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A book of wonders and delight

Michael-Mayne-006Michael Mayne was at one time Head of Religious Programmes for BBC Radio, and Dean of Westminster. By this book, he was clearly wise, erudite, deeply compassionate, thoughtful, creative, and intensely and fully human.

It’s extremely hard to categorise this book.

The Dance is many faceted – The Dance of The Cosmos, The Atomic Dance, The Dance Learning to Danceof Living and of Dying.

Mayne structures the book around the seasonal and pictorial idea of the Medieval Book of Hours, dividing chapters into months of the year, their activities, and an inner poetic, mystical meaning of those activities.

Each chapter starts with a beautiful paean to the natural world, both Mayne’s own observations of what is happening in nature in that month, and the interspersed writings of poets, philosophers and naturalists, all chosen for their transcendent view.

He then explores a theme, and always, whether it is the ubiquity of Fibonacci numbers in the petals of plants, the creative urge which gives rise to Cezanne’s paintings, Mozart’s music or Shakespeare’s final plays, he draws close to a relationship between the perception of what God means, particularly within the Christian faith, and who indeed we, humans, are.

His thinking is subtle, profound, and holds paradox and the discomfort of no easy answers. Never platitudinous, deep and beautiful writing, with a graceful and light touch, this is a book to reflect on and return to.

What is the book about? – in Mayne’s words, somewhere in November, in a chapter called The Dance Of Faith, and a little flavour of his writing:

And perhaps we are most human, most what we are called to be, when we have one foot on the shore of that we know, and one foot in the mysterious, unknown ocean. This is where the poet and the painter stand, together with the best scientists and the wisest theologians: exploring, probing, digging deeper; and sometimes breaking through to a fresh realisation of truth. Art, science and theology meet and flower at the boundary of the known and the hidden

He provides movements towards answers, not prescriptions, dogmas or implacable certainties. The book is a beautiful exploration for the reader, into true mystery, true wonder, and embraces pain as well as joy.


Boucicaut Book of Hours. Wikimedia Commons

In one of Amazon’s annoying listing blips, in the UK the author of the foreword is given as the author of the book. I don’t expect Mayne, who comes across as a man of some humility, cursed and stamped too much.
Learning to Dance Amazon UK
Learning to Dance Amazon USA