In this post, I (Br. Tom) am departing from the usual practice here of citing others and am expressing some of my own thoughts about a recent trend in WB-awareness online.
When we search Facebook for the name "Wendell Berry," we are informed that there are thirty results. We find such groups as "Wendell Berry for President!" (2 members), "Wendell Berry Cranks My Tractor" (22 members), "I [heart]Wendell Berry" (also - the same? - 22 members), "The Ironic Wendell Berry Online Discussion Group!" (8 members), and "We Want Wendell Berry to Come to Union" (53 members). But we also find "Wendell Berry Haters association" (7 members) and " Wendell Berry: Crappy Writer Extraordinaire" (19 members).
And then there is the mother of all Wendell Berry Facebook groups - a fan page called, simply, "Wendell Berry" (2,995 fans). The next closest group, with 1,427 members, is "The Wendell Berry Society." The former is notorious for its use of an especially dour photo of WB.
I note that the content of the very popular "Wendell Berry" fan page consists of a feed from this very site, Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky. I do not know who has set up that Facebook page. If I knew, I would thank that person for helping to bring Mr. Berry's work to a wider audience ... which has always been my one and only purpose. And that's what Facebook has accomplished.
I say above that the content at this FB page consists of the feed from here, but that isn't accurate. There are also comments from the fans ... ranging from some real interaction, questions and answers, to all the "liking" that goes on in FB. There are also the by now clichéd (but still necessary) concerns about the irony of an online presence for a man who has spoken no kind words about this technology. Let's not forget that ... as WB has recently said ... we each have a complex, complicit, and outright guilty entanglement with these systems ... "a paradox we're all caught in" (Speech at GWU, 1 March 09).
As one commenter on the FB page says, "I wonder whether he thinks such 'virtual communities' as these have virtue." That's a question worth pondering ... one that has haunted me from the start of my online WB projects ... not so much in an attempt to divine what WB himself thinks—he has made that clear enough— but for each of us also to consider our choices and the ways we are "present" "here" ... To what degree must we treat our online presence and our use of this technology ... these "tools" ... as ONLY virtual (as in "not real")? In what ways might (and do) these activities bear on The Real of our actual existences in our actual places?
Yet, it's about the work ... Mr. Berry's writing ... and its relation to our senses of who we are and where we are and what we shall do. We turn to his writing and let it work on us ... as it will.
I, for one, think that such an encounter can only nudge us closer to the health and sanity that we crave.