Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness; The Journey Toward an Undivided Life (San Francisco: Jossy-Bass, 2004), 208pp.
"This book," writes Parker Palmer, "brings together four themes I have been musing on since my mid-twenties: the shape of an integral life, the meaning of community, teaching and learning for transformation, and nonviolent social change." Writing from his Quaker tradition (think "inner light"), most of this book explores the first of these four themes. How do we join our inner and outer lives into an undivided whole? How do we bring together "soul and role?" Instead of impersonating ourselves, wearing masks, living on the surface of social images, accepting how other people define us, etc., how do we discover our true selves? We do it through forming what Palmer calls "circles of trust" where others can help us to hear the voice of our individual and unique "inner teacher." These circles of trust function much like church small groups, only they are much more intentional about their narrow purpose, and have very strict guidlines (eg, "no fixing, no saving, no advising, and no setting each other straight"). In these groups we hold each other safe, and neither invade or evade. I love the notion of integration and wholeness. I am less convinced of the wisdom of listening to my own inner voices, and sense a need for an "outside" voice from God and Scripture to help me understand my true identity in Christ. The Lutheran tradition provides a balance. Palmer's book does not help here because even though he is a Christian, this book is written for the broadest possible audience (school teachers, business people, health care workers, etc.). It is a good half loaf; I'd love to hear his specifically Christian version.