Ragan Sutterfield asked Wendell Berry six questions. Here are two of them.
The idea that our lives are “given” comes up often in your writing. What does it mean to be given? How does it change how we live in the world?
I use the word “given” in reference to this world and our life in it. Two things are implied: ﬁrst, that we ourselves did not make these things, although by birth we are made responsible for them; and, second, that the world and our lives in it do not come to us by chance.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux once wrote: “The way is humility, the goal is truth.” Your own work reﬂects a similar understanding. How does humility help us recover the truth about the world and ourselves?
If you think, as I do, that the truth is large and our intelligence small, then a certain humility is implied and is even inescapable. As for my own humility, I am not very certain about the extent of it. I know that I had my upbringing from people who would have been ashamed of me if they heard me bragging on myself like a presidential candidate, and I am still in agreement with them. However, I seem to have a good deal of conﬁdence in the rightness of my advocacy for good care of the land and the people. Without that conﬁdence, I don’t think I could have kept it up for as long as I have.