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Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit Hardcover – September 6, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0470590805 ISBN-10: 0470590807 Edition: 1st

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Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit + A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life + Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470590807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470590805
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"He bravely takes on the current political climate, and this book provides therapy for the American body politic. His insights are heart-deep: America gains by living with tension and differences; we can help reclaim public life by actions as simple as walking down the street instead of driving. Hope's hardly cheap, but history is made up of what Palmer calls 'a million invisible acts of courage and the incremental gains that came with them.' This beautifully written book deserves a wide audience that will benefit from discussing it." (A "Starred Review" from Publishers Weekly, 8 August 2011)

“Healing the Heart of Democracy is a hopeful book that lifts up and hallows the heart as a source of inner sight. Inspired by the efforts to understand and undergird democracy by Abraham Lincoln, Alexis de Tocqueville, Rosa Parks, and others; the author sends us on our way rejoicing with the small portion of hope that he has planted in our minds and souls.”
—Spirituality & Practice (http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=21525)

“There is a deep and disturbing cloud hanging over the United States. It is a malaise that is leading to cynicism and self-centeredness. The antidote is to be found in the healing of the heart of our democracy, so that we might emerge from this private focus to a public one, which recognizes our interdependence.  I know of no better guide to discerning the problem and the solutions, than this book by Parker Palmer. It is a prophetic book, one that needs to be taken with all due seriousness, if we are to emerge from our malaise stronger and healthier than before.” (Englewood Review of Books , 2011)

From the Author


* A Starred Review from Publishers Weekly * Palmer's...newest was six years in the making. He bravely takes on the current political climate, with its atrophy of citizen participation, the ascendance of an oligarchy that shapes politics, and the substitution of vituperation for thoughtful public discussion. It's a tall order that became even taller because Palmer had to climb out of a pit of depression -- his constitutional proclivity -- to do so. But wrestling with essential questions of public life became therapeutic, and this book provides therapy for the American body politic. Palmer's use of acute 19th-century observers of American life and character -- Tocqueville, Lincoln -- as well as his use of anecdotes and lessons from his own long career provide context and tonic. His insights are heart-deep: America gains by living with tension and differences; we can help reclaim public life by actions as simple as walking down the street instead of driving. Hope's hardly cheap, but history is made up of what Palmer calls "a million invisible acts of courage and the incremental gains that came with them." This beautifully written book deserves a wide audience that will benefit from discussing it. -- August 8, 2011

~ ENDORSEMENTS ~ 

* We have been trying to bridge the great divides in this great country for a long time. In this book, Parker J. Palmer urges us to "keep on walking, keep on talking"--just as we did in the civil rights movement--until we cross those bridges together. -- U.S. Congressman John Lewis, recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom
 
* The book we need for recovering the heart, the very core, of our selves and our democracy. -- Krista Tippett, host of public radio's On Being and recipient of a 2013 National Humanities Medal
 
* A master work by a master, a clear and uplifting resource that keeps shining light in all the dark places. Palmer is that rare, deep seer who is at home in the streets, a teacher by example who has the courage to stand openly and honestly in the public square. -- Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening and As Far As the Heart Can See

* Can we keep our sights on the vision of what we aspire to be while working constructively to transform realities that do not yet fulfill that vision? How do we remain "open hearted" so that we can engage creatively with citizens who hold different views of the challenges we face?Healing the Heart of Democracy asks these necessary questions and inspires us to answer. -- Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org and Living Room Conversations

* A book born for this moment. Wise, evocative, and pragmatic at its core, this dream for a new politics is grounded in dignity and liberty for all. -- Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Open Space of Democracy
 
* In this inspiring book, I find encouragement that all of us, citizens and elected officials alike, can learn to bridge the divides that keep us from genuinely respecting one another. By sharing his own life's struggles, Palmer reveals the common struggles we all endure. He provides us with a way forward, a way forward with hope. -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
 
