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Parker Palmer
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February 20, 2009

The collapse of the U.S. housing market at the heart of the recent financial crisis is also, according to Parker Palmer, the collapse of a series of long-held illusions in American society: that housing prices will always rise, that Americans can live beyond their means forever, and that the growing gap between rich and poor doesn't matter.

Everyone realized the system was unsustainable, Palmer, a writer, traveling teacher and activist, told Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL, but, "We don't want to know what we really know, because if we did, we'd have to change our lives."

Palmer draws on his own experience with clinical depression for his analyis. Parker believes depression, for a society and for an individual, presents an opportunity to find a workable reality:

I got tremendous help from a therapist at one point — in one of my depressions — who said to me, "Parker, you seem to keep treating this experience as if depression were the hand of an enemy trying to crush you. Would it be possible to re-image depression as the hand of a friend trying to press you down to ground on which it's safe to stand?" Well, those words didn't mean much to me immediately because when you're there, you can't hear that kind of counsel. But they grew on me, those words did.
Palmer believes that for the United States, as himself, illusions lead to dark moments, and Americans must take this moment to ground themselves: "Reality won't let you down. It is what it is. And we have to learn to deal with it. So I think there are dramatic parallels. And I would say to us collectively — to the extent that I have any right to do that — what my therapist said to me."

>>Find depression resources on

Parker Palmer
Parker J. Palmer is founder and senior partner of the national Center for Courage & Renewal , which oversees "Courage to Teach" and "Courage to Lead" programs for people in the serving professions, including education, medicine, ministry, law and philanthropy. For fifteen years, he served as Senior Associate of the American Association of Higher Education. He now serves as Senior Advisor to the Fetzer Institute.

A writer, traveling teacher and activist, Dr. Palmer focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. His work speaks to people in many walks of life, including public schools, college and universities, religious institutions, corporations, foundations and grass-roots organizations.

He has published a dozen poems, some two hundred essays and seven books, including several best-selling and award-winning titles: A HIDDEN WHOLENESS, LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK, THE COURAGE TO TEACH, THE ACTIVE LIFE, TO KNOW AS WE ARE KNOWN, THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS, and THE PROMISE OF PARADOX.

Dr. Palmer's work has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates, two Distinguished Achievement Awards from the National Educational Press Association, an Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press, and major grants from the Danforth Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, and the Fetzer Institute.

Parker J. Palmer received the Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. A member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), he lives with his wife, Sharon Palmer, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Published February 20, 2009.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.

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References and Reading:

Writings by Parker Palmer

The Center for Courage and Renewal
"Since 1997, the Center for Courage & Renewal has helped foster personal and professional renewal through retreats that offer the time and space to reflect on life and work."

"Published in the January 12, 2004 issue of The Nation Despair Is Not an Option"
by William Sloane Coffin, THE NATION, January 12, 2004. William Sloane Coffin outlines what he feels the U.S. response to the September 11, 2001 attacks should have been.

Depression Resources

"Depression: Out of the Shadows"
Part of the TAKE ONE STEP series from PBS, DEPRESSION: OUT OF THE SHADOWS weaves together the science and treatment of depression with intimate portrayals of families and individuals coping with its wide-ranging effects.

Depression Resources
These resources from the TAKE ONE STEP series offer real-life suggestions for coping with depression.

Published February 20, 2009.

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Online tools for tracking campaign contributions and lobbyist dollars.

Parker Palmer
Bill Moyers sits down with Parker J. Palmer, founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, for a conversation about maintaining spiritual wholeness even as the economy and political order seem to come apart.

Explore essays and videos of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL guests laying out their vision for the future of the American dream in this web-only project.

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