Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Does anyone know anything about Wendell Berry? From the little I have gathered, he's a "United States poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher and farmer" (from, whose
"ethical critique of modern society rests, like his epistemological critique, on the argument that mass technological industrialism collaborates with science to enshrine a view of human beings and the natural world that treats objects and people as essentially interchangeable"
(via a terrific elaboration of agrarianism in the New Pantagruel, which tends to speak from an agrarian, and humorous, perspective). In general, I find this outlook to be an accurate portrayal of our uber-detached society that has little sense of what dirt really is (both in figurative and literal senses). For example,

if you had to walk from Indianapolis to Ft Wayne, how long would it take you?

Although this question might seem rather divorced from our reality, it underlines a pervasive lack of our physical engagement with the world. We have been walking for our entire lives? For another example, the use of cars, though extremely helpful, to the point of "need" blocks our awareness of what we are really doing. We also see this infection in our eating habits. Very few of us know what it is like to go without food for much longer than that annoying little stomach growl.

Not only is this encouraged in a society where a comfortably home "protects" you from the environment (and doesn't allow you to learn from it), it is the height of opulence on which our capitalistic hopes and dreams drool. Coming from a non-farmer (I only know what detachment has grown in my life), I strongly agree with Mr Berry's conclusion at the end of an Orion article he wrote on sustainable animal husbandry:
We cannot keep things from falling apart in our society if they do not cohere in our minds and in our lives.
Since most of you have more experience with agriculture (and the agribusiness he so loves to eviscerate), you might have a fuller opinion on him (or his thoughts) than I.

But I have to admit, a mix of responsible and gritty Christianity with good writing and a touch of wit can't be all bad. I also kinda like the fact (via tNP) that
"[a]lthough Berry does not call himself a conservative, his stories and essays are profoundly subversive of liberal modernity and share many affinities with traditionalist or agrarian conservatism."
And to finish this off with a twinge of that wit, Tilling Word and Land, Sojourners Magazine/November 2005:
"When I am called, as to my astonishment I sometimes am, a devotee of "simplicity"” (since I live supposedly as a "“simple farmer"), I am obliged to reply that I gave up the simple life when I left New York City in 1964 and came here to Kentucky. In New York, I lived as a passive consumer, supplying nearly all my needs by purchase, whereas here I supply many of my needs from this place by my work (and pleasure) and am responsible besides for the care of the place."

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