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Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit by Parker J. Palmer
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“The more you know about another person's story, the less possible it is to see that person as your enemy.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“We suffer, ironically, from our indifference to those among us who suffer.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“The civility we need will not come from watching our tongues. It will come from valuing our differences.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Under stress, an unexercised heart will explode in frustration or fury. If the situation is especially tense, that exploding heart may be hurled like a fragment grenade toward the source of its pain. But a heart that has been consistently exercised through conscious engagement with suffering is more likely to break open instead of apart. Such a heart has learned how to flex to hold tension in a way that expands its capacity for both suffering and joy.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“I cannot imagine a spiritual pain deeper than dying with the thought that during my sojourn on earth, I had rarely, if ever, shown up as my true self. And I cannot imagine a spiritual comfort deeper than dying with the knowledge that I had spent my brief time on this planet doing the best I could to be present as myself to my family, my friends, my community, and my world.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“There are times when the heart, like the canary in the coal mine, breathes in the world's toxicity and begins to die.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Citizenship is a way of being in the world rooted in the knowledge that I am a member of a vast community of human and nonhuman beings that I depend on for essentials I could never provide for myself.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Rightly understood, a myth is an effort to tell truths that cannot be told with mere facts or known by the senses and the mind alone, truths that take form only in that integrative place called the heart.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Violence is what we get when we do not know what else to do with our suffering.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“The writer Anne Lamott says, “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”28”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“But many educated Americans who rise to positions of responsibility believe they must operate almost exclusively on the basis of what can be observed and measured because they are educated in a system that mistakenly defines reality that way. And yet, everything human is driven by the invisible powers of the heart.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.14”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“So it is no surprise that Jewish teaching includes frequent reminders of the importance of a broken-open heart, as in this Hasidic tale: A disciple asks the rebbe: “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts’? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?” The rebbe answers: “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks and the words fall in.”38”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“During the Civil War, traumatized combatants developed a condition that they called “soldier's heart.”8 The violence that results in soldier's heart shatters a person's sense of self and community, and war is not the only setting in which violence is done: violence is done whenever we violate another's integrity. Thus we do violence in politics when we demonize the opposition or ignore urgent human needs in favor of politically expedient decisions.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Bill Moyers has said, “The antidote, the only antidote, to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people.”10”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“When all of our talk about politics is either technical or strategic, to say nothing of partisan and polarizing, we loosen or sever the human connections on which empathy, accountability, and democracy itself depend. If we cannot talk about politics in the language of the heart—if we cannot be publicly heartbroken, for example, that the wealthiest nation on earth is unable to summon the political will to end childhood hunger at home—how can we create a politics worthy of the human spirit, one that has a chance to serve the common good?”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“When we allow emotions to trump the intellect, we swallow “facts” that are demonstrably untrue, letting them fly around unchallenged in a mockery of civic discourse, supporting public figures who promote fictions to further their own cause.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“When the heart is supple, it can be “broken open” into a greater capacity to hold our own and the world's pain: it happens every day. When we hold our suffering in a way that opens us to greater compassion, heartbreak becomes a source of healing, deepening our empathy for others who suffer and extending our ability to reach out to them.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“As a white, male American who has always been well-off—the kind of person for whom this nation has always worked best—the gift of full citizenship, unquestioned and unchallenged, came to me as an accident of birth. Today I realize the magnitude of that gift. But for years I was an unconscious and ungrateful recipient because attaining citizenship required no effort from me.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Finally (and here is a sentence I never imagined writing), I thank my conversation partners on Facebook. A couple of years ago, my friend Finn Ryan set up a Facebook author page for me. Grateful as I was, my skepticism about the medium kept me from posting anything there until six months before I finished this book. I am very glad that I took the leap. The folks who share that space with me have helped me refine a number of key ideas, allowing me to write a better book than I could have written alone. Many thanks to all my Facebook “friends” as well as my face-to-face friends.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“What happened to “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”?”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“it is disconcerting to learn that while 73 percent of Americans can name the Three Stooges, only 42 percent can name the three branches of government.6”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“If you hold your knowledge of self and world wholeheartedly, your heart will at times get broken by loss, failure, defeat, betrayal, or death. What happens next in you and the world around you depends on how your heart breaks. If it breaks apart into a thousand pieces, the result may be anger, depression, and disengagement. If it breaks open into greater capacity to hold the complexities and contradictions of human experience, the result may be new life.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“The Endless Argument Political life in a democracy is a nonstop flow of contradictions and conflicts. What shall we do when the will of the majority infringes on the rights of a minority? If we want both freedom and justice, what is the proper balance of unrestrained personal or economic activity and government regulation? Which is most effective in transforming various kinds of behaviors: education, incentives, or legal sanctions? In the face of a foreign threat, is our national interest more likely to be secured through quiet diplomacy or saber-rattling? In the face of divergent problems like these, what kinds of institutions will allow people who disagree to open up and work together rather than shut down and turn against each other? When America's founders wrestled with that question, they were motivated in part by a desire to grow beyond Old World traditions of “resolving” conflicts by royal decree. But their more immediate motivation was the need to deal with the serious conflicts among themselves. The fact that the founders were all white, male landholders did not make for a united approach to declaring independence from British rule and framing a national constitution. Far from it. Their own diversity of convictions compelled them to invent political institutions capable of surviving conflict and of putting it to good use.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“If the end of tension is what you want, fascism is the thing for you.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Taken to extremes, scapegoating feeds the political pathology called fascism, a movement ideology centered on a “radical and authoritarian nationalism” that actively suppresses “openness and opposition” to the movement and the nation-state it hopes to commandeer.15 When this diseased brand of nationalism rushes in to fill our inner emptiness, its mildest manifestation is the belief that nation's critics are unpatriotic, even traitorous. At”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“If I were asked for two words to summarize the habits of the heart American citizens need in response to twenty-first-century conditions, chutzpah and humility are the words I would choose. By chutzpah I mean knowing that I have a voice that needs to be heard and the right to speak it.21 By humility I mean accepting the fact that my truth is always partial and may not be true at all—so I need to listen with openness and respect, especially to “the other,” as much as I need to speak my own voice with clarity and conviction. Humility plus chutzpah equals the kind of citizens a democracy needs. There is no reason, at least no good reason, why our number cannot be legion.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“The Internet also threatens democracy by making it easier for falsehoods related to politics to gain credence and multiply, giving aid and comfort to the enemies of common sense, decency, and truth. It is good for democracy that the digital media allow more and more of us to become producers as well as consumers of political opinions and information. It is not good when, as consumers, we make no effort to question what we read, compare it to other sources, and attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff. Some of the new producers are among our finest journalists, while others are apparently devoted to making Orwellian prophecies come true. As consumers of their wares, we need to set our bunk detectors on high.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit
“Democratic action depends upon…free spaces, where people experience a schooling in citizenship and learn a vision of the common good in the course of struggling for change. —Sara Evans and Harry Boyte, Free Spaces”
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit

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