Monday, August 24, 2009

Parker Palmer on the undivided life & the Rosa Parks decision

Parker Palmer:

“What I know about living a divided life starts with my training as an academic. I was taught to keep things in airtight compartments: to keep my ideas apart from my feelings, because ideas were reliable but feelings were not; to keep my theories apart from my actions, because the theory can be pure, but the action is always sullied.

For the teachers I meet around the country, the decision to live divided-no-more means teaching in a way that corresponds to the truth that they know, rather than according to the latest pedagogical fad or to whatever pressures the institution may be putting on them. These are teachers, for example, who are integrating emotional work with cognitive work in the classroom.”

At a certain juncture, some people find they must choose between allowing selfhood to die or claiming their identity and integrity. What I mean by divided-no-more is living on the outside the truth you know on the inside...

...In political/social terms, I call this the Rosa Parks decision. She essentially said, ‘I'm no longer going to behave on the outside as if I were less than the full person I know myself to be on the inside.’

How do people find the courage to bring inner convictions into harmony with outer acts, knowing the risks involved?

I think in Rosa Parks' story there's a clue: When the police came to Rosa Parks on the bus and informed her that they would have to put her in jail if she did not move, she replied, ‘You may do that.’ It was a very polite way of saying, ‘How could your jail begin to compare with the jail Ihave had myself in all these years by collaborating with this racist system?'

When you realize that you can no longer collaborate in something that violates your ownintegrity, your understanding of punishment is suddenly transformed...

...The first purpose of these communities is mutual reassurance; people help each other to understand that the ‘normal’ behavior expected by the institutions they are part of can be crazy, but that seeking integrity is always sane.

..In the movement sparked by Rosa Parks, the Black churches provided gathering places for people who needed to know that they were not alone in choosing an integral life...

I am a teacher at heart, and I am not naturally drawn to political activism. But I've found that there is no essential conflict between loving to teach and working to reform education. An authentic movement is not a play for power – it is teaching and learning writ large. Now the world becomes our classroom, and the potential to teach and learn is found everywhere. We need only be in the world as our true selves, with open hearts and minds."
-Parker Palmer interview
Ht: Geoff

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!