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The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring [Paperback]

By Parker J. Palmer (Author)
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Item description for The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring by Parker J. Palmer...

The Active Life is Parker J. Palmer's deep and graceful exploration of a spirituality for the busy, sometimes frenetic lives many of us lead. Telling evocative stories from a variety of religious traditions, including Taoist, Jewish, and Christian, Palmer shows that the spiritual life does not mean abandoning the world but engaging it more deeply through life-giving action. He celebrates both the problems and potentials of the active life, revealing how much they have to teach us about ourselves, the world, and God.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Jossey-Bass
Pages   162
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.95" Width: 5.24" Height: 0.49"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 4, 1999
Publisher   Jossey-Bass
ISBN  0787949345  
ISBN13  9780787949341  

Availability  11 units.
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More About Parker J. Palmer

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Parker J. Palmer's writing speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of nine books--including the bestsellers The Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness--Palmer is the founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His work has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award, previously won by Margaret Mead, Paulo Freire, and Elie Wiesel.

Parker J. Palmer currently resides in Madison, in the state of Wisconsin. Parker J. Palmer has an academic affiliation as follows - American Association for Higher Education and the Fetzer Institute.

Parker J. Palmer has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Company of Strangers Ppr
  2. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education (Hardcover)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( P ) > Palmer, Parker J.
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Faith
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Education > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Education
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
9Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Inspirational

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring?

A gift from a professor to his students.  May 12, 2008
This book helps to answer questions about your inner feelings, and is highly recommened for anyone.
unmasking illusions to reveal reality  Jan 18, 2007
In the last few decades a fair amount of attention has turned toward the so-called "inner journey" of Christian discipleship, as opposed to the mere externals of our "outer" journey. One thinks, for example, of the writings of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Foster. Parker Palmer writes out of this genre, and takes as his starting point the many "monastic metaphors and practices" that inform the inner journey--silence, solitude, contemplation, centeredness, and the like (p. 1). But therein lies a Catch-22. Many of us lead such frenetic and harried lives that trying to appropriate these "inner" ideals becomes practically impossible, an unattainable gold standard, the result being feelings of failure, guilt, and unspirituality. Still, we rightly sense that there is something true and good about whatever it means to lead a "centered" life. Conversely, viewed from the energy of an outwardly active life, is not such silence and solitude really a thinly veiled form of escape, passivity and withdrawal? Or perhaps obsession with action is a diversion and ploy to avoid one's "real" self? Thus, the "tug-of-war" (p. 5) between the active and contemplative life, both of which demand our attention and both of which seem opposed to the other.

To move beyond this stalemate Palmer encourages us to understand contemplation (which he defines as unmasking illusions to reveal reality) and action not as contradictory opposites but as complementary poles of a paradox that we should hold in tension. Further, we all have unique callings from God and should strive to maintain our own integrity, whether that veers toward one pole or the other. After two introductory chapters, Palmer devotes one chapter each to six stories or poems that have helped him to tease out the relationship between inner wholeness and outer activity: (1) "Active Life" by Chuang Tzu, a fourth century BC Chinese Taoist, (2) "The Woodcarver" by Tzu, (3) "The Angel" by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, (4) the temptation of Jesus in the desert, (5) the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, and (6) a poem by the Guatemalan activist Julia Esquivel entitled "Threatened with Resurrection." Palmer is at his best, I think, when he reminds us how much we are obsessed with outcomes, the almost ceaseless efforts we make to prove and justify ourselves, our fears of failure rather than embracing the power that comes from being "dis-illusioned," the task of becoming our own true selves instead of allowing others to define us, moving beyond criticism and praise, and the like. This is the third book by Palmer I have read, and he repeats much of his material, but I have found that many of his stories, and his willingness to share his own personal story, encourage me to develop a centered self out of which I can be the unique, active disciple God has called me to be.
For those on a spiritual journey  Dec 12, 2006
I am pleased to read of the struggles shared by the author and insights received into spirituality of those who are active faith workers like myself. Many friends with whom I have shared some of the insights contained in this book are thankful to know their faith is still in reach in the active and confusing culture in which they and we work and try to find our being.
Chaplain Joyce
you said it  May 21, 2004
I believe the words were 'narrow-minded religious zealot,' though I might prefer 'nearly as arrogant as he is ignorant' to describe the previous reviewer. He had nothing interesting or useful to say, and thus decided simply to be mean. I feel no need to defend Parker Palmer; I do, however, feel compelled to rebuke said reviewer, and to hope that his angry demons will be exorcised. If only our poor reviewer spent less time judging, and more time reading (and learning)...
Cicero Was Right  Nov 30, 2003
Busy Christian professionals doing their best to keep their occasionally frenetic lives under control might wonder if a book featuring praying hands on the cover and entitled The Active Life would prove helpful. Mercifully, writer, teacher and social activist P. J. Palmer, Ph.D. (philosophy), gives those harried saints a quick heads up on how utterly useless his book will ultimately prove on the first page of his 1999 Preface:

"'The Woodcarver,' for example, the protagonist of the Taoist story at the heart of Chapter 4, has become a living figure for me. Often in the midst of much madness, I will have a quiet dialogue with him, seeking and receiving insight, challenge and comfort."

