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Manifesto by UST’s Dr. Joshua Hren Counters a State of Civilizational Crisis with Artistic Action

New Book Argues for Contemplative Realism

In Dr. Joshua Hren’s new book, “Contemplative Realism: A Theological-Aesthetical Manifesto,” the reader confronts our present age of raging post-truth unreality by asking us to “ask rather more carefully what ‘the real’ actually is.” If Pope Benedict XVI is not wrong, and “the man who puts to one side the reality of God is a realist only in appearance,” then we ought to ask with unflinching intensity and absolute openness: what is real?” The co-developer of the new Catholic creative writing MFA at the University of St. Thomas-Houston has pondered the question for years.

Mediating Reality to Stimulate the Soul

He answers that contemplative realism will happen. Contemplative realism is a term Hren has given “to any kind of art, especially literature, that mediates reality to the reader in such a way that the soul is stimulated into a kind of radical attentiveness to both the brokenness of reality, its darkness, its brutality, its ugliness, while simultaneously never losing sight of the beauty that always exists.”

Learning to “See Well”

Sight is a concern of Hren’s. He maintains that we are losing ours. “Our ability to see is severely in decline,” he says. “Our very sense of life, of experience of interior and exterior sensation. Our ability to sort between that which is precious around us and that which is dubious around us. All of these are threatened with obscurity blinkered by warring ideologies and technological innovations that promise to provide clear windows but instead function as unreal filters, often distorting the mind’s ability to have a communion with reality. So, the contemplative realist strives to inculcate the ability in everyone to see clearly under such circumstances, something that requires continual attentiveness, continual self-correction, continual and communal reference to the visions of others who are similarly engaged. Because to act well, we must first learn to see well.”

Dr. Johsua Hren, author and co-developer of UST's new Creative Writing MFAWatch and Listen to Dr. Hren

In an online video, Hren refers to his 19,000-word manifesto as an essay, which he wrote to “galvanize like-minded souls into artistic action.” The manifesto has been signed by such notable figures as Canadian Catholic painter and novelist Michael D. O’Brien, and Shane Claiborne, founder of the new monasticism movement.

Dr. Hren, founder of Wiseblood Books, is an extraordinary thinker and writer and a captivating speaker who “sees” that we are in a state of civilizational crisis and proposes contemplative realism as a soulful response.

 Sparking a Movement

He intends to spark a genuine movement of artists, scholars, critics and art lovers. Individuals are welcome to read and sign a condensed version of his manifesto in support of the contemplative realism movement at the Benedict XVI Institute here.

Meanwhile, all interested individuals are invited to his new book event online on Feb. 23, 2022, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. CST. Find information and register here.