I haven’t read a lot of Parker Palmer’s books, just Let Your Life Speak. I really appreciated that book at a time in my life when I was thinking about the questions of calling and vocation that he brings up. Recently, I was sent a copy of “A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life” to review on this blog. Let me say first that I am currently looking at a shelf of 30 books I’ve received (and these are just the ones I’ve kept) that have been sent to me to review over the past 9 months or so. I used to love getting free books – however, now it’s a little overwhelming.
But I did want to share with you about the new paperback release of Parker Palmer’s “A Hidden Wholeness.” The hardcover edition came out in 2004 and this is the new paperback edition, which includes a guide for readers & group leaders, as well as a DVD entitled: “Circles of Trust: The Work of Parker J. Palmer.” So it’s a great deal for the book when you think about the enclosed DVD. I watched a couple of the clips from the DVD and it would be a great addition if you were going to use this book with an adult small group or if you wanted a clip for a retreat.
Palmer takes an in-depth look at the soul and its relation to the world in this book. Palmer writes:
“The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world. The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down. The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts. The soul is creative: it finds its way between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.”
One of the parts that I think was really helpful was his analogy of our lives as a Möbius Strip. So often people tend to keep their “backstage” life on the inside (in their souls) and keep it away from their “onstage” lives. We have all of these deep yearnings and intuitions and feelings that we feel are not safe and so we tend to create a circle and keep them on the inside. Palmer argues that we should be striving to live out our lives as if they were a Möbius strip. If you were to make a Möbius strip like the one in the video above, you could begin to trace the outside of the piece of paper and suddenly and seamlessly you would find yourself on the inside of the strip. It can be deceiving because there really is not “outside” or “inside” – Palmer describes a life lived in this way:
“…the two apparent sides keep cocreating each other. The mechanics of the Möbius strip are mysterious, but its message is clear: whatever is inside us continually flows outward to help form, or deform, the world–and whatever is outside us continually flows inward to help form, or deform, our lives. The Möbius strip is like life itself: here, ultimately, there is only one reality.”
I find this to be a very interesting idea especially when we think about the question of identity in the world today – amidst social networks and face-to-face encounters with people – our lives are very much like Möbius strips. The outside forms the inside and vice versa. And we are constantly taking things that some would rather keep on the “inside” and sharing them and hoping they help inform or form our worlds.
As you can see, Palmer’s book is rich with ideas and concepts that will help us continue to think more and more about who we are at our deepest core and how our souls interact with the outside world. If you’re a fan of Parker Palmer, this book certainly won’t disappoint you.