Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer
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More About This Title Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer


Parker J. Palmer--who for forty years has written and spoken about subjects ranging from contemplation to community, the inner life to public life, education to social change--is known as one of the nation’s most thoughtful voices, calling us all to ways of being in the world that honor the human heart and promote a humane society. Living the Questions, a celebration of Palmer’s long and distinguished career, explores the dynamic interplay between the inner life of spirit and the outer life of work. The equally distinguished contributors, who come from a wide range of professions--university presidents, scientists, physicians, religious leaders, business consultants, public school educators, philanthropists, and community organizers--bear witness to the depth, breadth, and reach of Palmer’s work. All of them have been personally touched by his courage and determination to live a life congruent with the ideas and principles he writes about and by his candor in acknowledging his own flaws.


Sam M. Intrator is an assistant professor of education and child study at Smith College. A former high school teacher and administrator and the son of two public school teachers, he is the editor of Stories of the Courage to Teach: Honoring the Teacher's Heart, author of Tuned In and Fired Up: How Teaching Can Inspire Real Learning in the Classroom, and coeditor (with Megan Scribner) of Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach.


Preface (Diana Chapman Walsh).


A Journey of Questions: The Life and Work of Parker J. Palmer.


Chapter One: Now I Become Myself.

Notions of Presence (Chip Wood).

Learning by Heart: An Ode to My Vocation as a Teacher (Marianne Novak Houston).

Insights on the Inner Life of Healers (Henry Emmons, M.D.).

Late Openings? (David J. Maitland).

What Sound Does the Soul Make? (Mary Rose O’Reilley).

Chapter Two: Be Not Afraid.

Thinking Ourselves Home: The Cultivation of Wisdom (Dawna Markova).

Because of My Not Knowing (Mark Nepo).

The Courage to Learn (Thomas F. Beech).

Learning from the Workplace: Professional Life as an Opportunity for Personal Growth (Jane Tompkins).

The True Professional (Margaret J. Wheatley).


Chapter Three: Learning in Community.

Crossing the Great Divides: The Power of Radio to Connect People Across Boundaries (Jean Feraca).

Integrating Life and Thought: As Teacher, Student, Colleague, Friend (Bardwell Smith).

Wholeness in Science and Personal Life (Ian G. Barbour).

Living the Night into Day: A Response to Dark Times (Joel Elkes, M.D.).

Soul and Role, Politicians and Politics (W. Douglas Tanner Jr.).

Chapter Four: Opening Space for the Inner Life.

“How Can I Keep from Singing?”: Seeking the Wisdom of Sound (Shirley H. Showalter).

The Threads We Follow (Marcy Jackson and Rick Jackson).

The Lehrergarten: A Vision for Teacher Education (Sally Z. Hare).

The Inner and Outer Life in Medicine: Honoring Values, Relationships, and the Human Element in Physicians’ Lives (Paul Batalden, M.D. and David C. Leach, M.D.).

A Journey of the Heart: Seeking the Questions Worth Living (Douglas Orr).


Chapter Five: Leading from Within.

Turning Toward a New Leadership (Jay Casbon).

On Philanthropy and the Inner Life (Michael Lerner).

It Also Takes Courage to Lead (Russ S. Moxley).

If We Pay Attention (L. J. Rittenhouse).

Inspiring Communities of Caring and Conscience (David Dodson).

Chapter Six: Rescuing the Sacred.

Take This to Heart (Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi).

How Then Shall We Live? Suffering and Wonder in the New Commons (Sharon Daloz Parks).

On Beyond Revenge: Leadership for Peace (Diana Chapman Walsh).

A World Shaped by Choice (Peter M. Senge).

Parker J. Palmer Resources and Bibliography.

The Editor.

The Contributors.



"Living the Questions is a tribute to a great man by those he has awakened to their own unique greatness. This is a book about love, courage, community, integrity, service, and humility, with a single message: to teach is to be immortal. Living the Questions is a profound testimony to our power to make a difference in this world, one heart at a time."
—Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., author, Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings

"Anyone who has read Parker J. Palmer's books knows that he evokes something significant from deep within every reader.  In Livingthe Questions, powerful and moving testimonies of such evocations of spirit show us how Parker's influence ripples out into the lives and work of many good people."
—Craig Dykstra, vice president, Lilly Endowment

"Attests to the pervasive infectiousness of Parker J. Palmer's gentle touch, soulful honesty, and deep inquiry into the service of authenticity and clarity. A collection of extraordinary and extraordinarily moving explorations of the inner and outer landscapes of our minds and hearts and world!  There is much wisdom here from authors who have shared so much of themselves and their struggles, very much in the tradition of Palmer himself. Not to be missed. A gift of pure passion and compassion."
—Jon Kabat-Zinn, author, Coming to Our Senses

"In A Hidden Wholeness, Parker J. Palmer writes that in refusing to move to the back of the bus Rosa Parks was choosing to live divided no more. That’s the choice we made in the Civil Rights movement. It was a good and right choice, as important now as it was then. Living the Questions tells of others who also walk toward wholeness."
—Georgia Representative John Lewis, coauthor, Walking with the Wind; recipient, Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize

"Living the Questions is an act of love. Sam M. Intrator's clear passion for teachers and Parker J. Palmer's willingness to share all of who he is invites the reader into the very personal journey of a master teacher.  The heartfelt stories of those influenced by Parker capture the circularity of teaching and learning; they are filled with soulful questioning, paradoxical wonderings, and courageous explorations."
—Becky van der Bogert, superintendent, Winnetka Public Schools; editor, New Directions in School Leadership; coauthor, Making Sense as a School Leader

"A remarkable collection of essays that beautifully captures the profound influence that Parker J. Palmer has had. Reading Living the Questions is encouraging, a great reminder of one of Parker’s favorite exhortations: ‘Be not afraid!’"
—Larry C. Spears, editor and coauthor, Practicing Servant Leadership; president and CEO, The Robert K. Greenleaf Center, Indianapolis, Indiana

"Prepare for a delectable conversation with poetic people, all of whom have been profoundly influenced by Parker J. Palmer."
—Geoff Bellman, consultant; author, The Consultant’s Calling