The Risk of Incarnation — A Christmas Meditation

Parker J. Palmer

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. His book On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old will be published in June.

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December 24th, 2014

The Buddhist concept of the “beginner’s mind” may offer a way to understand the simple meanings of the Christmas story — and “how can we love one another in ways that midwife their incarnation.”

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December 17th, 2014

In a world of fomenting darkness, a poem calls us to be beacons of light in the shadow for others to be guided by.

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December 14th, 2014

A tribute to the children and adults who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School honored with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. A list we must return to and remember out of love and hope for a safer world.

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December 10th, 2014

For the introverts in us, winter can be a time of reflection to assess and remember our own inner truths. Includes a poem by David Whyte.

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December 3rd, 2014

When we ask our deepest questions, the answers do not come immediately. And that, dear reader, is why we must choose them with care.

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November 26th, 2014

For Thanksgiving, Parker Palmer asks us to find new ways to be filled with gratitude and praise. It’s in the gratitude for the ground we stand on, the blessing of togetherness, and the kindness of strangers, that we remember our work is loving the world.

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November 19th, 2014

The scarcity assumption can be a self-fulfilling prophecy — and a killer of the spirit. With a poem from Wendell Berry and a few thoughts of his own.

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November 12th, 2014

Sometimes the framing question needs to be, well, questioned. A “clearness committee” helps our columnist find a way of asking a transformative question instead of a question of loss.

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November 5th, 2014

In the face of so much pain and suffering, some words of advice on how to persevere and the importance of being faithful to your gifts.

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October 29th, 2014

With the elections next week, a story of forgiveness and redemption from a civil rights legend.

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October 22nd, 2014

As we acknowledge the pain and suffering in the world, we must also look for the possibility within us as we aim to change what’s wrong.

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October 15th, 2014

More than 50 years ago, Thomas Merton warned that the pressure of modern life might distract us from the wisdom that makes work fruitful.

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October 8th, 2014

The poet W.S. Merwin calls us to our mystical connections with the people in front and behind us.

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October 1st, 2014

With the political season in full swing, a reminder that the great prophets were courageous, outrageous people who railed against the powers-that-be. And a poem by Mary Oliver.

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September 24th, 2014

Autumn reminds our Quaker columnist about the beauty of the Earth and the death that is to come. Through the words of Rilke, an exploration of the wellspring of gratitude.

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September 17th, 2014

Anger is something many of us try to deny. Rather than quelling it, what if we were to use it as an animating force for personal transformation and social change?

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September 10th, 2014

Inspired by the simplicity and power of Naomi Shihab Nye’s story, here’s a list of five simple things we can do to help with healing the heart of democracy.

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September 3rd, 2014

How does one have a more supple heart that’s read to hold life’s suffering and joy? Finding a way in through a Mary Oliver poem and some guiding words.

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August 27th, 2014

As school begins for many students across the U.S., a reminder to praise our teachers and offer “soft eyes” of compassion to our children.

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August 19th, 2014

Whether you’re inwardly or outwardly lost, there’s an alternative to panicking. Advice on how to find where you are with a David Wagoner poem.

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August 13th, 2014

Thoughtful words on standing in solidarity with others suffering from depression and the healing experience of a poem.

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August 6th, 2014

Some good humor on forgetfulness and poignant verse from the poet Billy Collins to sweeten the swallow.

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July 30th, 2014

Parker Palmer pays homage to Krista Tippett with some words of wisdom on “the savage and beautiful country that lies in between.”

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July 23rd, 2014

At our darkest hours, when light fails to find a home, a path of buttercups may lead us back. Parker Palmer offers up thoughts and a Willow Harth poem for many of us caught “underground.”

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July 16th, 2014

Parker Palmer reflects on “sharing our loves and doubts” as way into more generous conversations — all through the lens of a poem by Yehuda Amichai.

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July 9th, 2014

Parker Palmer celebrates the act of finding clarity in one’s life through the poetry of Mary Oliver and listening to the trees.

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July 2nd, 2014

As many of us Americans approach the July 4th weekend, Parker Palmer proposes an Interdependence Day to remind us that “we’re all in this together.”

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June 25th, 2014

Parker Palmer draws on the words of two poets to remind us that we must embrace receptivity and gratitude to live a full life.

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June 18th, 2014

A video with Parker Palmer discussing Lincoln’s depression and how he sees the 16th U.S. President’s ability to reconcile the darkness and lightness within himself as a lesson for us all in healing the heart of democracy.

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June 11th, 2014

Some thoughts on Leonard Cohen, our small and imperfect contributions to solving big problems, the “potluck supper approach to social change,” and how the light gets in.

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June 4th, 2014

To be human is to live with paradox and hold it in our hands. Parker Palmer offers some grounding advice on creating more spaces to do so gracefully — and a poem by May Sarton.

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May 28th, 2014

Life has its moments of melancholy. Parker Palmer reminds us to stop, take it all in, and write some poetry to recall life’s aspirations.

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May 21st, 2014

As you read this poem, Parker Palmer asks us to ponder a simple question: “How, then, shall I live?”

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May 14th, 2014

Parker Palmer draws inspiration from the words of Wendell Berry on celebrating one’s obstacles and the impeded stream that sings.

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May 6th, 2014

Parker Palmer turns to a famous Mary Oliver poem to remind him to be grateful for the “family of things.”

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April 30th, 2014

A vexing question receives a profound answer. And Parker Palmer asks: “What task is calling you — at home, at work, in the larger world — that you need to embrace even though it’s impossible?”

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April 23rd, 2014

When we live behind a mask, how do we connect and establish trust with one another? Parker Palmer on reclaiming our identity and integrity.

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April 16th, 2014

Parker Palmer offers a light-hearted vignette on the unexpected visitor and welcoming her in — all by way of a metaphor by Rumi.

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April 9th, 2014

Parker Palmer encourages us to look with child-like imagination to better understand the world’s mysteries.

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April 2nd, 2014

Drawing on Joseph Campbell, Parker Palmer asks: where might you turn for news that is “true and worth attending to”?

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March 26th, 2014

In our busy lives, a reminder from Parker Palmer that what matters most is not our ability to produce but our ability to love, and to just be. With a poem by Lynn Ungar.

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March 18th, 2014

The Quaker elder offers this poetic reminder on trusting that the writing process itself will help you dig into your bafflement.