I’m a Parker Palmer fan and couldn’t resist picking up The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life when I saw it in the little library here at the Ghost Ranch. This book was first written in 1980 and has been updated and rereleased.
In the first third of the book, Palmer reflects on Trappist monk,Thomas Merton‘s writing on paradox, concentrating on Merton’s image of living his life in the belly of a paradox, on how the cross urges us to hold contradictions, e.g. you must lose your life to keep it, together in tension.
Ironically or providentially, tension and contradiction came up in a discussion I had earlier the day I read this. We have this desire to resolve tension, to get rid of it. We don’t like holding oppositions in our minds and hearts.
Well, Palmer and Merton urge us to be patient, to see that the cross symbolizes and teaches us to bear these tensions. The book is full of potent quotations and is quite engrossing in the beginning.
As the book continues, I lost interest as Palmer moved onto other themes. The part on his Way of the Cross was relevant. However, as the book veered into discussions on education, my interest waned. I felt I’d read this before in other places and that it was just filler. Though I agree with Palmer’s opinions, I felt the end of the book didn’t fit with the beginning. Perhaps if I read his introduction, I’d get what his reasoning was for the last section, but I feel a reader shouldn’t have to read the introduction, that the intro is just an extra. The main text should be sufficient onto itself. Perhaps the cover should bill this as a collection of essays.