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A Rumour of God: Rekindling Belief in an Age of Disenchantment Paperback – Oct 28 2010
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The Telegraph Journal
Published Saturday March 5th, 2011
A Rumour of God, by Ottawa Citizen journalist and political scientist Robert Sibley, is a gallimaufry of sources, citations, impressions, ruminations and allusions. It is, in part, political commentary, philosophical essay, theological reflection and personal memoir. But mostly, it is a sustained meditation, the outpourings of a peripatetic savant (and Sibley does love his walks).
The book is framed by his pilgrimages - and there are many, including most prominently the Camino de Santiago in Spain and the Shikoku no Michi in Japan. It is also peppered with numerous recollections of wilderness trips into the Canadian north and along the coasts of Vancouver Island.
But Sibley's perambulations are not just in the rugged regions of the Canadian landscape; he walks reflectively and with acute antennae feels the pulse and "thisness" of the parks and streets of Ottawa and London, England.
Sibley walks his thoughts and thinks his walks. A creative conjunction.
The essays on topics that would thrill a social anthropologist such as Margaret Visser or a novelist like Jane Urquhart - topics like home, place, solitude, wonder, pilgrimage and "everyday mysticism" - are replete with learned references and personal experiences. It's all nicely packaged in a narrative that eschews professional jargon in favour of an enlightened colloquy with the reader.
Sibley is appalled by the narrow definition of reason that reigns supreme and unquestioned in our society. Disconcerted by our collective poverty of imagination that forecloses spiritual experience, Sibley advances a cogent argument for the recovery of the numinous in the quotidian - "We do not have to surrender to the debilitating boredom of consumerism and the ersatz spectacles of entertainment."
In other words, Sibley is resolved to help us heed the urgings of awe, to attend to the "glimpses of the underglimmer" that open us to the divine embedded in the mundane, and to rebuild a culture that delights in enchantment, the mystical, the ineffable: "Television series such as The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched by an Angel, Six Feet Under, Angels in America and True Blood; movies like Star Wars, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings series (based on J.R.R. Tolkien's books) and, more recently, Avatar; books such as the Harry Potter novels and C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia - these all speak to a longing for re-enchantment, a desire to counterbalance the rationalization of the world and escape the iron cage of reason."
A Rumour of God is, in goodly measure, a distillation of the research and seminal ideas of a legion of thinkers - some eminent, some obscure, some central and some marginal - and, as a consequence, the "meditation" is frequently encumbered by a displaced gravitas.
But it is never more exuberant nor more compelling than when it is autobiographical. When Sibley draws on his own direct experience his artistic side allows for an expansiveness of vision and richness of prose that combined make for a deeply pleasurable read.
Michael W. Higgins is vice-president for mission and Catholic identity at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn. He is a former president of St. Thomas University.