Our friendship has been a fire by which we’ve told many stories and explored many questions. In truth, the conversation Parker and I have been entering for years has centered on understanding life as a transformative question we awaken into together. Through love and suffering, we all seem to be challenged, time and again, to understand and embody the changing tool we are: honed and eroded pieces of spirit working in the world.

I am deeply honored to pay tribute to Parker’s spirit and life work by being part of this effort to extend this conversation. For my part, I hope to share the story of my own transformation over the years: as a poet, as a teacher, as a cancer survivor, as a spirit awakened to the world.

My aim is to speak about some of the deeper things I have learned and am still learning, including: awakening to the paradox and true gifts of suffering, seeing obstacles as teachers, having the life of poetry and the poetry of life continue to blur, understanding creativity as an expressive form of healing, leaving the want to be great for the great chance to be, understanding how giving attention is more essential than getting attention, and awakening to the acceptance of our limitations and how we need each other to be complete and useful.

Living the Questions is a tribute to a great man by those he has awakened to their own unique greatness. This is a book about love, courage, community, integrity, service, and humility. Living the Questions is a profound testimony to our power to make a difference in this world, one heart at a time.”
Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., author of Kitchen Table Wisdom

“A collection of extraordinary and moving explorations of the inner and outer landscapes of our minds and hearts and world!”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are and Coming to Our Senses

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