Image editor Greg Wolfe produced a book entitled “Beauty Will Save the World,” and every so often I return to it to remind myself that being human is a good thing. Mako Fujimura has also written on a similar topic in his book “Refractions” and I recommend getting acquainted with both Wolfe and Fujimura as soon as you can. I tell you this because the idea that a superior beauty can eclipse the darkness of this world and shine light at any moment in to no good, very bad days–this very idea is why I picked up Dwight Longenecker’s The Romance of Religion. The book is sub-titled “Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty” and it explores romance not in flowers and candy, but more akin to Byron and what happens when you stroll through the Lake District in awe of rolling hills and water.
As I said, the topic of the book means a great deal to me. The book itself, though, has trouble picking up speed and allowing readers to get lost in their own romantic world. And in this vein, the book is challenging. And frankly that’s the difficulty of writing on beauty. It’s often better to be illustrated or shown than described or defined. In four parts and twenty chapters, Longenecker trumpets the call for the importance of story, the idea of romance, and there are indeed memorable lines. He writes that “cynicism and despair exist like parasites on belief and hope,” (11). And he’s exactly right. Many columnists and pundits opine in a sea of cynical banter foregoing their opportunity to make the world a better place. Our culture is short on people who not only see the glass as half full, but are willing to drink the thing.
Considering the death of Christ and what it means for us all, Longenecker writes that “we do not want to respond to such a stupendous truth with mere logic alone. We do not want to simply accept a dogma when we can accept a transformation.” That is a golden thought and a great sentence. And there are lots of lines worth keeping in this book and for that reason, I won’t speak ill of it. I will simply say that this book has confirmed for me that beauty and goodness are better illustrated through vivid characters and stories than they are explanations and exhortations. After all, beauty must capture the imagination to endure and once beauty sticks in your dreams, then it becomes romantic. This is a decent book. This is a solid book. This book, though, didn’t capture my imagination which is something to aspire to. If your imagination becomes enthralled, then yes, there’s a chance beauty can actually change things….
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLookers program in exchange for an honest review)
Lisa Gerrard, to me, can stop traffic with her voice. Feel free to pause and, well, ponder if beauty can save the world.