On his final television show, Bill Moyers will discuss the concept of reverence with essayist and author Barry Lopez. The two plan to discuss ideas from Dean Paul Woodruff’s book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue, in addition to Lopez’s further ideas about reverence.
Lopez defines reverence as understanding “that the world will always be there, no matter how sophisticated our technologies of probing reality become. The great mystery will be there forever. And it’s the sense that it’s not yours to solve. And the issue of a solution to a mystery is perhaps not a sign of wisdom. I am perfectly comfortable being in a state of ignorance before something incomprehensible. And it’s in that moment that you’re driven to your knees and you believe— I wouldn’t call it religious. It’s just what happens when you open up again to the extraordinary circumstances of being alive.”
In the introduction to Reverence, Dean Woodruff writes, “I cannot claim divine wisdom, and so I cannot offer a full account of any of the virtues, least of all reverence. My schema for reverence looks like this: Reverence is the well-developed capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect, and shame when those are the right feelings to have. This says that reverence is a good thing, but not much more, except by pointing to further questions. Sometimes it is right to be respectful and sometimes wrong; that’s obvious. Sometimes our feelings should rise to the level of awe, but not always. So when should we be respectful, and how deep should our respect be in each case? Of what should we be in awe? No capsule definition will tell you that. Nor can any human wisdom give you a complete and final answer. The best answer I can give is this book.”
In his nonfiction, Mr. Lopez writes often about the relationship between the physical landscape and human culture. In his fiction, he frequently addresses issues of intimacy, ethics, and identity. His first stories were published in 1966. He has been a full-time writer since leaving graduate school in 1970 but occasionally accepts invitations to teach and lecture. He has been the Welch professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, has taught fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and travels regularly to Texas Tech University where he is the university’s visiting distinguished scholar. Read more on Lopez’s website.