Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Parker Palmer Revisited

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who's been leaving comments lately. Although I try to respond to every comment, I've been swamped. So, please know that I've read what you've written and I do appreciate it. But, this time, I just can't respond except to say thank-you.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you'll remember that last month I had a series on work. One of my favorite new authors is Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

Since I'm still new to blogging, I'm not sure if it's better to link you to my other post or to reprint it here. But since my story only makes sense if you know about Parker J. Palmer's story, I'm reprinting it now. Tomorrow's post will be my letter to Parker Palmer explaining what I learned from his experience.

* * *
By the time Palmer was 35 years old, he'd changed careers a few times (He dropped out of seminary school to get a Ph.D. in sociology, left academia to become a community organizer, and returned to academia to teach students how to get involved in community organizing) but he still was floundering, which was why he was taking a sabbatical at Pendle Hill, a Quaker community.

He writes: "But when I arrived and started sharing my vocational quandary, people responded with a traditional Quaker counsel that, despite their good intentions, left me more discouraged. "Have faith," they said, "and way will open."

Palmer felt he did have faith, but that he was approaching middle age and was struggling because he hadn't found a "vocational path that feels right."

"After a few months of deepening frustration, I took my troubles to an older Quaker woman well known for her thoughtfulness and candor. 'Ruth,' I said, 'people keep telling me that 'way will open.' Well, I sit in the silence, I pray, I listen for my calling, but way is not happening...'

"Ruth's reply was a model of Quaker plain-speaking. 'I'm a birthright Friend,' she said somberly, 'and in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me.' She paused and I started sinking in despair. Was this woman telling me that the Quaker concept of God's guidance was a hoax?

"Then she spoke again, this time with a grin, 'But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding principle.'"

"I laughed with her, laughed long and loud, the kind of laughter that comes when a simple truth exposes your heart for the needless neurotic mess it has become..."

"Ruth's honesty gave me a new way to look at my vocational journey, and my experience has long since confirmed the lesson she taught me that day: there is as much guidance at what does not and cannot happen in life as there is in what can and does--maybe more."

Palmer goes on to recount his background and then he says something that truly resonated with me. "Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials. We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials. That, I think, is what Ruth and life were trying to teach me."

(to be continued)

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I may have mentioned this to you already, but your post on Palmer was how I stumbled across you blog in the first place. I was reading the same book at the time. Since then, I've also procured and read The Active Life, which had some very good things to say about living a life of simultaneous contemplation and activity, one of the banes of my own life. :)

Let Your Life Speak had tremendously good things to say in regards to depression. In fact, it did much to reinforce my personal beliefs that floundering around listening to well meant but non-listening people and institutions in regards to the manner of living one's life is a huge contributor to depression and often an outright cause of it.

If you read Hidden Wholeness before I do, I'd love to hear your thoughts. (Actually, I love hearing your thoughts in general, so carry on, carry on!)