I happened upon a empowering video several days ago of a commencement address given by one of my most respected writers of our day, Parker Palmer. He has a regular column on one of my favorite blogs, and I like to save and savor his words in the mornings between the brief but beautiful time from when my coffee is poured, to when the kids make their way down our creaky staircase to my lap. His contemplative essays and poems are a breath of fresh air with their modern-day Transcendental qualities, and I quite enjoy, that like a good map, they lead me in good directions to ponder life’s big questions and make room for important human issues. His openness about suffering from depression, joined with his passionate pursuit of truth, love, peace, and justice, make his reflections ones that strike a chord deep in my soul. I respect anyone who dares show up and reveal a corner of their heart to strangers on the internet. When I found out that there was a video of him speaking I was so excited to give it a watch. What I didn’t expect, what just how much his words would leave an impact on me. I’ll let you listen without much more commentary, but below I am going to share out the quote he used to wrap up his time in front of the graduating class, because it’s worth both hearing and seeing if you can make the time. Quoting Diane Ackerman, he said:
“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat an unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies between.”
So wherever these words meet you, let them meet you gently but boldly. I think words can do both. You can do as I did, and write them down in scribbly cursive with lots of errors somewhere you’ll see them often, or you can simply leave them here where you found them. In any case, think about the “savage and beautiful country” that you’ve created and are still creating between where you begun and where you’re going. Think about the weight behind the Parker’s suggestion to, “Be reckless when it comes to affairs of the heart.” What does this mean for you? For your calling? For this hour? Day? Year? What things do you consider worth being reckless for? It may be summer, but soon enough a new season with new energy will sneak in and take its place, ushering out longer days and ripe tomatoes, replacing them with falling leaves and cozy fires. I am not one for humid days, so I am trying with all my might not to complain too much. And why not pick July, the very middle of the year, as a time to consider life and the energy you’re putting into it and getting out of it? Do you do mid-year reflections? What if we as a country revisited our goals more than once after the big ball drops? I think this time of year is a perfect one to grab a comfy spot under a tree, or in a hammock, or dipped in a pool, and ponder what’s life-giving for you, and what it is that sets your curiosity ablaze “like a high-spirited thoroughbred”.
Jennie - This was beautiful and really important for me to read right now. I feel that I have been avoiding risk, but at a sacrifice. Thank you so much for sharing it!
admin - Jennie, you are most welcome my dear! Have a great day 🙂 xx Amanda
Jackie - I absolutely love Parker Palmer as well. I first heard him years ago on On Being…that voice! And his words are so profound and powerful. I remember his talk with Courtney E. Martin, a woman I met in NYC at a reading or two – they spoke about social justice and rebellion and it was so inspiring. I then read his blog post about Five Simple Things to Reweave our Civic Community.
I was traveling from PA to NYC for work at the time, a once-a-year adventure. On the train ride home, I sat down next to an older man and started to put my headphones in, probably to listen to another On Being episode. 🙂 Then I remembered the Five Simple Things and started a conversation instead of plugging in. The man turned out to be Bill Siemering, the founder and mission statement writer of NPR!!!! It was an electric, amazing conversation and we have continued a relationship to this day. Your post reminded me of this little story and I wanted to share. 🙂
Love your blog immensely. Thank you so much for sharing such beauty and value with us.