The Christian Reflection Project at Baylor University's Institute for Faith and Learning has published an issue on "Membership" which includes an essay by Brent Laytham entitled "Membered and Remembered." Follow the link at Baylor's site, or click HERE for a pdf version of the essay.
The example of Leopold, who spent a good part of his life working on big problems, is to know the minute particulars of this farm here.
I might add—maybe only because I read it again recently—that in his Jefferson Lecture Wendell Berry had this to say about Leopold:
I don’t hesitate to say that damage or destruction of the land-community is morally wrong, just as Leopold did not hesitate to say so when he was composing his essay, “The Land Ethic,” in 1947. But I do not believe, as I think Leopold did not, that morality, even religious morality, is an adequate motive for good care of the land-community. The primary motive for good care and good use is always going to be affection, because affection involves us entirely. And here Leopold himself set the example. In 1935 he bought an exhausted Wisconsin farm and, with his family, began its restoration. To do this was morally right, of course, but the motive was affection.
I’ll add, and I think Berry would agree, that affection for the world is useless if it isn’t realized in affection for a place small enough to give yourself and your affection to, such as an exhausted farm in Wisconsin.
You probably can think of others worthy of consideration, too. But for me, this competition comes down to a search for Wendell Berry. No other Kentucky writer can match the quality, breadth and impact of his work over the past half-century.
Berry, who turns 80 on Aug. 5, has written dozens of novels, poems, short stories and influential essays and non-fiction books. A fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he won the National Humanities Medal and gave the prestigious Jefferson Lecture in 2012.
The Henry County native and resident is revered internationally for elegant, no-nonsense writing that helped inspire the environmental, local food and sustainable agriculture movements.
Berry’s 1977 book, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, has become a classic. The Unforeseen Wilderness in 1971 helped rally public opposition to flooding the Red River Gorge. In recent years, he has been an eloquent voice against destructive strip-mining practices in Appalachia.
Tilth's celebration and conference will take place November 7-9, 2014.
Raj Patel joins us Saturday morning as the T-40 Keynote Speaker and Mary Berry, Executive Director of The Berry Center, who joins us Sunday afternoon as the T-40 Capnote Speaker. Daughter of Kentucky farmer and writer Wendell Berry who spoke at the first Tilth conference in 1974, Mary continues her family’s mission to bring focus to the plight of our environment and health at the hands of industrial agriculture, while honoring the work of organic and sustainable farmers in an ever-changing rural landscape.
T-40 will be no different than other conferences in that there will be ample opportunity to network after the hard work of learning is complete. The conference will kick off Friday November 7, 2014 with two day-long symposia to choose from plus an all-day information fair. Mealtimes are always perfect for visiting with friends old and new while enjoying delicious organic food. Social events planned for this year include a Friday evening Reception featuring local beer and local bites to enjoy while visiting the Poster Session; the informative and fun weekend Trade Show; and the popular annual Wine Tasting and Auction followed by the never-to-be-missed Saturday Night Dance.
My friend Mark Musick has reminded me that today is a very special anniversay: "His speech was the genesis of "The Unsettling of America" and the catalyst for the Tilth movement in the Pacific Northwest."
On July 1, 1974 Wendell Berry spoke at the “Agriculture for a Small Planet” symposium in Spokane, which was one of a series of environmental conferences hosted as part of Expo 74. Wendell’s speech that day, and his subsequent letter to members of the symposium staff, inspired the Tilth movement in the Pacific Northwest.
Wendell had been invited to represent the “Labor Intensive Micro-Systems Viewpoint” on the panel and he was introduced by the moderator, Bob Stilger. Below is a transcript of Wendell’s speech, followed by questions and answers. It’s significant to note that Wendell’s talk, written in longhand on yellow legal pad, was the nucleus for his book,The Unsettling of America, published in 1977.
The Culture of Agriculture
When Bob asked me to come out here I said I wouldn’t have time to write a speech, but I largely underestimated the travel time between Kentucky and Spokane. The speech is not filled out. It sort of gives the structure of my thinking about the problems that I’ve observed in agriculture.
I was asked to talk about “Labor Intensive Micro-Systems Agriculture.” That’s not my language, and it’s not the sort of language I wish to use because it’s the way people speak when they don’t want to be understood by most people. I’m not sure what to make of these particular phrases, but they seem to suggest a very methodological or technological approach to agriculture. Part of my purpose here is to suggest that any such approach will necessarily be too simple.
You read a collection like This Day, and you quickly learn how critically important the idea is in the poet’s understanding of nature, the land, God, aging, humanity, industrial civilization, and agriculture. To read Berry’s fiction and essays is to read and gain insights into his poetry, and vice versa. His writing is consistent and whole, reflecting a philosophy and a faith stretching over decades of work.
Many of his Sabbath poems are meditations of what he understands as industrial civilization. As surprising as it might be, just below the surface of these poems lies anger directed at how much of community, nature, and relationships is sacrificed to greed.
For more than four decades, two American literary icons -- author Wendell Berry and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder -- corresponded with each other on topics ranging from art to the environment to their personal lives. Many of those letters have been collected in a new volume "Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder," published by Berkeley's Counterpoint Press. Snyder and Berry join us to talk about their long-distance writerly relationship.
Berry might have used his NEH lecture to point out the complex set of factors for the poor price his grandfather got for his tobacco crop in 1907. He might even have mentioned the words “progressivism” and “cronyism,” asking his listeners to consider what role cigar makers played in lobbying Progressive era politicians to protect the cigar market from the upstart and more economical machine-rolled cigarette? But pointing up the negative roles of Progressivism, cronyism and the leviathan state in an NEH lecture funded by the leviathan federal government isn’t something you see very often.
At the time Berry’s grandfather came home empty-handed, he and other Kentucky tobacco farmers might have taken the poor price for their tobacco crop as a signal that there was an oversupply of tobacco in the U.S. market, that the tobacco boom was on hold, and that it was time to focus more of their farming efforts elsewhere.
They might also have reasonably concluded that the dip in demand had been caused by government efforts to ban cigarette sales. Perhaps some did, but the Berry family was among those who responded by blaming the Tobacco Trust and joining efforts to demand “fair” prices for their tobacco.
Parker Palmer’s recent musings captivated me as I was preparing a sermon for my Christian congregation titled, “Doubt is a Friend of Belief.” Mr. Palmer sparked my imagination when referencing Wendell Berry’s “Two Muses of Creativity” because, in my experience, the dialectic of the muses is a part of the creative writing process for sermons that aspire to enliven conversation and not merely reinforce status quo thinking. While I was crafting my sermon, it seemed obvious that, just as Mr. Berry asserts there is a “Muse of Obstacles” that refines us as we journey toward our visions, there is also a “Muse of Doubt” that refines those who seek faith as a meaningful part of the human experience.