within and without

I’ve been in a men’s book club for about two years now.

This time last year, we read Parker J. Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. Much of the book is spent exploring how to draw out one’s soul in a world of compartmentalization. Palmer makes the case we must reflect in quiet solitude for the purpose of allowing our souls to emerge, like quietly awaiting an animal in the woods. (If ever there was a time to reflect in quiet solitude, last year was it…)

My book club recently read and discussed an excerpt from Alan Jacobs’ Breaking Bread with the Dead, a book I’ve been enjoying over the past few weeks. In contrast to Palmer, Jacobs makes the case that a more tranquil mind is achieved by engaging with texts of those long since passed, which expands one’s understanding of the now.

While discussing this book last week, one of the men in my group highlighted the contrast between these two writers. He spoke about the contradictory nature of the quest for self, how it requires both looking within, but also looking without. It made me think about that idea that each of us in relationship with one another is really just the universe, experiencing itself.

from one of my sketchbooks

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others,” Palmer writes. “Rather, it means never living apart from one’s self.”

Reading is great. Reading with other people is even better.