Summary of On the Brink of Everything

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On the Brink of Everything book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Eloquent
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring


Now approaching 80, best-selling author Parker J. Palmer explores and wrestles with the recurring themes of his life: the importance of engaging with life itself and the world; connecting with younger generations; life as a writer; the quest to find meaning; and the acceptance of yourself and others. This collection of essays, reflections and poems addresses “grace, gravity and getting old.” A longtime community activist who espouses forgiveness and nonviolence, Palmer calls himself an “angry Quaker.” He describes with heartfelt emotion his disappointment with the United States’ current political leadership. Some readers might object to his interjection of politics into philosophy; others will relate to his dilemma – and will recognize it as part of Palmer’s insistence that a full life means involving yourself in the hard realities. getAbstract recommends Palmer’s moving, insightful collection to spiritual leaders; anyone yearning to live a more fulfilled, aware life; and those seeking a mentor, guide or companion on their life’s journey.

About the Author

Best-selling author, educator and activist Parker J. Palmer writes poems and essays and has written 10 books, including Promise of Paradox and Let Your Life Speak.


A Panoramic View

In the later decades of your life, you stand “on the brink of everything,” with a panoramic view of the days gone by and of the dwindling time ahead. Shedding the weight of big projects and responsibilities frees you to enjoy the simple things: a stimulating conversation, a contemplative walk or a beautiful sunrise. You may not be able to do everything you did when you were younger, but your life experience makes each activity richer and more meaningful.

Poet Dylan Thomas exhorted, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” But rather than struggle against aging, become its collaborator. Choose how to live your later years; deny aging and go down fighting, or embrace it. The older you get, the more you feel the pull of gravity. The antidote to gravity is levity. Humor eases life’s burdens and lightens the load. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.”

Fresh Perspective

Social activist and writer Courtney Martin wrote an essay, “Reuniting with Awe,” about her 16-month-old daughter’s wonder at the world. Standing on the brink of life provides a similar perspective. As death...

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    R. T. 6 months ago
    What a beautiful book. I think I’m just about old enough to start to appreciate it. A lucky find in getAbstract, as I’d have never have looked at this title otherwise.
  • Avatar
    F. H. 7 months ago

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