From beloved and bestselling author Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, Healing the Heart of Democracy), comes a beautiful book of reflections on what we can learn as we move closer to "the brink of everything."
Drawing on eight decades of life -- and his career as a writer, teacher, and activist -- Palmer explores the questions age raises and the promises it holds. "Old," he writes, "is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to dive deep into life, not withdraw to the shallows."
But this book is not for elders only. It was written to encourage adults of all ages to explore the way their lives are unfolding. It's not a how-to-do-it book on aging, but a set of meditations in prose and poetry that turn the prism on the meaning(s) of one's life, refracting new light at every turn.
From beginning to end, the book is laced with humor as well as gravitas -- beautifully enhanced by three free downloadable songs from the gifted singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, written in response to themes in the book.
About the Author
Parker J. Palmer is a writer, speaker, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. He is founder and Senior Partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, which offers long-term retreat programs for people in the serving professions, including teachers, administrators, physicians, philanthropists, non-profit leaders and clergy. He is the author of nine books--including several award-winning titles-- that have sold over 1.4 million copies and been translated into ten languages.
2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medalist in the Aging/Death & Dying category.
“Parker Palmer is one of our wisest minds and lives and one of my greatest mentors. He has the spirit of a poet and the stature of a prophet. There is no one I’d rather eavesdrop on as he ponders ‘the brink of everything.’ This book is a companion for not merely surviving a fractured world but embodying—like Parker—the fiercely honest and gracious wholeness that is ours to claim at every stage of life.”
—Krista Tippett, founder of On Being Studios, author of Einstein’s God and Becoming Wise, and winner of the 2013 National Humanities Medal
“Parker Palmer is the most integral and wholehearted teacher of our age. For nearly eight decades, he has seen much, questioned everything, and returned with a wisdom essential to everyone. His latest book, On the Brink of Everything, is a deep reflection on aging that offers a master’s earned view of the large and the small and how we’re all vital threads woven together by life. This book will stir your soul and bring you closer to everything.”
—Mark Nepo, author of More Together Than Alone and The Book of Awakening
“Parker J. Palmer’s tenth wise book, On the Brink of Everything, is a wondrously rich mix of reality and possibility, comfort and story, helpful counsel and poetry, in the voice of a friend. It’s an honest wake-up chime, no matter where you are in your own time line, because somehow, these pages hold all of time—past and present, stirring together—refreshing the spirit. This is a book of immense gratitude, consolation, and praise.”
—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Transfer and Voices in the Air and National Book Award finalist
“Our entire culture is deeply in need of true elders, and you can’t be one until you have arrived there—chronologically, spiritually, and intellectually. Parker J. Palmer is a writer and a man who has clearly earned the title of elder. And he elders with such readability and humor! This book is a generous gift to all of us—and to our attempts at a truly human civilization.”
—Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation and author of Falling Upward and Adam’s Return
“Parker J. Palmer’s books are long-treasured companions on my personal journey. His newest offering is clear-eyed and good-humored, luminously prophetic and disarmingly honest. It is tender to the core for our shared human condition and fierce with love and unguarded hope for our shared human possibility. It has the feel of a lovely kitchen table conversation between the author and reader, exploring thoughtful aging, finding meaning in hard times, and how we can deepen and balance our inner and outer landscapes at any stage of life. This book is a generous gift to a worried and weary world.”
—Carrie Newcomer, musician, recording artist of The Beautiful Not Yet, author of A Permeable Life, and Grammy Award–winning songwriter
“Parker Palmer has given me so many gifts through the years. His writing has done for me what I can only hope mine does for others. On the Brink of Everything has given me new and special gifts. Parker, now in his late seventies, has helped this guy in his early sixties think of my years ahead as ‘triple wrapped in mystery.’ Savoring this book is a kind of mentorship in aging, and it ends in a crescendo of poetry. My first thought when I turned the last page: ‘I want to read this again from the beginning, starting right now.’”
—Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
“Parker Palmer has been a mentor and midwife to countless young people in my generation, including me. When I was in my twenties standing at a crossroads, his book Let Your Life Speak inspired me to pursue an untraditional path as an activist-artist; he released the music within me. Now in my thirties, as the cacophony of vitriol and violence becomes deafening, his friendship teaches me how to remain faithful to my own melodies and keep playing them. In the darkness, Parker has taught me how to wonder at the night sky, keep death in my mind’s eye, and listen to the wisdom of my grandfather and ancestors, whose music lives within mine. He has poured these insights into a book that feels more like a treasure chest. On the Brink of Everything is filled with gems of wisdom, each a prism that helps us see our own vast interiority and sing our own truths. My greatest aspiration is to journey through life and arrive at the brink as Parker has, with humility and faithfulness, and pockets full of gems.”
—Valarie Kaur, civil rights activist, lawyer, filmmaker, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project
“One of the wisest people on the planet has written one of the finest books on growing b/old gracefully. This warm and witty book will delight and inspire readers of all ages.”
—Richard Leider, bestselling author or coauthor of The Power of Purpose, Repacking Your Bags, and Life Reimagined
"Warm, generous, and funny, this impassioned book invites readers to the deep end of life where authentic soul work and human transformation become pressing concerns.”
"Through essays, poems, and reflections, he covers subjects such as the importance of staying connected with younger generations; the writing life; engagement of the soul; and where it is we go when we die. He is also an 'angry Quaker' as he might say, unafraid to address issues of diversity and political engagement in a time when we no longer have the luxury of inaction. My favorite part of the book is the chapter titled 'Keep Reaching Out,' where he encourages older humans to keep up their serious engagement with the world. It gives vitality and purpose to life and allows elders to share their unique gifts. Also, he notes, it would be ridiculous not to. This is a bracing book, indeed."
—Kathryn Drury Wagner
"In his discussion of spirituality, Palmer covers his quest for the true self, the call to community, and a memorable retreat. In his commentaries on work and staying engaged with the world and your soul, this seasoned writer keeps us attentive with short gems on living from the inside out, the movie Begin Again, and some very right-on-target assessments of today's tense political scene. Palmer even takes responsibility for being hooked on anger and the challenges he faces in bringing love to the fore in all his relationships, both private and public."
—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat