Sarah L. Kaufman is the dance critic of the Washington Post, where she’s written about the arts, sports and culture for more than 20 years. Her many journalism awards include the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism.
In this wonderful and enticing book, Kaufman explores grace as a way of living that is comprised of moving at ease in the world, being sensitive to the needs of others, and being at peace with oneself. She points to the three charities of Greek mythology where those possessing this character quality are givers of charm, beauty, and balance. She defines grace as "refined sense of movement and manner, as a way of pleasing, assisting, and honoring others."
With lovely lyrical passages, Kaufman pays tribute to her own "Hit Parade" of graceful individuals in movies, dance, sports, fashion, and music. They include Cary Grant (the epitome of graceful qualities in his performances), Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margot Fonteyn, Smokey Robinson, Olga Korbut, Beyonce, Greg Louganis, Roger Federer, and others.
We are living in age which the author characterizes as having a "grace gap." Our competitive society has no respect for empathy or serving the less fortunate. Our "Culture of Coarseness" is characterized by road rage, hardhearted employers, rudeness in public places, sleazy politicians, and an inability to carry on deep conversations.
Yet, there is no need to give up hope since grace is a skill that can be taught and we can all develop it. Practice good manners. When exiting an airplane or a theater, let others go ahead of you by saying "Go ahead, I’m in no hurry." Don’t get bent out of shape when you make an error or take a pratfall; it is all part of being a real and vulnerable human being. Drop out of conversations where one is gossiping about or sniping at other persons. Follow His Holiness the Dalia Lama’s advice and be kind to others as much as you can. While you’re at it, meditate on Jack Kerouac’s suggestion: "Nothing else in this world matters but the kindness of grace, God’s gift to suffering mortals." And don’t miss Kaufman’s "Ten Tips For Moving Well Through Life."
Plenty of theologians and religious writers have probed grace but we have to say, The Art of Faith is one of the most wise, capacious, and multidimensional tributes to this virtue we've ever read. Kaufman also covers the grace of God, humor, walking, vaudeville, gratitude, and religion. Even the connection between grace and posture merits thoughtful and detailed attention.