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Book Review: On the Brink of Everything

Grace, Gravity & Getting Old

by Parker J. PalmerBerrett-Koehler Publishers
reviewed by Kathryn Drury Wagner
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I LIKE BEING OLD because the view from the brink is striking, a full panorama of my life— and a bracing breeze awakens me to new ways of understanding my own past, present, and future,” writes Parker Palmer, who at nearly 80 has quite the vantage point. I enjoyed reading On the Brink of Everything from my midlife mile marker, a dubious X in the road where everything starts to feel creaky and doubtful. Palmer’s book was a reminder to be in awe, rather than to complain. Palmer is the author of many books, an activist who founded the Center for Courage and Renewal, and a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). He’s focused his life’s work on issues of spirituality, education, and leadership.

In his latest book, he writes that he “turns the prism... refracting on my experience of aging in a different light with each turn.” 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. —KDW


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