* A gracefully written anthem to democracy [that] breaks new ground in marrying the capacity of the human heart with the tensions inherent in politics [and] breathes new life into what it means to be a citizen--accountable, compassionate, fiercely realistic. -- Peter Block and John McKnight, coauthors of The Abundant Community
 
* A "must read" for everyone who is concerned about the state of our democracy and has ever despaired about what can be done. Palmer's stories, plainspoken analysis, and penetrating insights will inspire you to claim your full human capacities and to take part in healing democracy "from the inside out." -- Martha L. McCoy, Executive Director, Everyday Democracy
 
* The most important manifesto in generations for breaking through the divisiveness that has paralyzed our democracy. -- Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength, author of The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men
 
* All who harbor concerns about American politics will find in this book a wise and kindred spirit who reminds us of choices we can make to help "reweave the tattered fabric of our civic life." You will close this book appreciating how much you can do, and how much depends on you. -- Diana Chapman Walsh, President Emerita of Wellesley College
 
* A courageous work that is honest and true, human and humble, glitteringly intelligent and unabashedly hopeful. Palmer gives us constructive language, historical context and a practical vision for how we as individuals and communities can get to the real heart of the matter. -- Carrie Newcomer, activist and singer-songwriter, The Geography of Light and Before and After
 
* Could not be more timely and needed. As one who has been guided through a time of personal reflection with Parker Palmer, I invite you to join in a journey through these chapters. -- U.S. Congresswoman Lois Capps, grandmother, mother, nurse, and seeker after democracy
 
* A brave and visionary book. Palmer re-imagines our political lives as a deeply personal process within which all Americans--especially those of us inheriting this broken polity--have a chance to be heard, heal, and get on with the eternal work of perfecting this nation. -- Courtney E. Martin, author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists
 
* Palmer has been our mentor as we've weathered the rough and tumble of political life. In this compelling new book, he challenges us to recognize that a more vital democracy begins within each of us, as we learn to hold the tensions inherent in community life and no longer fear to tread that most difficult terrain--the broken places in our own hearts. -- Kathy Gille served for twenty years as a senior congressional aide. -- Doug Tanner, her husband, is a founder and former president of The Faith and Politics Institute.
 
* A book that should be read and talked about in every family, book club, classroom, boardroom, congregation and hall of government in our country. Palmer writes with clarity, good sense, balance, honesty, humor and humility, focusing on the essence of what is needed from each of us for the survival of our democracy. -- Thomas F. Beech, President Emeritus, the Fetzer Institute

More About the Author

PARKER J. PALMER is a writer, teacher and activist whose work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. He is founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include "A Hidden Wholeness," "Let Your Life Speak," "The Courage to Teach," "The Active Life," "To Know as We Are Known," "The Company of Strangers," "The Promise of Paradox," "The Heart of Higher Education," and "Healing the Heart of Democracy." He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as eleven honorary doctorates, two Distinguished Achievement Awards from the National Educational Press Association, and an Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press. In 1998, the Leadership Project, a national survey of 10,000 educators, named him one of the thirty most influential senior leaders in higher education and one of the ten key agenda-setters of the past decade. In 2010, he was given the William Rainey Harper Award (previously won by Margaret Mead, Marshall McLuhan, Paulo Freire, and Elie Wiesel). "Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer," was published in 2005. In 2011, the Utne Reader named him as one of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World"--people who "don't just think out loud but who walk their talk on a daily basis." (See the Oct-Nov 2011 print or online edition.) He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Customer Reviews

Palmer loves America enough to be honest and gentle with her and us.
David Henderson
In the tension between our hopes and our realities, Healing the Heart of Democracy shows us the way forward.
E. Lane
Like much other writing, the book deserves to be read but read critically and with skepticism.
Robin Friedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By David Henderson on August 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Parker Palmer's newest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, has that distinction that most good books carry - it inspires me and indicts me. It inspires me with so much honest and genuine examination of what America can and has been and what I could be with it and it indicts what America hasn't been and, again, me with it. Every time he names a struggle in America he counters it with a habit of the heart I need to be developing to bring my best citizenship to that struggle; irritatingly, he takes away all the fun I have pointing my finger of righteous indignation at Washington or my state legislature or even my local city council and says over and over with story and insight as Gandhi stated long ago, be the change you wish to see.

