- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (June 26, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1523095431
- ISBN-13: 978-1523095438
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 167 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old Hardcover – June 26, 2018
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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: Poems for Listeners, and National Book Award finalist
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 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 70s, has helped this guy in his early 60s 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
From the Author
From the Publishers Weekly review, May 28, 2018: "Warm, generous, and funny, this impassioned book invites readers to the deep end of life where authentic soul work and human transformation become pressing concerns."
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“I don’t want to fight the gravity of aging. It’s nature’s way. I want to collaborate with it as best I can, in hopes of going down with something like the loveliness of that sunset. For all the wrinkles and worry lines, it’s a beautiful thing simply to be one of those who’s lived long enough to say, ‘I’m getting old.’”
Imagine collaborating with your aging! This book proceeds to suggest many ways one just might do that! The invitation here is to consider the privilege and responsibility that comes with living a long life, to become “fierce with reality” and own your whole life journey, with its shadows, failures, successes and light, and determine how to spend the precious time you have left in meaningful ways.
Parker names many of the underrated aspects of aging, including a new freedom to use time differently, and commit ourselves to things we care deeply about, unencumbered with the pressures and demands of the first half of life, like proving ourselves, looking good, etc. “More than fearing the cost of taking risks for the things I care about, I fear aging into irrelevance. For people like me, the notion that old age is a time to dial it down and play it safe is a cop-out. We elders should be raising hell on behalf of whatever we care about: freedom’s just another word for not needing to count the cost.”
The idea of raising hell about what we care about...for me, that is the question at the center of aging. What do you care about now, and how will you engage in that caring? In a strange way, the need for discernment about vocation and calling gets more intense with age, much like when we were young people starting out.
Finally, I especially enjoyed his reflections on the writing life and its’ connection to the faith journey:
“Since writing is sometimes a form of prayer for me, here’s another parallel between faith and writing: ‘When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing…on the street corners to be seen by men. … When you pray, go into your room, and close the door…’ (Matthew 6:5) Or, as Mrs. Patrick Campbell might say, “When you pray, don’t frighten the horses.
When I write, I seem to be partnering with something that is not yet me or mine—or with something more truly me and mine than I normally have access to.
Here’s a question at the heart of both writing and faith. As we probe reality with words or with leaps of faith, are our findings discoveries or inventions? My best guess is that the answer is “Yes.”
And why have faith, if God is so small as to be contained within our finite words and formulae? To write and live in faith, we must let God be God—original, wild, free, a creative impulse that animates all of life, but can never be contained within the limits of what we think, say and do. Thank God for that.”
As I am sure you can tell, ON THE BRINK OF EVERYTHING emerges out of hard-earned experience from Parker’s 79 years. It is a treasure-trove of stories and reflections that communicate so much more than just essays on “how to age,” with the authority and wisdom of his old, young soul, and his beautiful gift of writing. There are clear drumbeats of themes he has written about throughout his lifetime: embracing wholeness; the paradoxical nature of truth; the “primal wildness” of God and the soul; his relationship with Thomas Merton, silence and solitude; the notion of faithfulness to what we care about; that the way with pain and depression is down and through in order to receive its hard lessons; and nonviolent engagement in the midst of great political and racial unrest, all woven together with humor, his own poetry, and memorable stories. Like all of Parker’s books, I am sure it will be one I will reread often to guide me in my elder years. I hope you find it to be so as well!
This is much more than essays on aging, on “getting old” gracefully. It is a profound manifesto for fully engaging with life in the context of these troubling times as a conscious human being of any age. It both challenged me to confront myself and my blind spots and invited me to see things in a more integral, undivided way.
We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we are invited to stand on Palmer’s shoulders now. So I purchased a copy for a 26-year-old friend, so that he gets a head start and doesn’t wait to live a life of self-examination and self-awareness that is usually an initiation of our mid-life transition.
A highly recommended read.