Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer

Here's a poem I re-read frequently. As short and simple as it is, it helps me remember that nothing new can grow between us when we speak to each other from "the place where we are right."

More important, the poem leads me to ask what I think is a question worth pondering: How might things change if we began our political conversations not from our certainties, but from our "doubts and loves"?

Each week I write a weekly column trying to capture and replay a tiny bit of the incredible conversations and efforts taking place behind the scenes at On Being. Sometimes it's a listener's response on our Facebook page or a gorgeous photo on Instagram, but it's often intriguing. If you'd like to receive my column in your email inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life."

One of the many things I love about Mary Oliver's poetry is that she faces squarely into the complexity of our lives on "this side" of things — and then points us toward the simplicity that lies on the other side of our confusions and illusions.

As we Americans approach Independence Day — aka the Fourth of July — here's a modest proposal. How about adding an annual INTERdependence Day to remind us of something we seem in danger of forgetting: "We're all in this together!"

A society where that simple fact has been forgotten is not a society: it's a nightmare.

Each week I write a weekly column trying to capture and replay a tiny bit of the incredible conversations and efforts taking place behind the scenes at On Being. Sometimes it's a listener's response on our Facebook page or a gorgeous photo on Instagram, but it's often intriguing. If you'd like to receive my column in your email inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

"What we need is here."
—Wendell Berry


In one way or another, every wisdom tradition I know says that what we need is here. It's just a matter of opening our eyes and appreciating what I call "secrets hidden in plain sight."

But we can't do that when we're obsessing about the past or the future, or about what we don't have, or allowing a thousand distractions to prevent us from noticing the gift of "here and now."

The other night I watched Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man. It's a documentary about this poet-singer-songwriter's life and work that interweaves clips of Cohen reflecting on his life with great performances by a variety of musicians who've been influenced by his work. I've seen it three times, and that night, as always, I was moved by almost every song. This time around, the song "Anthem" spoke to me with special power:

If I didn't have the idea of "holding paradox" to help me understand myself and the world around me, I'd be more lost than I am! For me, holding paradox means thinking about some (but not all) things as "both-ands" instead of "either-ors."

Each week I write a weekly column trying to capture and replay a tiny bit of the incredible conversations and efforts taking place behind the scenes at On Being. Sometimes it's a listener's response on our Facebook page or a gorgeous photo on Instagram, but it's often intriguing. If you'd like to receive my column in your email inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

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