What is Grace?
By Sarah Kaufman
Brian, Caresse and I have founded Gracefully to explore grace in the digital age, and to examine how the idea of grace can help us tackle the challenges we face in our technology-dependent and hyper-connected lives.
But first, what do we mean by grace? It’s a lovely concept, but difficult to pin down, right? We all come to the word “grace” with different perceptions. Perhaps it’s smooth, elegant Fred Astaire-style movement. Or warm and welcoming behavior, like that friend you have with a listening ear and buckets of patience. We may also think of spiritual grace, an unseen presence showering us with unconditional love, to help us get through things.
I’ve spent my career in the world of dance, which led me to think a lot about grace, and I ended up writing a book, “The Art of Grace.” I examined the three aspects of grace--physical, social and spiritual. What do they share? A Hindu studies professor I interviewed helped me zero in on it: a sense of ease. Ease in the way we move our bodies, and in the feeling that comes over us when we watch other beautiful movers. Ease in how we connect with and treat other people.
Putting folks at ease: That’s pretty much the essence, and the pinnacle, of grace.
Grace, in all the ways we experience it, brings about a sense of ease. (Perhaps also joy, delight, wonder, gratitude... but first, there’s the “ahhh” of ease.) I think of it as the transference of ease from one entity, or one body, to another.
The more I look at grace in social settings and how grace is expressed in our bodies, I realize that grace is not just an idea--it’s a philosophy of living. It has infinite applications. Aiming for grace leads us to care for ourselves and those around us. Ease of movement comes from taking care of our bodies and being kind to ourselves. Grace helps us deepen our connections to others through awareness and compassion, through slowing down and being present, rather than distracted.
Grace enables us to offer support and receive support, to find joy in the ordinary-extraordinary and to savor small moments. In short, grace equips us not merely to exist but to flourish in the human community.
So what does this have to do with technology?
Can technology express and embody grace, and put us at ease?
Of course it can. Though sometimes it doesn’t. In this blog and on our podcast we look at grace in all aspects of our digital lives: the apps we use, the algorithms that drive them, the design of digital platforms. We look at our behavior online, and at how technology impacts us physically. (Tech neck, sedentary habits--tech can harm our bodies, but we have lots of practical tips to regain a graceful bearing.)
We discuss digital activism, since we believe grace call us to speak up against intolerance, and to combat racism, sexism and homophobia in a dignified way, seeking to unify instead of divide. We explore living more gracefully online and off, while still enjoying the benefits of technology.
The hymn “Amazing Grace” offers an example of the ease offered by grace. Most of us know this beautiful song as a comfort to the soul and a reminder of love, despite our imperfections. It calls us to take a step back and see the big picture--and that means recognizing that our societies, our technologies and the Internet are all a work in progress.
So we seek to polish and refine. We hope to inspire. Behavior is contagious, and we believe we can realize the full potential of our shared humanity--the Internet, too--if we all strive to live more gracefully.