How much of an understatement is it to say that we need inspiration in this day and age? When the world is riven with war, pestilence and those other horsemen of the Apocalypse, a bit of hopefulness is just the thing.
AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE AND LEGEND
The late Louis Zamperini—the Olympic athlete and war hero who died in July at age 97—was indeed an inspiration. He wrote about his POW nightmare in Devil at My Heels, and Laura Hillenbrand chronicled his experiences in the bestseller Unbroken. In the last book from Zamperini, Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life, co-written with David Rensin, he mines his experiences for advice that will encourage others. Even as a young man, he had the gumption to turn his excess energy into something positive and became a champion athlete. His ebullience led him to set up camps for delinquent boys. In his twilight years, Zamperini carried the Olympic torch and went skateboarding. He also fully appreciated getting hugs from Angelina Jolie, whose film of Unbroken opens on Christmas Day.
THE POWER TO FORGIVE
Thank goodness for Anne Lamott. Her writing style, both unfussy and diaphanous, her congeniality, loopy humor and dogged optimism are balms. Her latest book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace is a gem. In addition to hope, she also brings anger, even rage, and uses it like a finely honed weapon. Because of her rage—at ridiculous men found on match.com, at politicians both heartless and gormless, at perfect, stay-at-home moms who wear size 0 and run around in biker shorts, at her rather grotesque mother, long-dead father and the state of the world in general—much of the book also focuses on forgiveness. Forgiveness may be a useful thing, she says, but people often need to be dragged to it kicking and screaming. According to Lamott, forgiveness probably needs one of those improbable moments of grace to happen at all. Surely, when it comes to questions of faith, Lamott is to essay writing what Marilynne Robinson is to fiction. Awesome.
ABOVE & BEYOND
Eric Metaxas, author of Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, certainly believes in miracles, those eruptions of the ineffable into the mundane. He has no patience with those who think what the human being can discern with five senses is all there is. The miracles Metaxas writes of here range from the spectacular to what can be called “miracle light.” One of his acquaintances, a very British, High Church Anglican type, sees 50-foot angels in full battle rattle. Others see an incandescent Jesus or are healed at the last minute from deathly illnesses. Metaxas has no use for subtlety; these miracles only happen through the intercession of Jesus. But his writing, and the miracles he describes, encourage all of us to ponder the possible.