- 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: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit 1st Edition
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"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
* 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
* 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
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Top Customer Reviews
Hope in our future can be recaptured by recognizing the mutual heartbreak of a government that doesn’t work and of communities divided by class and culture. “When we hold suffering in a way that opens us to greater compassion, heartbreak becomes a source of healing, deepening our empathy for others who suffer and extending our ability to reach out to them.” (p. 22) The relative stagnation of the U.S. economy is clearly a source of much of the heartbreak that many citizens share. “When material progress falters… people become more jealous of their status relative to others” (p. 64); the jealousy then results in scapegoating others instead of working to problem solving our way to a more prosperous community.
Palmer’s optimist views have contributed much food for thought for those of us committed to a creating a better and more equitable world. His views are also realistic and have been documented in communities of hope where healing is underway. His historical and contemporary analyses of these places led him to discern four stages that are key in the process – “deciding to live ‘divided no more,’ forming communities of congruence, going public with a vision, and transforming the system of punishment and reward.” (p. 189)
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.
When he turns to religious life in America and he discusses the lack of safety or trust that so many feel in their faith communities, it reminded me of a graduate student in one of my School Leadership classes after we had done a simple Courage to Lead (a part of Palmer's Circles of Trust work) exercise which invited inner work for these potential school administrators, one of them asked pointedly, "I want to know, Dr. Henderson, why we can have the conversation we just had in this class and we can't have it in our churches?" I didn't have a good answer - Palmer's book offers incisive insight into at least part of the answer.
As has always been true of Palmer's books, this one is rich with specific examples and stories which make his ideas more than lofty theorizing but instead courageous yet often simple realities of the capacity of our own hearts in action.
When discussing hospitality, he holds seemingly antagonistic ideological realms in the action of both/and rather than the reaction of either/or and demonstrates beautifully his willingness to discuss secular humanism and religion in the same context examining their common ground- it is this sort of holding of seemingly irreconcilable ideologies which models for us the community he calls us to.
This is an important book and comes at a time when a prophetic and deeply loving voice needs to call to America from its edge and at the same time its center regarding the ancient truth of how we have ever been remarkable, through the beauty, tragedy and capacity of our hearts. Palmer loves America enough to be honest and gentle with her and us.
Palmer focuses his attention on the notion of the heart broken *open* so that it can contain a creative tension for the resolution of political difference as opposed the the heart broken *apart*, the heart shattered. He frequently turns to the figure of Abraham Lincoln who urged an appeal to the "better angels" of human nature following the conclusion of the Civil War. Unfortunately, the polarization of contemporary politics may make such an appeal to "better angels" impossible.
Palmer admits that he is a Quaker, and the quiet approach of Quakerism informs the approach advocated in this book. It is a very appealing approach, but its applicability in the times of Donald Trump's presidency is doubtful. Nevertheless, it is an approach worth trying with those who are less radicalized, either on the right or the left. It is an approach that would be attractive to those who are open to having their minds changed, but it is doubtful Palmer's method would be effective with those whose hearts are defiantly hardened.
Nevertheless, this is a book well-worth reading, if only to begin the necessary healing process of our ruptured democracy. Our polarized nation cannot be sustained without substantial damage to the fabric of our nation, and Palmer offers a route for beginning that road to healing.