Case in point, take his discussion of the interaction with a homeless person and the sociological imagination Palmer suggests reframing this engagement with compassionate imagination; it unsettles even though he refuses to take on the issue of whether we give money or not - which is where most of us stop - let's argue the particular; Palmer suggests there is a deeper or at least different way of interacting with "otherness" but doesn't dictate what that needs to be; he leaves that call to a higher interaction for us to define. Of course, this is the least acceptable approach for all of us because when someone tells us how we should use our sociological imagination to interact with homeless people we can run willy-nilly to our reasonable arguments for rejecting or affirming his proposal. Leaving the sociological imagination unspecified for us to define redirects us from the realm of logical thrust and parry and gently invites us to deeper reflection on what the individual - me - in community might mean for us.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By jimquay on August 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Concerned and frustrated about the condition of American political life? Weary of the self-righteous posturing and angry sound bites that characterize our debates? If so, I heartily recommend Healing the Heart of Democracy to you.

Parker Palmer looks for the cause of the anger, the demonization, and the strident rhetoric that characterize so much of our political conversation. What he finds is not ignorance or ideology or the influences of money and media, but something rather surprising -- heartbreak, heartbreak about the condition of our culture, our society, our body politic. "That shared heartbreak," says Palmer, "can build a footbridge of mutual understanding on which we can walk toward each other."

This central insight illuminates much that goes unexplained by the usual political analyses. By looking at our politics from the perspective of the human heart, Palmer reveals the vulnerability we share rather than the differences we so often display. We mask this heartbreak and suffering by retreating into silence or anger. We impatiently resolve the tensions between positions rather than sit with them and those who hold them. But there is a heavy cost for this impatience: "violence is what we get when we do not know what else to do with our suffering."

Tensions in political life are not a sign of failure, he writes, they are a sign of vitality. "Our form of government was designed not to suppress our differences, but to keep the energy of their tension alive so that it could animate the body politic." But such tension is not easy to live with and most of us seek to resolve it by collapsing toward one pole or the other. Palmer urges us to have the courage to live with this tension.

Palmer is hopeful, but not naïve.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Marianne Houston on August 1, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Palmer's new book is a rare achievement -- idealistic yet pragmatic, deeply spiritual yet often entertaining, it is comfortably academic and at the same time wonderfully practical.
I suspect that Palmer's description of his own mindset, as he contemplates the current political, economic and social conditions of our democracy , very closely resembles that of many of us. He says that he did his best to resist writing this book because, "I felt too old, too weary, and disheartened to take the job on, let alone to do it well." One understands! We too grieve these conditions and may wonder about the future of our "great democratic experiment". Yet in the following paragraph Palmer shares this thought: "...writing this book has rejuvenated me ... I now feel better equipped to engage creatively in the conflicts of democracy as a citizen who cares about the common good." The careful reader may well experience a like transformation.
This book pushes us to the heart level as we consider the important issues/challenges/decisions of our age. Our HEADS are inevitably drawn into the fray - and in fact the "talking heads" that fill up our airwaves in these times would do the thinking for us! But herein we find a rationale and a plea to address "the visible political realities without losing sight of the HEART that animates them."
The focus is on the heart, on one hand, "broken-heartedness" (over the strife and intransigence among our elected leaders and among ourselves), and, on the other, "having our hearts broken open". This frame provides an insightful way to study and come to terms with our capacity to hold the tensions that confront us in life, and to use them toward "creative ends.
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