A Hidden Wholeness

Just finished reading "Parker J. Palmer that I've received from Malcom.

The main keyword of the book is the "Soul":

  • p57 But a quick disclaimer is in order, since formation sometimes means a process quite contrary to the one described in this book - a process in which the pressure of orthodox doctrine, sacred text, and institutional authority is applied to the misshapen soul in order to conform it to the shape dictated by some theology. This approach is rooted in the idea that we are born with souls deformed be sin, and our situation is hopeless until the authorities "form" us properly.
  • p57 Here formation flows from the belief that we are born with souls in perfect form. As time goes on, we are subject to powers of deformation, from within as well as without, that twist us into shapes alien to the shape of the soul. But the soul never loses its original form and never stops calling us back to our birthright integrity.

For Palmer soul, for others heart, love, spirituality, awareness, God, ... It doesn't matter what concept we use, but the idea is that every single person on this planet is good inside. It is similar to the Neills:

Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil. Children come to my school, little devils, hating the world, destructive, unmannerly, lying, thieving, bad-tempered. In six months they are happy, healthy children who do no evil. And I am no genius, I am merely a man who refuses to guide the steps of children. I let them form their own values and the values are invariably good and social. The religion that makes people good makes people bad, but the religion known as freedom makes all people good, for it destroys the inner conflict that makes people devils.

Another interesting concepts from the book are "Divided life", "Circle of Trust", "Tragic gap" and "Tension".

The "Divided life":

  • p6 The divided life comes in many and varied forms. To cite just a few examples, it is the life we lead when:
    • We refuse to invest ourselves in our work, diminishing its quality and distancing ourselves from those it is meant to serve
    • We make our living at jobs that violate our basic values, even when survival does not absolutely demand it
    • We remain in settings or relationships that steadily kill off our spirits
    • We harbor secrets to achive personal gain at the expense of other people
    • We hide our beliefs from those who disagree with us to avoid conflict, challenge and change
    • We conceal our true identities for fear of being criticized, shunned or attacked

The "Circle of Trust" is group of people that are meeting to speak and enjoy each other while not trying to fix each other problems, believing in the strength of each other to find the right path:

  • p51 Being Alone Together - A Community of Solitudes - Our disasters come from letting nothing live for itself, from the longing we have to pull everything, even friends, into ourselves, and let nothing alone.
  • p52 Convinced that people lack inner guidance and wishing to "help" them, we feel obliged to tell others what we think they need to know and how we think they ought to live. Countless disasters originate here - between parents and children, teachers and students, supervisors and employees - originate, that is, in presumptuous advice - giving that leaves the other feeling diminished and disrespected.
  • p61 When we sit with a dying person, we gain two critical insights into what it means to "be alone together". First, we realize that we must abandon the arrogance that often distorts our relationships - the arrogance of believing that we have the answer to the other person's problem. When we sit with a dying person, we understand that what is before us is not a "problem to be solved" but a mystery to be honored. As we find a way to stand respectfully on the edge of that mystery, we start to see that all our relationships would be deepened if we could play the fixer role less frequently. Second, when we sit with a dying person, we realize that we must overcome the fear that often distorts our relationships - the fear that causes us to turn away when the other reveals something too vexing, painful, or ugly to bear. Death may be all of this and more.

Similar to what Anthony de Mello says:

The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you're ready to listen and if you're ready to be challenged, there's one thing that you can do, but no one can help you.

The "Tragic gap" with keeping "Tension" were a new ideas to me:

  • p167 Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
    there is field. I'll meet you there.
    When the soul lies down in that grass,
    the world is too full to talk about.
    Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other"
    doesn't make any sense.
  • p175 The insight at the heart of nonviolence is that we live in a tragic gap - a gap between the way things are and the way we know they might be. It is a gap that never has been and never will be closed.
  • p180 ... the people who achieved the greatest good are those who have the greatest capacity to stand in the tragic gap. Of course, results come more slowly when we hold the tension instead of calling for a vote or sending in the troops.

This all together were a strong but non-violent ideas and views on our world.

As usual at the end comes the list of notes from the book that caught my attention:

  • p15 And the closer we get to adulthood, the more we stifle the the imagination that journey requires. Why? Because imagining other possibilities for our lives would remind us of the painful gap between who we most truly are and the role we play in so-called real world.
  • p24 OK, I'll play this game for a while. But I don't get paid enough to worry about stuff like this. I just want to do my job and get back home, where I have life, without having to take my work with me. Besides, the managers are going to figure out how to get their way with all this. I'll play the circle game, but I won't invest myself in it.
  • p34 Because we so quickly blame our problems on forces "out there," we need to see how often consipre in our own deformation: for every external power bent on twisting us out of shape, there is a potential collaborator within us. When our impulse to tell the truth is thwarted by threats of punishment, it is because we value security over being truthful. When our impulse to side with weak is thwarted by threats of lost social standing, it is because we value popularity over being a pariah.
  • p37 In my own case, at any rate, depression was the soul's call to stop, turn around, go back, and look for path I could negotiate. If one ignores that call and doggedly presses on, the depression that comes from getting crosswise with true self can yield something worse than melancholy and lassitude: a deep desire to end one's life.
    Such was the case with me, and looking back, I understand why. When I was living my outer life at great remove from inner truth, I was not merely on the wrong path: I was killing my selfhood with every step I took. When one's life is a walking death, the step into literal death can seem very easy to take. Medication may offer temporary relief from depressions of this sort, but the real cure goes beyond drugs. We can reclaim our lives only be choosing to live divided no more. It is a choice so daunting - or so it seems in the mids of depression - that we are unlikely to make it until our pain becomes unberable, the pain that comes from denying or defying true self.
  • p38 Instead, I have met too many people who suffer from an empty self. They have a bottomless pit where their identity should be - an inner void they try to fill with competitive success, consumerism, sexism, racism, or anything that might give them the illusion of being better than others.
  • p42 I was blessed with family where it felt safe to be myself, so my dividedness did not begin at home. But I did not feel safe at school, despite my capacity to act the role of a "successful" and "popular" student, words I put in quotation marks because the role felt so fraudulent to me. While I played my onstage part, my true self hid out backstage, fearful that the world would crush its deepest values and beliefs, its fragile hopes and yearnings. The farther I went with my education, the less safe school became. In graduate school, especially, my emotional and spiritual survival seemed to depend on keeping my truth tucked away.
  • p43 But I soon learned that graduate school was a picnic compared to the world of work. The deeper I moved into that world. The more need I felt to wall off my true self - trying, to put it simply, to appear smarter and tougher than I really was.
  • p44 I remember with regret the arrogance that overcame me in my thirties when I became privately judgemental of many people I knew - a posture that was, of course, no more than projected self-doubt. From time to time, courageous friends tried to shed light on my shadow, with predictable results: I judged them to be arrogant and refused to listen.
  • p53 Like most of us, Linda knew how to use rejection to reinforce her view of the world.
  • p55 Let the person who cannot be alone beware of community. Let the person who is not in community beware of being alone.
  • p64 Rilke's image of love offers us a third possibility. Instead of fixing up, or letting down, people who have a problem, we stand with simple attentiveness at the borders of their solitude - trusting that they have within themselves whatever resources they need and that our attentiveness can help bring those resources into play.
  • p67 But this time, Tim said something new. "For the past year and a half," he told his principal, "I've been sitting with this group of teachers who've been exploring their inner lives - and I've begun to realize that I have one, too! I can see now that I've been lying to myself, and to you, about why I won't go to the summer institute. "The truth is, I'm afraid. I'm afraid I won't understand what they are saying. I'm afraid that what I do understand will make me feel like I've been teaching the wrong way for twenty years. I'm afraid I'll come home from that institute feeling like I'm over the hill. I still don't want to go, but at least I can be honest with you about why." Tim paused for a moment and then continued. "My principal and I sat there in silence for a while, string at the floor. Then he looked up at me and said. 'You know what? I'm afraid, too. Let's go together.'"
  • p72 Why? Because the fact that you understand the danger means that you are sane, and only pilots who are crazy can be relieved of their duties. So you must keep flying even though you are crazy to do so! Catch-22 has proven to be an apt image for out time, which seems full of "problematic situations whose only solution is denied by circumstances inherent in the problem".
  • p82 As we look out upon the winter landscape of our lives, it seems clear that whatever was seeded in the fall is now buried deep in the snow, frozen over and winter killed. Many demoralized people recognize this "dead of winter" metaphor as an all-too-apt description of their bleak inner lives. Yet when we understand winter in the natural world, we realize that what we see out there is not death so much as dormancy. Some life has died, of course. But much of it has gone underground, into hibernation, awaiting a season of renewal and rebirth.
  • p85 We seem to have forgotten that the environment in which we meet has an impact on the quality of what happens within us and between us.
  • p91 But we soon come to understand that whatever we say about the poem, we are saying about ourselves.
  • p162 I am blessed to live in a democracy, not a totalitarian state. But the democracy I cherish is constantly threatened by brand of politics that clothes avarice and the arrogance of power in patriotic and religious garb. There is a classic fable apropos of all this that can teach us much about the political potentials of both laughter and silence: Hans Christian Andersen's tale, "The Emperor's New Suit".
  • p164 First, satirical laughter and dissenting silence are nonviolent ways of fomenting social change. People who turn to nonviolence in the face of cruelty and injustice have a much higher claim to good manners that leaders who clothe themselves in piosity and patriotism to justify economic and military violence.
  • p164 In laughter, we learn to discern the difference between reality and illusion, which serves us well amid the smoke and mirrors of political life. In silence, we remember that someday we will die, which gives us the courage to speak our truth, no matter what the punishment may be.
  • p178 And where does that arrogance come from? The answer, I think, is fear. The more insecure I feel, the more arrogant I tend to become, and the most arrogant people I know are also the most insecure. The arrogant ego does not like it when we hold tension, fearful of losing it's status if we lose the battle at hand.
  • p183 "Through those retreats, I rediscovered a generosity of heart and developed a taste for suffering". What voice speaks such words? Not the voice of intellect, which talks about facts and theories. Not the voice of emotion, which talks about joy and anger. Not the voice of will, which talks about effort and results. Not the voice of ego, which talks about pride and shame. Only the soul, I think, is able to speak words like this.