(Reprinted with permission from Booklist, written by Donna Seaman.)
Philosopher Paul Woodruff had an epiphany: reverence, “the virtue that keeps human beings from trying to act like gods,” has been forgotten in our society. In Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue, he writes that people practice reverence, but without understanding or valuing it. To rekindle awareness of the virtue that “lies behind civility and all the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant,” Woodruff defines reverence and explains how it makes community life possible. Drawing on two classic traditions, ancient Greek philosophy and Confucianism-as well as the poetry of Tennyson, Yeats, and Larkin, Woodruff carefully separates reverence—the sense of a greater, transcendent force, the feeling of awe we feel in the presence of beauty—from faith, showing how tyranny occurs when reverence breaks down. Like courage, reverence is not tied to any one belief system, and, as Woodruff so eloquently argues, “habits of reverence” are essential to every sphere of life, from education to politics to land management to love. Clarion and worthy, Woodruff’s treatise will give readers their own “Eureka!” moments and, one hopes, create a ripple effect.