9.11.2008

Tribute to Wendell Berry


Wendell Berry is one of my favorite authors. It's always pleasant to read concerned critique when surrounded by a culture running forward while nodding in agreement with all sorts of presumptions about what progress really means. Maybe part of my love for his work is a love for his biography:
- Born in rural farmlands to a farming family (check)
- Got all learned at the Uni (check)
- Taught at the Uni of Kentucky, then moved to NYC to teach in the Bronx at NYUni (double check for street cred.)
- Received tons of prestigious fellowships and learned from smarties in EU (check)
- Came back to the place that he started to live on the land and appreciate the essence of existence (check)

Ok - yeah. That's a guide that I would like to follow. Though sometimes Berry gets a little stubborn to the point of seeming antagonistic and downright cranky (see: "Life is a Miracle" an essay against Edward Wilson's propositions) in general, the man isn't out to become one of those polar-philosophers... you know, the ones that receive attention in the academic world because they are great reference points to spell out a vague/harsh spectrum of thought in PHL 101. Meanwhile, the Berry's of the world sit in the grass knoll of the in-between. I think most of the truth resides in that knoll.

Speaking of polars... how about we reduce his thoughts, just for fun.

the good life includes:
sustainable agriculture
appropriate technologies (doesn't own a computer)
healthy rural communities
connection to place
the pleasure of good food
husbandry
good work
local economies
the miracle of life
fidelity
frugality
reverence
the interconnectedness of life

threats to the good life:
industrial farming
industrialization of life
ignorance
hubris
greed
violence against others and against the natural world
eroding topsoils in the United States
global economics

That sounds good to me. Definitely a far different way of seeing than the one that we're accustomed to...

Here are some of my favorite poem excepts:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows for me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests,
in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things,
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief,
I come into the presence of still water,
and I feel above me the dayblind stars,
waiting with their light,
for a time, I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.

Except from The Mad Farmer's Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Also read "Thoughts in the Presence of Fear"

... oh, and I guess we're going on an insanely awesome European tour too... err whatever. (yawning) Look Here

4 comments:

Phil said...

I walk the rocky hillside
Sowing clover.

Kristin B said...

You're finally making it to Germany!!! =D

Prague's gorgeous. I want to move there.

Chris Skills said...

I'm a budding Wendell Berry fan myself! I picked up "Given" just the other day and have been very inspired by its contents. The last poem you quoted above is one of my favorites of his, as well. Glad to see someone else enjoying this man's work!

Anonymous said...

I love it.....congrats on the tour...Germany..mmmmmm.....beer :)