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Summary

News Flash! Utne Reader names Parker J. Palmer as one of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World" - people who, in the editor's words, "don't just think out loud but who walk their talk on a daily basis." See the October-November 2011 print or online issue.

At a critical time in American life, Parker J. Palmer looks with realism and hope at how to deal with our political tensions for the sake of the common good - without the shouting, blaming, or defaming so common in our politics today.

In his newest book, Parker J. Palmer builds on his own extensive experience as an inner life explorer and social change activist to examine the personal and social infrastructure of American politics. What he did for educators in The Courage to Teach he does here for citizens by looking at the dynamics of our inner lives for clues to reclaiming our civic well-being. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, he points the way to a politics rooted in the commonwealth of compassion and creativity still found among "We the People."

"Democracy," writes Palmer, "is a non-stop experiment in the strengths and weaknesses of our political institutions, local communities, and the human heart - and its outcome can never be taken for granted. The experiment is endless, unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so also is the heart's alchemy that can turn suffering into compassion, conflict into community, and tension into energy for creativity amid democracy's demands.

Healing the Heart of Democracy names the "habits of the heart" we need to revitalize our politics and shows how they can be formed in the everyday venues of our lives. Palmer proposes practical and hopeful methods to hold the tensions of our differences in a manner that can help restore a government "of the people, by the people, for the people".

©2011 Parker J. Palmer (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"...[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)
"...[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)
"...[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)

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  • Nancy H. Brown
  • 14-01-13

All should read!

Our nation is in trouble. People should revisit the concepts of democracy and recognize the importance of hearing, respecting others and working together for the good of all. Palmer does an excellent job of refreshing our collective vision of who we are and what matters.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • JLW
  • 02-06-18

Wisdom we need today

Parker Palmer’s book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, was published seven years ago, but it speaks eloquently to the situations we face at this very moment—which hadn’t even been imagined in 2011. I wish all Americans would read it. It is not only wise and informative, but also nourishing and sustaining. I couldn’t possibly recommend it more highly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tammy Durm
  • 20-09-18

Nuggets

As I look back and write this review I realize there were quite a few more nuggets in this book than I thought. I found the beginning and the end to be good and the middle very long. This book was a little dry and I didn't enjoy the narrator on the audio book who had an announcer's voice but I'm glad I stuck with it. Now for the good parts.

There was a beautiful analogy about a prairie with 150 species of vegetation and the birds, mammals and insects who are attracted to this environment. This biodiversity is adaptive, resilient, creative, productive, sustainable. Compare this to fields and fields of corn. Mind numbing uniform rows sapping the earth's vitality with sustainability and quality at risk. This has a lot to teach us about democracy. Democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people is not neat, orderly, or quiet and we should embrace that confusion.

In the beginning he talks about the Quakers (who I very much admire) and how they were leaders in opposing slavery and the underground railroad. My memory of the story (may not be perfect) is that one of the Quakers decided that slavery was wrong and set all his slaves free. He talked about it with the other Quakers in his church to try to influence them to do the same. Some did, some didn't. The important part is that for decades they "held the tension" until more and more people did and the influence went beyond the Quaker community.

Holding the tension is an important theme throughout the book. Standing and acting in the "tragic gap" between the way things are and the way things could be...with hope, even though we probably won't live to see the gap closed. Between light and dark. Between reality and possibilities. Too much toward reality = cynicism and preparing for war. Too much possibilities = irrelevant idealism/fantasy. Our founding fathers realized that political movement would need constant renewal and competing centers of power (tension) to create stability for great achievements. The Nazi's had the "last solution" - it's never the last solution.

Another theme is about isolation and how it's bad for society. Gated communities, technology, and the trend to watch movies and shop at home contribute to isolation. The way we get our news contributes to our point of view being shaped by hearing only what we want to hear and less exposure to other viewpoints, lifestyles, and diversity. This leads to divisive politics. Hostility is a sign of an ailing system. A nation that hates politics will not long thrive as a democracy.

I found this so relevant today (even though this book was written years ago). We are abandoning the large, impossible, vital jobs what we must do (even though we may not see results in our lifetime). Instead we (after all our politicians are us) take on smaller and smaller tasks with measurable short term outcomes - instant and visible results. He says it's pathetic and I agree. Are we faithful to our community? the human race? justice? mercy? Are we courageous enough to do what we can?

Caring vs not caring is a choice. We should live our lives carrying the past and understanding the legacy of light and darkness. We should see the future and continue to dream. Living in the present we must act with faith and love standing in the gap for the long haul.

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  • B. Fosmire
  • 25-01-15

Worth your time. Beautifully written.

Up lifting and great writing. Simple message I found useful. The point is that democracy is dependent on a sense of community and respect for diversity.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-12-16

very important book

an especially important book for those working to bring love into a troubled world whether in America or elsewhere.

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  • Bearinthehouse
  • 28-05-15

Exactly what I needed.

This extraordinary book weaves the hunger of the spirit in community, the fear and generosity of the heart, and the possibility of democracy with the necessity of democracy. This book of revelations guides readers to transform the shattered self into the whole self, the cruel and dying society into the extended whole democratic society. I want everyone to read or listen to this book. It is hope and it is real. It offers the future without disaster.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful