Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit

Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit

by Parker J. Palmer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781118907504
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 08/25/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 113,289
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

PARKER J. PALMER, whose books have sold over a millioncopies, holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley and eleven honorary doctorates. In 2011, theUtne Reader named him one of twenty-five “People Who AreChanging Your World.” He is Founder and Senior Partner of theCenter for Courage & Renewal.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Paperback Edition xvii

Prelude The Politics of the Brokenhearted 1

Chapter i Democracy’s Ecosystem 11

Chapter ii Confessions of an Accidental Citizen 29

Chapter iii The Heart of Politics 49

Chapter iv The Loom of Democracy 69

Chapter v Life in the Company of Strangers 89

Chapter vi Classrooms and Congregations 119

Chapter vii Safe Space for Deep Democracy 151

Chapter viii The Unwritten History of the Heart 175

Gratitudes 195

Notes 199

The author 219

Index 221

Healing the Heart of Democracy Discussion Guide 237

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Healing the Heart of Democracy 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is essential reading for anyone who interacts with or near other human beings. It's a wake up call so rich and powerful that I have already read it twice in hopes that I can begin to absorb the many layers of implications it presents for me in the context of the communities in which I live and work. Drawing from sources as diverse as community activism, philosophy, history, and religion, Parker Palmer takes us back to the core of democracy as he persuasively integrates the domains of our inner landscape with our political realities. Two of the many insights this book has left me with: We don't know what we don't know: We hold the tension of not knowing largely as "a condition to be relieved" so our fears--of ambiguity, of others, of suffering, to name but a few--are largely unexplored, preventing us from learning or growing in life giving ways. We don't even know what we DO know: We have what Palmer calls an inner teacher. But as he says, "Most of us have difficulty hearing that voice for at least two reasons: the noise around us and the noise within us." So we need to create spaces where we can hold meaningful questions together in a way that rekindles "our capacity for mutual respect and trust, open listening and courageous speaking, and individual and collective resolve to work for the common good." Parker Palmer's writing is as poetic is it is pragmatic, as tough as it is inspiring, as reverent as it is irreverent. My only beef is that having highlighted almost the entire book I now need a new pen.
mitchellray on LibraryThing 10 months ago
American democracy is under severe threat according to Parker Palmer. The threat does not come from outer forces or big business or incompetent government. The danger to America¿s democracy comes from its own citizens. Our fear of each other, our differences, and our future is unraveling the civic community upon which democracy depends. Parker has not written a how-to manual for saving democracy. His book provides insights into our own misinterpretations and misunderstandings that are tearing at the fabric of our democracy. He then points to ways we can reclaim the promise of American democracy.Parker outlines five habits of the heart that are critical to sustaining democracy. He defines ¿heart¿ as a way of knowing that integrates intellect, emotion, imagination, and intuition. Heart gives us the courage to reach out to others. It sustains us while we enter into and hold the tensions created by our differences long enough to allow our compassion and creativity to discover new solutions to the imposing problems we face as a nation. What we can do to develop heart is the subject of Parker¿s book.This is an important text for every citizen to read. Parker provides us with direction for moving beyond diatribe and entering into dialogue. Rather than attacking our differences, Parker advocates that we embrace them. Parker offers us a hopeful vision of who we can be and illuminates what we need to do to attain that vision.
JerryColonna on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I love Parker Palmer. I love everything I've read by him (and, as many folks know, I especially love his Let Your Life Speak). This book is different. And yet it's also part of a deeper theme...what happens when we live a heart-centered life...this time in the more public arenas of our society. I love that it's not a polemical screed. It steers clear of "you suck no you suck" thinking. Indeed, quite the opposite (this despite Palmer's evident pain at the level of discourse in the country). While nominally focused as a treatise on possible ways to heal the discords, it is--like so much of his work--a beautiful meditation on healing ourselves. Essentially the way to heal the heart of democracy is to allow our own hearts to be broken open so that they may be truly healed.Some gems:"Partisanship is not a problem. Demonizing the other side is.""Everyday life is a school of the spirit that offers us chance after chance to practice dealing with heartbreak."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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EB66 More than 1 year ago
In his new book Healing the Heart of Democracy: Creating a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, Parker Palmer has the audacity to introduce the language of the heart into the public realm of politics. Who would dare to speak of the heart in this tense and chilly context if not Palmer whose other books have also steered us inward to the core of who we are. His consistent message has been that only by knowing ourselves deeply and well, can our work in the world likewise be its most authentic. This time he addresses work that we all have to do: that of becoming true, active stakeholders in the healing and maintenance of our democracy. While his vision is expansive and challenging, it also has a practical and even down-home feeling. He suggests that cultivating true citizenship starts in familiar places: classrooms, congregations, even farmer's markets and community potluck suppers. And he insists that change will occur only through our talking to one another in safe settings where our differences can be aired and heard by those who disagree. This book is like a seed that has the power to germinate in readers' minds and hearts new ways of thinking about democracy and the role of citizen. Hopefully many seeds will germinate - hundreds, thousands, eventually millions over years and decades. Palmer's book is not a quick and easy fix but offers hope for the slow, deliberate, and difficult work of healing the divide both in ourselves and in our country. His deeply thoughtful words hold profound implications for the health of our democracy.
Karen_Jackson More than 1 year ago
Parker Palmer once again invites readers to join him on a journey of inner reflection and outer service. This time the journey takes us to the very heart of the grand experiment we know as democracy. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Palmer examines the kernels of truth and seeds of peril our national myths hold. Drawing upon lessons from Lincoln, the civil rights movement, and his own life, he challenges the cultural trance of consumerism and unbridled growth that grips our nation. Then he asks us to reclaim our roles as engaged citizens. Of particular promise are Five Habits of the Heart, practices which have the potential to help restore civil conversation from town hall meetings to the halls of Congress. For those of us passionate about reweaving the fabric of local community and healing the planet, this book offers encouragement and hope. Parker's masterful story-telling and insightful analysis is a must-read in classrooms, congregations, and coffee shops throughout our nation.
ShirleyHager More than 1 year ago
In this season of rabid partisanship, when, I admit it, it can be deeply satisfying to rant and rail(regardless of your political persuasion)against those "other" people who are clearly bent on destroying the country, Parker Palmer makes us take a good, hard look at what's underneath our smugness and our judgments. He astutely diagnoses our fears and anxieties. He, thankfully, holds us to a higher standard, not only to save ourselves, but to save the country as well. I had begun to feel cynical and a bit hopeless about the state of things, doubting the ability of many of our leaders to see beyond anything except their own self-interest. I'm thinking I will send a copy of this book to each of my congresspeople. Maybe those reading this review will think to do the same--I think it might help. Palmer reminds us once again what it means to be a citizen, and best of all, that each of us has a responsibility, and the ability, to become a true citizen again. I'm now looking for examples everywhere in my small town of places that serve as public places, and people who are exhibiting those qualities of hospitality and openness that define the best of us. I want to support those people and places however I can, and become a more hospitable person myself. He teaches us something else too: that we don't have to be afraid of conflict; that in fact democracy is an "argument without end". How we disagree, however, is critically important, all important, in fact. Learning to hold the tensions of democracy in an open, respectful way is not only good for the country, it's good for our souls as well. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, and its timing couldn't be more perfect.
JeffCreswell More than 1 year ago
I was a classroom teacher for 32 years. I first discovered Parker Palmer's work a dozen years ago when I was at a low point in my teaching career. His book, The Courage to Teach, provided me with a lifeline that kept me teaching for the next decade. I was thrilled to read his latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, because I knew about his gift of giving us all language to talk about some of our deepest thoughts and desires. I was not disappointed. This book is a challenge to all citizens to develop the habits of the heart necessary to participate in our democracy in a way that will bring new life to our political dialogue. Palmer makes the case for the importance of the heart in living out our beliefs in a democratic society. The book is practical, inspirational, and hopeful in a world that has become paralyzed by partisan bickering. We are so busy shouting our own points of view that we fail to hear the voice of "the other." I found the chapter, Classrooms and Congregations particularly thought provoking. Palmer challenges us to look at our classrooms and our religious congregations as the places where we are formed or deformed as citizens and where the habits of our hearts are formed or deformed. There are practical ideas for how to develop the habits of the heart which will make us more engaged citizens. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a practical, hopeful way to participate in our democracy that allows for us to disagree and still respect each other as we continue the dialogue that will allow us to move forward.
MHGolden More than 1 year ago
In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker J Palmer extends his thinking into the political realm. The questions on the hearts of many Americans are, "Why is our democracy so divided?" "Why can't we work across party lines to come up with creative solutions to the problems that confront us?" Palmer eloquently reminds us that people are at the heart of the political process, both the governed and those who govern. If we are to create a politics worthy of the human spirit, as the book's subtitled suggests, we must focus our attention on the "spaces and the settings of everyday life in which the habits of the heart are formed." We must learn to creatively hold the heartfelt tensions inherent in differing opinions and beliefs in order to find solutions to our common problems. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in breaking through the current political gridlock to propel our democracy forward.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Parker Palmer is one of the great souls and wise elders alive on the planet today. He has been teaching people for many years how to navigate the depths of the inner life, while also creating safe and trustworthy small communities for that exploration...in churches, higher education, public schools, hospitals, boardrooms, etc. Now, Parker has the courage and call to bring together a lifetime of work to the challenging, heartbreaking community of our collective, political lives. May he be at the head of a new movement where America can once again find a forum for nonviolent communication, for listening deeply to one another, for holding the tensions of diversity in its many forms, and working towards the common good of "We the People."
MichaelSGlaser More than 1 year ago
Healing the Heart of Democracy is timely and essential reading for those who seek to understand and help fix a political system that often feels terribly broken. Parker Palmer offers a vision of healing -- of nurturing political integrity and enabling us all to reclaim the essential and humane principles of our democracy. Healing the Heart of Democracy offers us a viable way to bridge the gap between our political ideals and our political reality, to reclaim our democratic principles, and to reconnect our vision of the United States with real world possibilities. This is a wise, insightful and useful book. It is exactly right for this time and our shared hunger for a realistic, revitalized approach to the possibilities of the American dream. Unquestionably a 5 star must read, I urge you to buy two - one for yourself and one to send to your congressperson or senator. Michael S. Glaser, Poet Laureate of Maryland 2004-2009, author of Disrupting Consensus
susankaplan More than 1 year ago
What a relief from finger pointing and righteous retreat into sides of who is right! We have become a society where we all feel we are right, dividing and fragmenting our communal strength. Parker Palmer's words, in Healing the Heart of Democracy, creates a pathway from blaming our leaders and "The Other" to stepping back into community life with a new intention - to hold the tensions of differences in life giving ways. His moving use of stories and the Five Habits of the Heart tickles our "compassionate imagination" to think bigger and rekindle our communal voice. Compassion, humility and chutzpah form a foundation for how to engage with each other to create a shared understanding of each other's truth. In my professional work of teaching communication skills and conflict management, people long to repair their relationships, ripped apart in fighting about differences. Parker's insights will help heal these wounds within our communal self - our family, work place, school, neighborhood, city, regional and national conversations. Parker Palmer joins with other major voices of our time - Peter Senge with Presencing, Marshal Rosenberg with Nonviolent Communication, and Peter Block with Abundant Community - emphasizing how to become present and listen in a way that builds more meaningful connections with our self and others. It's not too late for us to learn the skills of discernment so we can address the pressing problems of today, holding the tensions of differences without having to find one correct answer. I look forward to using Parker's work to inspire others to repair the dividedness and fragmentation that has come from our narrow view of the world. His voice raises hope that we can all become leaders that rejoin our personal and communal self. This will strengthen communities with vibrant and effective conversations. Susan Kaplan, M.S.W., M.P.A.
Cat48 More than 1 year ago
Parker J. Palmer's latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: the Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, reaches beyond vocation, a topic of his other works, to our soul and role citizens. Palmer had to take this journey to heal his own brokenness about the state of our ailing democracy. As I began to read, I went through the classic stages of grief: denial that this book was meant for me, anger that he dare challenge my political stance, bargaining that if we only had a leader there might be more hope, and depression about the mess and the odds against changing it. My cynicism snarled, "How will this book overcome the military-corporate-banking conspiracy?" But Palmer held me with stories of individuals, like John Woolman and Rosa Parks, who changed our world by living "divided no more," and their "communities of congruence," where, sustained by like-minded souls, their courage could incubate. I was carried on the freedom train, at the end of which Palmer presented a dynamic four-stage model, not of grief, but of social change. I surprisingly and gratefully find myself with a conviction to engage in conversations that could lead to the kind of United States in which I long to live. Healing the Heart of Democracy is a must-read for anyone who loves the promise of our democracy and is saddened, infuriated, or generally fed up by what is happening in our country.
JimQuay More than 1 year ago
Concerned and frustrated about the condition of American political life? Weary of the self-righteous posturing and angry sound bites that characterize our debates? If so, I heartily recommend Parker Palmer's Healing the Heart of Democracy to you. Palmer looks for the cause of the anger, the demonization, and the strident rhetoric that characterize so much of our political conversation. What he finds is not ignorance or ideology or the influences of money and media, but something rather surprising -- heartbreak, heartbreak about the condition of our culture, our society, our body politic. "That shared heartbreak," says Palmer, "can build a footbridge of mutual understanding on which we can walk toward each other." This central insight illuminates much that goes unexplained by the usual political analyses. By looking at our politics from the perspective of the human heart, Palmer reveals the vulnerability we share rather than the differences we so often display. We mask this heartbreak and suffering by retreating into silence or anger. We impatiently resolve the tensions between positions rather than sit with them and those who hold them. But there is a heavy cost for this impatience: "violence is what we get when we do not know what else to do with our suffering." Tensions in political life are not a sign of failure, he writes, they are a sign of vitality. "Our form of government was designed not to suppress our differences, but to keep the energy of their tension alive so that it could animate the body politic." But such tension is not easy to live with and most of us seek to resolve it by collapsing toward one pole or the other. Palmer urges us to have the courage to live with this tension. Palmer is hopeful, but not naïve. He recognizes that most of the spaces where public life is practiced have degraded or disappeared, but he finds examples of their resurrection and re-emergence as well. He shows how classrooms and congregations can be enlisted. But he insists that these spaces must be safe spaces, places where the heart is free to speak and be listened to. He points to circles of trust where 40,000 people have come together to share their stories and reflect on their values in safety. Healing the Heart of Democracy gave me a new way to see our political democracy and my place in it. Parker Palmer has turned his own heartbreak into inspiration for us all. Jim Quay
RonPetrich More than 1 year ago
The poet David Whyte says, "nothing has to change but we have to have the conversation. If we have the conversation everything changes." In an era of shrill sound bytes, Parker Palmer offers a thoughtful, compelling framework for holding meaningful conversations regarding our deeply held values. This is a hopeful book that recognizes the difficulty of bridging fundamentally different paradigms. Parker Palmer's life work has been to lift up generative questions using stories, poems, metaphors and other "third things" as a bridge to understanding. He uses these tools to respond to the profound need in our democracy to engage in civil conversations. His work is grounded in paradox, which he uses to make connections rather than division. There is a haunting line in Gunilla Norris's poem Paradox, which states, "Our minds do not like paradoxes. We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety. Certainty breeds tremendous smugness." Palmer uses the concept of paradox as a lens to illuminate and to explore. He has a way of lifting up ideas with depth, insight and nuance yet he offers practical, useful ways for examining difficult, heartfelt questions. I must admit that it is difficult to maintain the notion of hope in an atmosphere of fear and scarcity. Parker Palmer is able to look at the darkness, whether it is depression or negative politics and offers the gift of possibility and abundance. This is a timely, important book serving as a catalyst for influencing the public conversation of how we create our common life together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book could not be more timely given the state of our world right now. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer writes, "I believe in the power of the human heart--in its capacity for truth and justice, love and forgiveness." (p. 39) Palmer's writing has been well known and loved by many people for decades. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Palmer expands his vision of healing our world through the lenses of diversity, social justice and spiritual practice. If the political events in our world needed anything from us right now, it would be the five "interlocking habits of the heart" (p. 51) that are essential to restoring and sustaining a heart-centered democracy! Palmer weaves strands of his own personal journey into the fabric of this book, particularly the journey of aging. Drawing on a variety of theological, political and cultural narratives, this book speaks directly to our hearts, especially those of us who are committed activists and advocates for the disenfranchised. Anyone who finds themselves disillusioned, despairing and depleted will find that this book provides a much-needed wellspring from which you can replenish your parched soul.
ksaxon More than 1 year ago
This newest Parker Palmer book contains much of what I've loved about his others - a deep understanding of the human condition, and a hopeful and powerful approach to building community. But "Healing the Heart of Democracy" combines his thoughtful writing with a topic that feels quite topical - the sad state of our American democracy, and what we as citizens can do to reclaim it. Palmer writes about five "habits of the heart" that are required to be a constructive citizen in a democracy, and I found them thought-provoking and useful. They seem to me a sort of constructive antidote to the "fight or flight" reflex we see in so many today, who resist engaging with others different from themselves and who look at compromise as a dirty word. This book gave me hope where lately I have found little evidence for it, and for that reason alone it was worth reading. But in addition, as with all Palmer's books, it was inspirational, informative and beautifully written.
wmspin More than 1 year ago
"Protecting our right to disagree is one of democracy's gifts, and converting this inevitable tension into creative energy is part of democracy's genius". These words introduce Parker Palmer's new book Healing the Heart of Democracy and offer a needed hopefulness as we come to grips with the current destructiveness of American political discourse. In his latest work Palmer creates a vision from poignant stories, historic writings, soulful speech and personal recollections that captures the spirit and the "heart" of the engaged citizen. He reminds us of the crucial role of citizenship in sustaining democracy by showing us that it is an active citizenship, a citizenship that requires more of us than simply appearing at a polling place every 4 years; it is a citizenship that delves into the messiness of the democratic process and requires us to "believe...that it is not something we have but something we must do." We must do this in public spaces and in public conversations that revive the practice of hearing (truly HEARING) the diversity of voices that make up the fabric of our country. It is through these conversations that we can develop habits that allow our hearts to break open and embrace diversity rather than break down and further divide us." Hubert Humphrey told us that if the solution was not clear "keep talking". Palmer shows us how to keep talking in a respectful, deeply meaningful way that does not accept "the violence that violates anothers integrity".
stephenmorrow More than 1 year ago
If you "just" read Parker Palmer's new work, you will still certainly be rewarded well with history, insight, and inspiration. Yet, I suggest that you enter into it as an engaged exploration and reflection into your own role as citizen. Parker Palmer's work offers a study of American history, his experienced voice of reflection, and an inventory of the "habits of the heart" that sustain a democracy. It is particularly the discussion of "habits" that gives us readers a chance to connect our small stories to the large story of American democracy. Yes, Parker gives us the gritty details for healing a nation at odds with itself. Yes, Parker reminds us that democracy is about holding the tensions and disagreements of a pluralistic society. Yes, Parker gives us some pointers for being a better communicator in such a hothouse of divergent and energized views. But he also reminds us that "just" information and knowledge are always vulnerable to the harsh light of cynicism or to the glaring light of idealism if such information and knowledge are not grounded in the integrative activity of the human heart. Following from Parker Palmer's list of heart habits, this is a book full of Socratic humility and Jeffersonian chutzpah (or is it Socratic chutzpah and Jeffersonian humility) if the reader meets the text at its core, which for the author, I believe, is where the self-writ heart of the citizen engages with the large-writ heart of democracy. I would like to offer two frameworks to deepen the reading experience of this significant work on democracy and citizenship. The first is from an earlier Parker Palmer work, Let Your Life Speak, a book about vocation and the relationship between the value of the inner self and the care it deserves and the need of the world and the care it deserves: "As I learn more about the seed of true self that was planted when I was born, I also learn more about the ecosystem in which I was planted-the network of communal relations in which I am called to live responsively, accountably, and joyfully with beings of every sort. Only when I know both seed and system, self and community, can I embody the great commandment to love both my neighbor and myself." Perhaps Parker Palmer's work in Healing the Heart of Democracy has a larger, more social purpose than does the above notion from Let your Life Speak, but it will be helpful to know upfront that the art of democratic relationship and its better practices are a crucially important framework for Healing and cannot be separated from the heart-work of each citizen. From Parker's quote above, I call attention to the how to of living with beings of every sort (think democracy here). So it is not just to live with different others, but to engage with others and to build a country whose (not only political structure) but heart is democracy, all the while living the Golden Rule! The second framework is the story of Clarkston, Georgia as chronicled by New York Times writer, Warren St. John. In his book, Outcasts United, St. John tells the story of small town America caught up in the dramatic influx of global refugee settlement. The layer and layer of conflict upon conflict is a microscopic/macroscopic look at the complex tensions our country faces as a melting pot (or is it a salad bowl) for
cybermind More than 1 year ago
Parker Palmer has written an extremely timely book, one that provides both an analysis of our current discouraging political situation and a remedy for recovering a renewed state of democracy. In this book, which is both deeply personal and overtly political, Parker describes the "politics of the brokenhearted" that many of us feel. Evidence that the present democratic system is broken includes widespread political apathy and public political discourse which consists largely of name calling and finger pointing. Parker's use of historical references and personal anecdotes provides a rich context for developing his arguments. The later part of the book describes ways of rebuilding our political infrastructure. This is a very well written book, very engaging to read, but also deeply motivating to go out and change your own little corner of the world. I recommend it highly.
SallyZHare More than 1 year ago
Parker Palmer's newest book is his best yet. I have read and loved them all - and it seems to me that Parker has taken that thread that started way back in The Power of Paradox and To Know as You are Known and The Company of Strangers and strengthened and deepened it through all of his writings and now woven it into a magnificent tapestry. The writing is poetic - and the message is powerful and prescient. I am grateful for the insights into reclaiming my own broken heart as a citizen - and for the potent reminder that the "way begins 'in here' as we work on reconciling whatever divides us from ourselves, then moves out with healing power into a world of many divides."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago