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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation [Hardcover]

Parker J. Palmer
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 24 1999 A Jossey Bass title
With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and purpose. Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others who have made a difference, he shares insights gained from darkness and depression as well as fulfillment and joy, illuminating a pathway toward vocation for all who seek the true calling of their lives.

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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation + A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life + The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
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From Amazon

The old Quaker adage, "Let your life speak," spoke to author Parker J. Palmer when he was in his early 30s. It summoned him to a higher purpose, so he decided that henceforth he would live a nobler life. "I lined up the most elevated ideals I could find and set out to achieve them," he writes. "The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque.... I had simply found a 'noble' way of living a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart."

Thirty years later, Palmer now understands that learning to let his life speak means "living the life that wants to live in me." It involves creating the kind of quiet, trusting conditions that allow a soul to speak its truth. It also means tuning out the noisy preconceived ideas about what a vocation should and shouldn't be so that we can better hear the call of our wild souls. There are no how-to formulas in this extremely unpretentious and well-written book, just fireside wisdom from an elder who is willing to share his mistakes and stories as he learned to live a life worth speaking about. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

A gifted academic who formerly combined a college teaching career with community organizing, Palmer took a year's sabbatical to live at the "intentional" Quaker community of Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania. Instead of leaving at year's end, he became the community's dean of studies and remained there for 10 years. Palmer (The Courage to Teach) shares the lessons of his vocational and spiritual journey, discussing his own burnout and intense depression with exceptional candor and clarity. In essays that previously appeared in spiritual or educational journals and have been reworked to fit into this slim volume, he suggests that individuals are most authentic when they follow their natural talents and limitations, as his own story demonstrates. Since hearing one's "calling" requires introspection and self-knowledge (as suggested by the eponymous Quaker expression), Palmer encourages inner work such as journal-writing, meditation and prayer. Recognizing that his philosophy is at odds with popular, essentially American attitudes about self-actualization and following one's dreams, Palmer calls vocation "a gift, not a goal." He deftly illustrates his point with examples from the lives of people he admires, such as Rosa Parks, Annie Dillard and Vaclav Havel. A quiet but memorable addition to the inspirational field, this book has the quality of a finely worked homily. The writing displays a gentle wisdom and economy of style that leaves the reader curious for more insight into the author's Quaker philosophy. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stopping and listening... July 14 2003
One thing that our world does not encourage very well is stopping and listening -- stopping and listening to each other, stopping and listening to life around us, or stopping and listening even to ourselves. This is a skill that, given our cultural conditioning, must be cultivated. That is one of the things that this book by Parker Palmer, 'Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation', strives to do -- to help the reader, the seeker, to be more attentive to life.
Palmer is a well-known author in the area of vocational care and consideration. I first encountered Palmer's writing in another book, The Courage to Teach, as various of us explored the meanings of our vocations as educators in the fields of theology and ministry.
Palmer states at the outset in his Gratitudes (a wonderful substitution from the typical words Preface or Introduction) that these chapters have in various guises appeared before. However, they have been re-written to fit together as a complete and unified whole for the purpose of exploring vocation.
Chapter 1: Listening to Life, starts as an exploration through poetry and Palmer's own experience in vocation. What is one called to do? What is the source of vocation? Palmer states: 'Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about -- quite apart from what I would like it to be about -- or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.'
The very word vocation implies both voice and calling. Crucial to this understanding is that one must be present and attentive to hear that voice, that call.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if Not Useful Feb. 4 2004
I found this book to be an interesting read into one man's journey toward self-discovery. He has some good insights into how one might take a different view of the world and find one's true vocation.
From my perspective, it was a bit too self-absorbed and self-engrandizing. I would recommend this book to anyone that is depressed about his or her life and needs to find a potential source of comfort. If you have a fairly good sense of self, this book may not be of great benefit.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointed Feb. 3 2003
By A Customer
This book is little more than a (mercifully) short autobiography of an arrogant and misguided know-it-all. Think of the most self-centered and obnoxious person you know, and then ask yourself if you'd want to read a book they'd written about their own life. To me the book was hard to read because I found the author's personality so annoying. Even when he admits to making mistakes, he strongly hints that it was because he was more intelligent or more ethical than everyone else around him.
Also, throughout the book, he kept blowing the trumpet and waving the banner of his Liberal politics. He apologized a few times for being born a white male, but then he used it as an excuse because, he says, our society teaches all white males that they can do anything they want to do in life. And he feels the pain of all who are not white males because, he says time and again, that our society is, apparently without exception, sexist, racist and homophobic. In one overwrought metaphor, he advises that we should all strive to be like Rosa Parks and sit down on the bus of life and name and claim what is ours. Huh?
Palmer has, for now, concluded that his vocation is to be a writer. Based on this book, I can't agree. Therefore, I cannot recommend a book on vocation written by someone who has apparently chosen the wrong vocation.
If you're looking for a book that is truly full of wisdom, get Thomas Merton's, No Man Is An Island. The entire book sings, and it contains an excellent chapter on vocation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vocation comes from within Dec 20 2006
By frodo
This is a book which will be most meaningful to those who are asking the same kinds of questions related to vocation and purpose which Palmer explores. If one is not at that point (ie. not interested in self-exploration, personal vocation, or integrity between actions and heart), then it will probably seem "self-engrandizing", as one reviewer so eloquently put it.

This book's main theme is finding vocation by listening to one's inner self, not to outer voices. Palmer shows how he spent so much of his life hearing the latter (doing what was expected of him, pursuing a career that did not fit his personality and passion) and therefore was not moving in the right direction; listening to the inner voice (which is so much a part of his Quaker religion) got him on the right track. He talks about how our failures, as much as our successes, can help us understand who we are and what we are meant to do and be.

(By the way I was surprised to read the review by grace (who "likes indiana alot", even its streets--wow!) who says Palmer has not gone through anything "truely" bad. Perhaps two bouts of clinical depression don't meet her qualifications!)

This is a quiet, reflective book that invites the reader to go on an inner journey. If you are looking for excitement and page-turning adventure, you should definitely not buy this.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars fluffy. very, very fluffy.
my god, what an obnoxious, over-wrought, self-important heap of nonsense. this man thinks far too highly of his life story, which is low on anything truely trying and high on... Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2004 by grace tilton
5.0 out of 5 stars Validating....
This book is an inspiration for those feeling "the pull"--the struggle between "what society tells me I should be doing" and "what I feel I need/was born... Read more
Published on Dec 4 2003 by melissa bride
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal
This book should be required reading for all high school seniors. Barring that, it should be required reading for every college freshman. I wish I had read it 30 years ago. Read more
Published on July 30 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Quaker insights to life's paths and struggles
I was moved by Palmer's openess on avoiding and eventually confronting depression, fear of failure, and the what of what really matters. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2003 by Tim the Siegel
5.0 out of 5 stars Living life with purpose!
To discover the purpose and meaning in life is an aspiration that all people desire and seek. Many live a lifetime never finding their true purpose for why they were born and what... Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2002 by wayne
5.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Powerful
This Parker Palmer book touched me so deeply that I purchased it for each of my teachers (I am head of a private school). Read more
Published on June 21 2002 by Greg Feldmeth
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be fooled by the cheesy cover
This is a smart book for all faithfilled people looking to make a vocation change or take stock in their life. Read more
Published on March 19 2002 by S. C. Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent and elegant - truths distilled from being real
Appreciators of Parker Palmer should know that this is, in this reader's opinion, the best he has ever written. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars PHENMONENAL!!!!
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Parker J. Palmer has a way of using words and stories to captivate the reader. Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2001 by Vickie Lynn Allen
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