Saving the World: One Story at a Time

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How do images and atmosphere shape how we think?

Of course beauty won’t save the world. That’s preposterous. Except, when we hear Dostoevsky initially dropped the phrase, then we’re not so sure. Like obedient lab rats, we’ve been trained to always agree with Dostoevsky. Even when we don’t know what he’s talking about.

Greg Wolfe—the founder of Image Journal and one of the preeminent thinkers on religion and art—doesn’t bandy about the title for marketing purposes (though, let’s be honest, it’s great for that, too). BWSTW explores the dotted line between art and ideology, and seeks out those places where beauty—whether in a book or a painting (sorry, film buffs)—makes us pause, catch our collective breath, and wonder.

Art, he writes, is especially important in our world, because where truth claims are weakened, images and atmosphere shape how we think.

Naturally, any piece of art does carry with it a certain *gasp* ideology, because it comes from a woman or a man with certain opinions, a certain message they wish to convey—even if that message can only be conveyed in a story or image. Wolfe rightly insists, however, that a good piece of art is more than its message; it presents a human understanding that breaks apart a tidy ideology. These deep things that make us human (like connection with place, suffering, or living in paradox) are not just entertaining, but spiritual in a sense. All good art, whether about romance or alienation, reminds us of who we really are and who we really can be. In this sense, like a fervent prayer or holy writ or even a good conversation, this spiritual side of art—of beauty—might just be what we need to be saved.