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Featured Commentary

By Parker J. Palmer September 30, 2015

Politics can divide more often than unite. But, deep involvement in the civic sphere doesn't mean we have to sacrifice empathy and civility.

A Charm Against the Language of Politics

Say over and over the names of things,
the clean nouns: weeping birch, bloodstone, tanager,
Banshee damask rose. Read field guides, atlases,
gravestones. At the store, bless each apple
by kind: McIntosh, Winesap, Delicious, Jonathan.
Enunciate the vegetables and herbs: okra, calendula.

Go deeper into the terms of some small landscape:
spiders, for example. Then, after a speech on
compromising the environment for technology,
recite the tough, silky structure of webs:
tropical stick, ladder web, mesh web, filmy dome, funnel,
trap door. When you have compared the candidates’ slippery
platforms, chant the spiders: comb footed, round headed,
garden cross, feather legged, ogre faced, black widow.
Remember that most short verbs are ethical: hatch, grow,
spin, trap, eat. Dig deep, pronounce clearly, pull the words
in over your head. Hole up
for the duration.

On the Blog

February 09, 2010

As the newest addition to Speaking of Faith, my first task has been to prepare the show “No More Taking Sides” for rebroadcast in a couple of weeks. Listening to Ali say “Nobody want to be honest. Everybody want to be right,” reminded me of working in Gujarat when “state-sanctioned” violence, torture, and rape broke out across the state, primarily with Hindus attacking Muslims.

Although Hindu by birth, I was working there for a non-denominational organization. I was 20. Under 24-hour curfew, the media were saturated with images of brutality happening just down the street. More importantly, the dialogue of friends and colleagues concentrated on “us” versus “them.”

February 08, 2010

British fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett advocates a right to "early death." Video of his Richard Dimbleby Lecture.

February 07, 2010
February 02, 2010

A reflection on the enduring imprint of fictional characters like J.D. Salinger's Holden Caufield.

January 31, 2010

A moving performance of Frederick Douglass' "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" in Howard Zinn's history roadshow.

January 26, 2010

Calling it "her greatest accomplishment," Eleanor Roosevelt was a primary instigator behind the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares the dignity of all people.

January 24, 2010

After the earthquake first shook Haiti, we reached out to Bellegarde-Smith again asking about the context he brings to the current tragedy and its future consequences. Share his insight here.

January 23, 2010

Charley, a Powerful Woman
(photo: Pieter Musterd)

I’m not a narcissist. But Clay Shirky thinks I should be.

The media critic recently posted a controversy-mongering blog titled “A Rant About Women,” the premise being that women would do well to act more like men — stand up for themselves more and do what it takes to get ahead, even if it means being a “pompous blowhard”:

[Women] are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives, or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, even when it would be in their best interests to do so. Whatever bad things you can say about those behaviors, you can’t say they are underrepresented among people who have changed the world.

January 21, 2010

Compelling video of elephants mourning the death of a calf, and a magnificent segment on the secret language of elephants.

January 21, 2010

David Brooks' prescription for, and Binyavanga Wainaina's criticism of, foreign aid leaves a question unanswered.

January 20, 2010

A passage from Letters to a Young Poet cited by Novogratz.

January 18, 2010

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith responds to the Haitian crisis in an AP story.

January 16, 2010

No one has ever accused me of being fashion-forward. Neither will I ever willingly join a conversation on the relative merits of mascara brands. Nonetheless, I was completely entertained by Courtney Wilder’s essay on Sightings about a blog that enjoins women clergy to navigate the occasionally fine line between professional dress and excessive *hot-ness* as church leaders.

Wilder draws our attention to Beauty Tips for Ministers by Reverend Victoria Weinstein, aka PeaceBang. Here’s a sample of her sassy, bossy tone:

January 15, 2010

Krista discusses recent terrorism and security concerns through Ed Husain's words.