Beauty in a Dark Time

by Michael Potemra


Gregory Wolfe, well known as the founder and editor of Image magazine, has just published an interesting book of cultural recoveries called Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age. Some of the subjects he discusses are among my own favorites (Shusako Endo’s novel Silence, the poetry of Geoffrey Hill), others were previously unknown to me (southern historical novelist Andrew Lytle; painters Fred Folsom, Mary McCleary, and Makoto Fujimura), but all his discussion is imbued with the same sense of art as capable of pointing to redemption.

In his fourth chapter, I learned a remarkable fact that I think will be as surprising to many others as it was to me. Robert Bolt, author of A Man for All Seasons — the play and film about St. Thomas More that is beloved of many religious people, conservatives, and others — “was a multiply married, luxury-loving, alcoholic atheist . . . [who] not long after throwing off his [childhood] Methodist faith . . . became a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.” I was delighted to learn this: It’s yet another example of how God, and the Muses, make brilliant use of broken vessels.