On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times

Metropolitan.  ed. Nov. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780805055214. $26.99. REL
How does one find meaning in life and have hope for the future if they have no religious belief? This is a central question of Ignatieff’s (The Ordinary Virtues) new book. The book’s immediate context, with the challenges and crises associated with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, makes this question particularly relevant. Ignatieff focuses on the concept of consolation, or finding solace in the face of such realities as tragedy, anxiety, and failure. He views consolation as the opposite of resignation, in that one struggles against these challenges and finds individual and shared meaning in the face of them; consolation also involves hope, with the opportunity to begin again after disaster or defeat. Ignatieff addresses consolation here by examining historical figures and their writings to demonstrate how they drew upon their religious traditions in difficult situations; among them are Biblical figures (Job; Paul), philosophers (Boethius; David Hume), politicians (Cicero; Marcus Aurelius; Abraham Lincoln), literary figures (Dante; Albert Camus), artists (El Greco), and musicians (Gustav Mahler).
VERDICT Readers interested in history or philosophy (whether or not they are religious), will find Ignatieff’s blend of spirituality and self-help to be particularly significant.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing