Friday, November 25, 2011


by Paul Woodruff

I learned about Paul Woodruff several months ago while watching one of the last episodes of Bill Moyers.  I had never seen the show but have admired Moyers and was saddened to hear the show was ending.  I wanted to TiVo all the episodes but I was too late on the scene.

I ordered Woodruff's book thinking my husband would enjoy it but, as things turn out, I read it instead.  At times the philosophy end of things was a little much for me but the major concepts were relished.  I used lots of Bookdarts and have already enjoyed rereading passages.

Woodruff defines reverence as "the capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect, and shame when these are the right feelings to have."  He presents his reasons for writing a book on reverence, among others because "reverence lies behind civility and all of the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant" and "reverence fosters leadership and education.  Reverence kindles warmth in friendship and family life."  "Unlike rules, virtues (like reverence) give us strength to live well and to avoid bad choices.  Reverence gives us the ability to shudder at going wrong."  We live in a world where rules are passed that govern every minute detail of our life - how much better off we would be if we all cultivated reverence.

"Reverence stands in awe of something--something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits--so that we can begin to see one another more reverently as well.  An irreverent soul who is unable to feel awe in the presence of things higher than the self is also unable to feel respect in the presence of things it sees as lower than the self."   I think that something Woodruff speaks of is nature, God, truth, people's talents, the workings of our bodies, love, integrity, sacrifice - well, the list can go on and on and it should.

Being a teacher, a post shared by each of us, I especially liked the chapter dealing with education.  "Reverent teachers believe that students can match them in hunger after knowledge, that they can learn what they wish to, and that they need to make learning their own."  And, "At every level in the ladder of learning there are human beings perched with astonishing--but limited--powers of understanding and creativity.  Obviously they are unequal in attainments; that is why they need to be reminded of the equality they have in reverence for the the truth."

I'm glad I happened upon that Bill Moyers show and was introduced to Woodruff and his insightful book on reverence.

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