The Art of Grace, On Moving Well Through Life, by Sarah L. Kaufman

book cover

Sarah Kaufman shows how grace shows up in smooth physical movement, in principled character, in habits of caring, in bravery, reserve, formality, kindness, forbearance, etc. She names a few of the graceful ones who have appeared among us.

Cary Grant

Eleanor Roosevelt

There is grace in physical movement and in humility, in good intentions, in disciplined energy, in polished habits, in acts of kindness, in dignified bearing, in elegant gestures, inconspicuousness, etc. Measures of grace may be given at birth, received through evolved generations from our ancestors who swung with ease through the trees, trying be first to the food and front-and-center in competition for the admiration of potential mates.

Ignudi are spread across the biblical panorama of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, ideals of physical perfection. Michelangelo put them there not because the bible mentions them but because the bodies are full of the grace of creation.

Grace may be practiced and learned, as when athletic movements are mastered or when courtesy becomes a habit. Kaufman tells how grace is the English word used in a spiritual sense to refer to the gift of life itself. In Christian theology forgiveness carries most of the meaning of grace, the foundational principle of hope, such a high and inspiring ideal that is thought of as the greatest gift of God.

Abby Wambach, soccer player, from ESPN Body Issue

Graceful movement is the feather in the wind: smooth but fluctuating…While it may be so subtle that you do not consciously notice it, when an actor, a dancer, an athlete, or anyone else moves smoothly and harmoniously–but not too smoothly, allowing for surprises–your eye will follow him anywhere. p. 4

Cate Blanchett, Johnny Carson, Margaret Thatcher and many others are shown as graceful public figures. We can think of our own examples. Jackie Gleason, a graceful fat man, gets his due. I thought of Oliver Hardy who was portly and graceful.

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