be reckless when it comes to affairs of the heart.

In May of 2015, Parker Palmer takes the podium before Naropa  University’s  graduating class and deliveres a moving, profound and enriching  commencement address.

Some highlights are reported below:


Be reckless when it comes to affairs of the heart.


What I really mean … is be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you.


To grow in love and service, you — I, all of us — must value ignorance as much as knowledge and failure as much as success… Clinging to what you already know and do well is the path to an unlived life. So, cultivate beginner’s mind, walk straight into your not-knowing, and take the risk of failing and falling again and again, then getting up again and again to learn — that’s the path to a life lived large, in service of love, truth, and justice.


As you integrate ignorance and failure into your knowledge and success, do the same with all the alien parts of yourself. Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief.  […] Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.


As you welcome whatever you find alien within yourself, extend that same welcome to whatever you find alien in the outer world. I don’t know any virtue more important these days than hospitality to the stranger, to those we perceive as “other” than us.

The old majority in this society, people who look like me, is on its way out. By 2045 the majority of Americans will be people of color… Many in the old majority fear that fact, and their fear, shamelessly manipulated by too many politicians, is bringing us down. The renewal this nation needs will not come from people who are afraid of otherness in race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.


Take on big jobs worth doing — jobs like the spread of love, peace, and justice. That means refusing to be seduced by our cultural obsession with being effective as measured by short-term results. […] Our heroes take on impossible jobs and stay with them for the long haul because they live by a standard that trumps effectiveness. The name of that standard, I think, is faithfulness — faithfulness to your gifts, faithfulness to your perception of the needs of the world, and faithfulness to offering your gifts to whatever needs are within your reach. […] The tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness the smaller the tasks we’ll take on, because they are the only ones that get short-term results… Care about being effective, of course, but care even more about being faithful … to your calling, and to the true needs of those entrusted to your care.


The good news is that suffering can be transformed into something that brings life, not death. It happens every day. I’m 76 years old, I now know many people who’ve suffered the loss of the dearest person in their lives. At first they go into deep grief, certain that their lives will never again be worth living. But then they slowly awaken to the fact that not in spite of their loss, but because of it, they’ve become bigger, more compassionate people, with more capacity of heart to take in other people’s sorrows and joys. These are broken-hearted people, but their hearts have been broken open, rather than broken apart.

So, every day, exercise your heart by taking in life’s little pains and joys — that kind of exercise will make your heart supple, the way a runner makes a muscle supple, so that when it breaks, (and it surely will,) it will break not into a fragment grenade, but into a greater capacity for love.


If you hold a healthy awareness of your own mortality, your eyes will be opened to the grandeur and glory of life, and that will evoke all of the virtues I’ve named, as well as those I haven’t, such as hope, generosity, and gratitude.

“We listen for guidance everywhere except from within”

Illustration from ‘About Time’ by Vahram Muratyan.

Illustration from ‘About Time’ by Vahram Muratyan.

“What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been! How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity — the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.”


“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”


“If the self seeks not pathology but wholeness, as I believe it does, then the willful pursuit of vocation is an act of violence toward ourselves — violence in the name of a vision that, however lofty, is forced on the self from without rather than grown from within. True self, when violated, will always resist us, sometimes at great cost, holding our lives in check until we honor its truth. 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.”


“Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live — but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life”.

(Parker J. Palmer,  Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, 1999)

d’una vaga incipriatura estetica

Giovanni Boldini, "Donna Franca Florio)

“Chi era ella mai?
Era uno spirito senza equilibrio in un corpo voluttuario. A similitudine di tutte le creature avide di piacere, ella aveva per fondamento del suo essere morale uno smisurato egoismo. La sua facoltà precipua, il suo asse intellettuale, per dir così, era l’immaginazione: una immaginazione romantica, nutrita di letture diverse, direttamente dipendente dalla matrice, continuamente stimolata dall’isterismo. Possedendo una certa intelligenza, essendo stata educata nel lusso d’una casa romana principesca, in quel lusso papale fatto di arte e di storia, ella erasi velata d’una vaga incipriatura estetica, aveva acquistato un gusto elegante; ed avendo anche compreso il carattere della sua bellezza, ella cercava, con finissime simulazioni e con una mimica sapiente, di accrescerne la spiritualità, irraggiando una capziosa luce d’ideale.
Ella portava quindi, nella commedia umana, elementi pericolosissimi; ed era occasion di ruina e di disordine più che s’ella facesse pubblica professione d’impudicizia.
(Gabriele D’Annunzio, “Il piacere”)

… the mountain disappears


“I believe in people. I feel, love, need, and respect people above all else, including the arts, natural scenery, organized piety, or nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the whole mountain disappear for me. One person fighting for the truth can disqualify for me the platitudes of centuries. And one human being who meets with injustice can render invalid the entire system which has dispensed it […] I believe in man’s unconscious mind, the deep spring from which comes his power to communicate and to love. For me, all art is a combination of these powers; for if love is the way we have of communicating personally in the deepest way, then what art can do is to extend this communication, magnify it, and carry it to vastly greater numbers of people. Therefore art is valid for the warmth and love it carries within it, even if it be the lightest entertainment, or the bitterest satire, or the most shattering tragedy […] We must encourage thought, free and creative. We must respect privacy. We must observe taste by not exploiting our sorrows, successes, or passions. We must learn to know ourselves better through art. We must rely more on the unconscious, inspirational side of man. We must not enslave ourselves to dogma. We must believe in the attainability of good. We must believe, without fear, in people”.

(Leonard Bernstein in “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” edited by  Jay Allison,  Holt Paperbacks, 2007)

nella quale l’accadere del mondo è sospeso qua e là

(Cecil Beaton, "Self-Portrait with Mick Jagger"1968)

(Cecil Beaton, “Self-Portrait with Mick Jagger”1968)

«Sensazione di poter comprendere Poe molto meglio ora […]  Grande estensione orizzontale dell’appartamento. Fuga di stanze […] Non è più il cordiale e socievole permanere nella stanza, è invece un esserci intessuti, una tela di ragno nella quale l’accadere del mondo è sospeso qua e là […] è un’ebbrezza vischiosa, in cui le cose sono solo manichini  e odorano dell’ ambiguo ammiccare del nirvana».

(W. Benjamin, “Verbale del 18 aprile 1931”, Sull’hashish, Einaudi, 2010, traduzione di Giorgio Backhaus)