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On the Brink of Everything

Book Description

Parker J. Palmer
On the Brink of Everything
Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old

From beloved and bestselling author Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, Healing the Heart of Democracy) comes a brave and beautiful book of reflections on eight decades of life and work. Reframing aging as “a passage of discovery and engagement,” Palmer says, “Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good.”

On the Brink of Everything is not a “guide to” or “handbook for” getting old. Instead, it's Palmer turning the prism of insight on his experience as a way of encouraging readers to do the same with theirs. In elegant prose and lyrical poetry, he offers a set of meditations on the meanings of one's life, past, present, and future. “The laws of nature that dictate the sunset dictate our demise,” Palmer writes. “But how we travel the arc between our own sunrise and sundown is ours to choose: will it be denial, defiance, or collaboration?”

With gravity and levity, compassion and chutzpah, Palmer writes about cultivating a robust inner and outer life, a sense of meaning and purpose amid pain as well as joy, and the intergenerational relations that enhance the lives of young and old alike. Here's a book not only for elders but also for those younger folks we call “old souls.”

And this book sings! It includes three songs by Palmer's longtime friend and colleague, singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, written in response to themes in the book. At the download site for the songs, Palmer and Newcomer hope to engage readers in an ongoing conversation about what Howard Thurman called “the growing edge” of our personal and public lives.

Ultimately, Palmer sees age as a precious gift: “The fact that I've come this far makes me one of the lucky ones.” Surprised by the fact that he likes being old, he writes, “Welcome to the brink of everything. It takes a lifetime to get here, but the stunning view and the wake-up breeze in your face make it worth the trip.”