Sunday 19 August 2018

The Gift of Bafflement

“I’m not an expert on much, but I’m curious, easily confused, even lost, and often in need of finding a way through and out. Writing has been my primary way of puzzling out one bafflement in order to plunge into the next...[W]riting is sometimes a form of prayer for me.”
- Parker J. Palmer,
On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old
(Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland, California, 2018), 
pages 87 and 98.

Today’s blog post is a celebration of the Quaker sage, Parker Palmer. I have just finished his latest book, quoted above. And what a marvel of wisdom, humility, and humanity it is.

I first encountered Parker Palmer in 1998 when I read his seminal book for educators, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life (Jossey-Bass Publishers), a book that became a touchstone for my classroom practice. I was privileged to participate in a retreat Palmer led in 1999 in rural Pennsylvania. My autographed copy of The Courage to Teach is a treasured possession.

His new book is an extended meditation on aging. He is now 80 years old. The book not only looks back with candour; it also looks ahead to the challenges of ageing – an integration of past wisdom with future potential. And he finds much to baffle and confuse him. By recasting bafflement and confusion as gifts rather than obstacles, he adds a sense of wonder and humanity to his journey.

It is a marvellous read – nourishment for the soul.

The book speaks to me profoundly as a photographer. At the risk of being presumptuous, let me reword the opening quotation: “Photography has been my primary way of puzzling out one bafflement in order to plunge into the is sometimes a form of prayer for me.”

Indeed, photography is a form of prayer for me. A way to address doubts, confusions, and ambiguities. A way to navigate bafflement and find beauty in unexpected places.

My photography is better because of Parker Palmer.

I hope you enjoy these photos, all recorded in the last two weeks in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.

If you wish to explore Parker Palmer further, please check out these YouTube links:

The Primacy of the Soul (4 minutes Link )

The Wisdom of the Heart (3 minutes, 11 seconds Link)

Living from the Inside Out (18 minutes, 58 seconds Link)

“Abide” – Carrie Newcomer sings a poem by Parker Palmer (4 minutes, 13 seconds Link)

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