"On the Brink of Everything," | Reviewed by Bill Schwab
"I like being old because the view from the brink is striking, a full panorama of my life—and a bracing breeze awakens me to new ways of understanding my own past, present, and future," writes Parker Palmer in "On the Brink of Everything." The author, who at 80 has seen much, questioned everything and accrued wisdom worth sharing.
"Old," he writes, " is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to dive deep into life, not withdraw to the shallows.”
This book is not a "how-to" guide to growing old. "Instead, " he says, "it's me turning the prism on my experience of aging as a way of encouraging readers to do the same with theirs."
In seven chapters, he turns the prism to see the value of remaining connected to younger generations; moving from illusion to reality; participating in the writing life; staying engaged with the world; staying engaged with your soul; and thinking about where we go when we die.
As an "angry Quaker" the author includes issues of diversity and political action. He often sprinkles his convictions with humor and stresses the importance of elders staying in touch with the natural world. Palmer contends remaining engaged with the world provides vitality and purpose to life and allows seniors to share their unique gifts with younger generations.
Each section includes meditations from spiritual guides such as Thomas Merton and William Sloane Coffin, and portions of speeches and poems from Mary Oliver, Rumi, Mary Sarton, Dylan Thomas, W. B. Yeats and others.
While Palmer's wisdom is gathered from four-score years of living, his message is not aimed only at his peers but is relevant to all those exploring the way their lives are evolving. Since many people do not have the privilege of living a long and healthy life like Palmer, younger readers may find this book a helpful tool for imagining how to age with humility, grace, and integrity.
About the Author: Parker Palmer is the founder and a Senior Partner of the Center for Courage and Renewal which sponsors retreats rooted in Quaker principles and practices. Palmer has written 10 books on spirituality, education and leadership. He and his work have been recognized with 13 honorary doctorates and with the William Rainey Harper Award, whose previous recipients include Elie Wiesel, Margaret Mead and Marshall McLuhan.