Call me a narrow-minded religious bigot if you want, but I think I speak for the vast majority of those of us who have turned executive control of our lives over to the throne of Jesus Christ, i.e., Christians, when I say that even when life gets hectic, we would still much prefer "seeking and receiving insight, challenge and comfort" from the Holy Ghost, thanks very much.

Christians are not the only ones who will find Parker's 155 pages of mostly inane tripe a complete waste of their time. Anyone who has a problem with a large collection of absurdities masquerading as profundities is a candidate to threaten his retailer with citizen's arrest for failing to refund the purchase price of An Active Life.

Before you accuse me of waxing hyperbolic, try wrapping your cerebral cortex around a few of these jewels of insight:

"We must abandon the commonsense notion that the monsters we meet within ourselves [i.e., our human propensity for evil] are enemies to be destroyed. Instead we must cultivate the hope that they can be companions to be embraced, guides to be followed, albeit with caution and respect. For only our monsters know the way down to that inner place of unity and wholeness; only these creatures of the night know how to travel where there is no light. ...

"It is not the angels in us but the fallen angels who know the way down, down to the hidden wholeness." (31)

One can only speculate how many times the former 1960s commune-dweller Parker had to refill the bong before coming up with those pearls of wisdom. Christians generally believe we would should take the Apostle Paul's advice and crucify those monsters before they have us for lunch (Gal. 5:24).

Here is another equally valuable tidbit from Parker:

"True, more education may lead to more affluence and hence, more consumer choices, but more education may also narrow the range of meaningful choices about the direction of our lives. Once you have spent ten years and a small fortune getting a medical degree, how can you choose to be a logger if you discover that logging is what you really want to do?" (41-42)

Er, um, Dr. Parker ... pardon me sir, but if you would not mind a quick observation from an unlettered philosopher ... it would seem to me and, I suspect, quite a few rational others, that anyone who has "spent ten years and a small fortune getting a medical degree" only to discover that logging is his thing has a much bigger problem than a dearth of "meaningful choices" left for career directions. Namely, he is an idiot.

The Active Life is divided into eight chapters, each one struggling mightily to read more foolishly than its predecessor(s).

Chapter one is a brief introduction informing the reader that what he has in his hands is the direct result of the author's "long journey toward the knowledge that I am not a monk" (1), ala his main guru, Thomas Merton. Parker confesses that after a brief stint in a monastery he decided to trade a cloistered, celibate existence for a more active life.

Chapter four presents more ancient Taoist literature, the tale of "The Woodcarver," alluded to in Parker's 1999 preface. The Woodcarver is Parker's hero, a model for "right action," a fellow who "knows that if his work is to be true he must discern and keep faith with the nature of the tree" (69). (Yes, Parker actually wrote that.)

Chapter six is a commentary on the Gospel writer Luke's account of the temptation of Christ (4:1-15). Here Luke, who is widely considered among the finest of ancient historians, is demoted to "a master storyteller" (101). According to Parker, this story does not demonstrate that the devil's lies can and should be resisted with the truth of God's word, but rather objective truth is illusory and "Right action requires only that we respond faithfully to our own inner truth and to the truth around us" (115). It seems highly likely the September 11, 2001 hijackers were also responding to an "inner truth" and whatever they considered to be "the truth around us."

If one is forced to make a choice, chapter seven is probably the most obnoxious of the irritating eight. Here Parker gives us his exegesis of the story of Jesus' feeding an audience of five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. Despite the fact that this story appears in all four canonical Gospels, books that fairly teem with miracles, Parker believes

"That interpretation, one that focuses on a supernatural Jesus, does not make the story useful to ordinary activists, much as we would like to be miracle workers too. ...

"What may have happened instead is that Jesus and the disciples simply modeled the act of sharing for the crowd by giving thanks for what little they had and then offering it to any who wanted to eat." (129-31)

Parker cites no religious scholars who share this extremely eccentric interpretation, apparently feeling an amen from an expert would be superfluous.

In summary, to read The Active Life is to be continually reminded of Cicero's famous observation: "There is nothing so ridiculous but some philosopher has said it" (De Divinatione, II, 119).


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