by Parker J. Palmer
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018, www.bkconnection.com.

Having read most of the books by Parker Palmer over the years I was curious to learn how he would address the topic of this one.  He opens the book by expressing gratitude as follows:

We grow old and die in the same way we’ve lived our lives.  That’s why this book is not about growing old gracefully.  My life has been graced, but it certainly hasn’t been graceful—I’ve done more than my share of falling down, getting up, and falling down again.  The falling down is due to missteps and gravity.  The getting up is due to grace, mediated by people to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude.

This book is written on the brink of Parker turning 80 and he admits to not wanting to fight the gravity of aging but to collaborate with it.  His many faceted reflection on aging is from twenty-four brief essays and a number of poems, including some of his own.  He views aging as a passage of discovery and engagement, not decline and inaction.  Through seven prisms he refracts the experience of aging in a different light with each turn:

  1. The View from the BrinkWhat I can See from Here probes some things I’m learning as I age …
  2. Young and Old: The Dance of the Generations focuses on creative engagement with the young …
  3. Getting Real: From Illusion to Reality reflects on the spiritual life, …an endless effort to penetrate illusion and touch reality …
  4. Work and Vocation: Writing a Life is about the voice that calls to many of us saying, “Whatever your paid work may be, this is your life” …
  5. Keep Reaching Out: Staying Engaged with the World makes a case for the importance of elders never ceasing to care about our shared world, and acting on what we care about—if only in our minds and hearts via words spoken to people close at hand….
  6. Keeping Reaching In: Staying Engaged with our Soul is about the centrality of inner work done in silence and solitude….
  7. Over the Edge: Where We Go When We Die answers the age-old question, “What happens to us after death?” …

On the Brink of Everything is a mixture of reality, possibility, story, and reflection that is soul stirring and perhaps even fun.  There is depth and humor that will both delight and inspire.

A unique feature of the small book is that three essays are accompanied by songs written and performed by the gifted singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer in response to themes in those essays.  All three songs can be downloaded free of charge.   

 

Catherine C. DeClercq, OP