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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation Hardcover – September 10, 1999


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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation + A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life + The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life,  10th Anniversary Edition
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (September 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787947350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787947354
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The old Quaker adage, "Let your life speak," spoke to author Parker J. Palmer when he was in his early 30s. It summoned him to a higher purpose, so he decided that henceforth he would live a nobler life. "I lined up the most elevated ideals I could find and set out to achieve them," he writes. "The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque.... I had simply found a 'noble' way of living a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart."

Thirty years later, Palmer now understands that learning to let his life speak means "living the life that wants to live in me." It involves creating the kind of quiet, trusting conditions that allow a soul to speak its truth. It also means tuning out the noisy preconceived ideas about what a vocation should and shouldn't be so that we can better hear the call of our wild souls. There are no how-to formulas in this extremely unpretentious and well-written book, just fireside wisdom from an elder who is willing to share his mistakes and stories as he learned to live a life worth speaking about. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

A gifted academic who formerly combined a college teaching career with community organizing, Palmer took a year's sabbatical to live at the "intentional" Quaker community of Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania. Instead of leaving at year's end, he became the community's dean of studies and remained there for 10 years. Palmer (The Courage to Teach) shares the lessons of his vocational and spiritual journey, discussing his own burnout and intense depression with exceptional candor and clarity. In essays that previously appeared in spiritual or educational journals and have been reworked to fit into this slim volume, he suggests that individuals are most authentic when they follow their natural talents and limitations, as his own story demonstrates. Since hearing one's "calling" requires introspection and self-knowledge (as suggested by the eponymous Quaker expression), Palmer encourages inner work such as journal-writing, meditation and prayer. Recognizing that his philosophy is at odds with popular, essentially American attitudes about self-actualization and following one's dreams, Palmer calls vocation "a gift, not a goal." He deftly illustrates his point with examples from the lives of people he admires, such as Rosa Parks, Annie Dillard and Vaclav Havel. A quiet but memorable addition to the inspirational field, this book has the quality of a finely worked homily. The writing displays a gentle wisdom and economy of style that leaves the reader curious for more insight into the author's Quaker philosophy. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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.

Customer Reviews

I have just finished this short book, and I'm ready to read it again.
Allen White
This book helps you look at your life in a compassionate and discerning way as you find a hopeful path for yourself.
L. M. Keefer
Palmer writes clearly and candidly in a voice that is gentle and trustworthy.
Karmagold

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

250 of 255 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
One thing that our world does not encourage very well is stopping and listening -- stopping and listening to each other, stopping and listening to life around us, or stopping and listening even to ourselves. This is a skill that, given our cultural conditioning, must be cultivated. That is one of the things that this book by Parker Palmer, `Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation', strives to do -- to help the reader, the seeker, to be more attentive to life.
Palmer is a well-known author in the area of vocational care and consideration. I first encountered Palmer's writing in another book, The Courage to Teach, as various of us explored the meanings of our vocations as educators in the fields of theology and ministry.
Palmer states at the outset in his Gratitudes (a wonderful substitution from the typical words Preface or Introduction) that these chapters have in various guises appeared before. However, they have been re-written to fit together as a complete and unified whole for the purpose of exploring vocation.
Chapter 1: Listening to Life, starts as an exploration through poetry and Palmer's own experience in vocation. What is one called to do? What is the source of vocation? Palmer states: `Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about -- quite apart from what I would like it to be about -- or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.'
The very word vocation implies both voice and calling. Crucial to this understanding is that one must be present and attentive to hear that voice, that call.
Read more ›
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168 of 173 people found the following review helpful By Mark E. Alvis on January 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For me, this book is less about vocation than it is about loving yourself. In my life (and to the world, a wonderful one) was empty and void. Having come from a verbally abusive childhood, I struggled all my life to "become". But it was never me. Recently, I hit bottom, as Parker did. And I discovered what he writes so eloquently about...you must love yourself first before you can see and cherish and give your gifts to others. For me, it was the end of a 19 year marriage. A change in what I would tolerate at work. And the people around me, most blessedly my children, notice a huge difference. I am me now, not driven by fears or other's boxes. I was pretty charismatic before, but you should see my light shine now. This book helps explain the journey I thought was just me. Parker Palmer has captured probably the most important concept in life...and one that you really should read. This is one of those books that you'll share with others, but you'll want them to get their own copy!
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134 of 139 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having read this book during my morning and evening train commutes, I found it to be incredibly inspiring and challenging at the same time. At first I was hesitant to read this book because I have become tired of all the "how-to" books on finding one's vocation and calling in life. I have found that someone else's 5-step plan to finding the right job hasn't always worked for me.
However, I like this book because it's very personal, yet without being preachy. Through reading Parker Palmer's own journey toward self-fulfillment, I have become inspired to examine my own path toward vocation. I think that finding one's calling in life is a very personal process, and following someone else's step-by-step plan can actually cause more harm than good.
In fact, I found myself reading as if I were conversing with a personal mentor. As a result I've become challenged to examine my own life in a way that a "how-to" book could never have provoked me to do. I plan to give this book as a holiday gift to a close friend who is facing a "midlife crisis." I think it will help him.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Life is full of twists and turns that lead you all over the map. However, along that journey there are those things inside of you that are screaming to be released, and when they finally are they bring complete fulfillment to your mind, body and soul. Those things are gifts that God gave you when he planned out your life. Palmer invites readers to find those God given gifts and act on them. He invites readers through Let Your Life Speak to find who you are, and not who the world, teachers, culture, parents, media, and friends have forced you to become. I highly recommend this book for those who know they aren't doing what their soul tells them to do. Get ready for a ride though because after reading this short, but moving book, you will have to make some changes in your life. Some big, some small, but things will not remain the same.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By GAGIRL on July 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Parker Palmer creates a peacful arena for understanding our own lives by sharing what he has experienced and learned from his own. I found this book to be a "quick read" on the one hand and yet I keep going back and rereading parts of it ... and then rereading the whole section.
I came away from reading this book - the first time - with a peace about my life and how I have lived it. I better understand the lessons I have been taught and more faith about the path I am following. A whole lot for a little book to accomplish.
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