Healing the heart of democracy : the courage to create a politics worthy of the human spirit

by Parker J. Palmer

Hardcover, 2011




San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass, c2011.


"Building on his own extensive experience as a writer and activist on various aspects of inner and institutional life, Parker J. Palmer explores the soulful dynamics of American politics. What he did for educators in The Courage to Teach he does for citizens here, exploring the dynamics of our inner lives for clues to reclaiming our national unity. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, he points the way to a politics worthy of the human spirit, rooted in the commonwealth of compassion and creativity still found among "We the People." Democracy is a non-stop experiment in the strengths and weaknesses of our political institutions, local communities, and the human heart--its outcome can never be taken for granted. The experiment is endless, unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so also is the heart's alchemy that can turn suffering into community, conflict into the energy of creativity, and tension into a force that opens us to the common good. Healing the Heart of Democracy names the vital "habits of the heart" we need to do the job and shows how they can be formed. Palmer proposes practical and hopeful, on-the-ground ways to learn how to hold the tensions of our differences in a manner that can restore a government "of the people, by the people, for the people.""--Provided by publisher.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mitchellray
American democracy is under severe threat according to Parker Palmer. The threat does not come from outer forces or big business or incompetent government. The danger to America’s democracy comes from its own citizens. Our fear of each other, our differences, and our future is unraveling the civic community upon which democracy depends. Parker has not written a how-to manual for saving democracy. His book provides insights into our own misinterpretations and misunderstandings that are tearing at the fabric of our democracy. He then points to ways we can reclaim the promise of American democracy.

Parker outlines five habits of the heart that are critical to sustaining democracy. He defines “heart” as a way of knowing that integrates intellect, emotion, imagination, and intuition. Heart gives us the courage to reach out to others. It sustains us while we enter into and hold the tensions created by our differences long enough to allow our compassion and creativity to discover new solutions to the imposing problems we face as a nation. What we can do to develop heart is the subject of Parker’s book.

This is an important text for every citizen to read. Parker provides us with direction for moving beyond diatribe and entering into dialogue. Rather than attacking our differences, Parker advocates that we embrace them. Parker offers us a hopeful vision of who we can be and illuminates what we need to do to attain that vision.
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LibraryThing member JerryColonna
I love Parker Palmer. I love everything I've read by him (and, as many folks know, I especially love his Let Your Life Speak). This book is different. And yet it's also part of a deeper theme...what happens when we live a heart-centered life...this time in the more public arenas of our society. I love that it's not a polemical screed. It steers clear of "you suck no you suck" thinking. Indeed, quite the opposite (this despite Palmer's evident pain at the level of discourse in the country).

While nominally focused as a treatise on possible ways to heal the discords, it is--like so much of his work--a beautiful meditation on healing ourselves. Essentially the way to heal the heart of democracy is to allow our own hearts to be broken open so that they may be truly healed.

Some gems:
"Partisanship is not a problem. Demonizing the other side is."

"Everyday life is a school of the spirit that offers us chance after chance to practice dealing with heartbreak."
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LibraryThing member kaulsu
I was disappointed. Parker doesn't truly seem to want to heal anything as much as he wants everyone to buy into a liberal point of view. I was hoping to find a way to talk to "those others" on the right. A way to understand the fundamentalists who think differently than I do. How to have a true conversation with those who are on a different wave length from mine.

Instead of any of this, I read regurgitated Palmer. I read about "circles of trust." I read about clearness committees. I read (this is new, true) about John Woolman (wait: wasn't this story in [A Hidden Wholeness]? I did read about citizenship and about our founding "fathers" and this was good. But the book was much to long, and it didn't need to be. What had been written about before could have been trimmed to simple reminders. I think it might then have kept my interest. But it also needs a new name. He doesn't come even close to giving us a recipe for healing our democracy. Not until and unless he can find some good in the "other."
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