New books in the library:
On the Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer (2018) reflects deeply on ageing and what it evokes and encourages.
Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone(2012) takes a philosophical perspective on helping us ‘face the mess we’re in’.
On the Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer has the subtitle ‘Grace, Gravity and Getting Old’. Writing on the brink of 80, Palmer reflects on age, insight, the pluses and minuses of having long experience on the planet. The first thing you notice is he is a really good writer – his voice is clear and present, and weaves an unadorned conversational tone with deep insights presenting expressed with psalm-like musicalit. How about this:
‘Fierce with reality is how I feel when I’m able to say, ‘I am that to which I gave short shrift and that to which I attended. I am my descents into darkness and my rising again into the light, my betrayals and my fidelities, my failures and my successes. I am my ignorance and my insight, my doubts and my convictions, my fears and my hopes.
Wholeness does not mean perfection – it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. I’m grateful for this truth as age leads me to look back on the zigzagging, up-and-down path I’ve hacked out during my far-from-perfect life.’
In each essay of this compact gem of a book Palmer explores different facets of his experience and maturation over decades of life which have included living at the Quaker community at Pendle Hill and thoughtful, relationships, successes and failures, and action on social issues. With a light touch and thoughtful honesty he looks at interesting questions such as ‘What’s an Angry Quaker to Do?’ Read the book to find out.
Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone offer a self-help accessible style designed to appeal to a wide readership. Their book explores what hope is and how we can incorporate it into our lives. It starts by identifying two types of hope: hope where the desired outcome is reasonably likely, and hope that is a vision of what we desire whether or not it seems likely or even possible. ‘Active Hope’ is defined as a practice involving a clear view of reality, direction of travel, and taking steps to move in the chosen direction. It is something that can be applied ‘even in areas where we feel hopeless’. Framing the book around several stories including ‘Business As Usual’, ‘The Great Unraveling’ and ‘The Great Turning’, the authors look at shifts in consciousness that can lead to actions such as rewriting the rules of banking, producing and buying organic food, and finding hope in everyday life. However, it’s primary focus is on broad themes rather than detailed actions – and encouragement to perceive our human connectedness and how that might empower us.
If you like reading or simply chatting informally with others at Meeting, look out forAround the Bookshelves sessions – an hour of relaxed conversation on Sundays after Meeting for Worship from 12.30 to 1.30pm by the library bookshelves in the entrance area. All are welcome. Listen out in Meeting for dates or keep an eye on the website. An opportunity to browse books and discuss themes with others.
If you have questions about the library please ask Fiona: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fiona Hamilton, Librarian