Perhaps the most ambitious song is The Peace Of Wild Things/Dayblind, where they take Wendell Berry's moving poem ('When despair for the world grows in me') and present a mournful talking version, which then develops into a life-affirming bluegrass instrumental.
But what I’ve come to see from reading Mr. Berry as well as from common sense is this: local economy is the only sustainable economy. And it’s not too late to start in small ways. Buy eggs from your neighbor or better yet, do like my aunt, keep a cow and trade milk for eggs. If you’re Anabaptist and can sew then by all means don’t stop. And teach your daughters how to do it, too. Jump for the chance to learn a skill. Use your hands. There’s an old adage, be a slave to no one. Yes, Walmart offers irresistible prices but is Walmart indispensible to our lifestyle? If we answer yes, and most of us have to, then we’re clearly enslaved to Walmart.
One of Berry's fundamental assumptions is deeply Christian and yet profoundly out of tune with most of modern culture. It is the assumption that God has established an order in Creation the honoring of which is required if we are to live well. One of the characteristics of modern culture is the contrary, technocratic assumption that the world is just so much raw material awaiting human creativity and transformation. There is no nature to nature (even to human nature), and human willing is meant to be sovereign, free, and unlimited. In this view, we live well when we have power to remake all things according to our desires.
But Christianity taught from the beginning that desires are to be trained to fit reality, to fit the order of Creation. That is the assumption Berry brings to his writing, and he emphasizes what might be called an Incarnational theme within that assumption, training our attention not simply on the immaterial world of ideas and the will, but on the givenness (that is, the Divine ordering) of the world our bodies inhabit as well.
As love stories go, Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow is pretty strange. The title character, an introverted, balding bachelor-barber, watches as Mattie Keith Chatham, an attractive neighbor-girl, grows up; marries a local basketball star; bears, rears, and begins burying their children; ages; and dies. One of my more cynical students, disturbed by Jayber’s fascination with someone so much younger than he, described him as a stalker. Used to romances in which the boy gets the girl, or vice versa, this student and some of the others with whom I’ve read Berry’s novel don’t know what to make of it. I have to work hard to convince some of them that Jayber is not a stalker but a suffering saint. In this sense, the novel Jayber Crow is a passion narrative.
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There is no information given about this video, but it appears to be of Mr. Berry's presentation last night at the Cambridge Forum, where he received Pen New England's annual Howard Zinn “People Speak” Award.
In the Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry builds perhaps the most compelling case that technology has been misapplied to agriculture. Industrialization, he argues, is the primary cause of our depopulated farms and rural towns. In 1790, 90 percent of our people were engaged in agriculture. Today, technology and decades of federal policy that deliberately reduced agricultural jobs have shrunk the farm community to less than 1 percent of our population, and our rural population to 17 percent. Our physical separation from natural settings may well be exacerbating an alienation from nature fraught with trouble for our collective health and psyche.
I decided to read this book, Jayber Crow, because I like everything that Berry writes, but I wasn’t expecting anything too great. A story about a barber in Port William? Seemed a little strange to me, but because it was by Berry, it was worth a read.
This book turned out to be a great surprise, true to Jayber Crow’s observation that all of the good things in life have come as a surprise.
Writer and activist Wendell Berry addressed a crowd of about 200 at the Healthy Foods, Local Farms conference in Louisville over the weekend. Berry is representing the 50-year Farm Bill, which he says is aimed at transforming the goals of agriculture.
"From short-term political concerns which we've heard about and short-term corporate profits, to long-term conservation of soil, land health and the local cultures of husbandry. A change from a local food supply endangered by the means of its production, to a local food supply made secure by the protection of its natural and human resources."
An Evening with Wendell Berry
and Wes Jackson
with special musical guest Eliza Gilkyson
December 4 • 8 PM
STATESIDE AT THE PARAMOUNT
Join us for an unforgettable evening of wit, wisdom and conversation with two of the most influential architects of the sustainable food movement. American philosopher, poet, farmer and novelist Wendell Berry has been the inspiration for local food activists from Alice Waters to Michael Pollan for more than half a century. Wes Jackson is president of The Land Institute and is a widely recognized leader in the sustainable agriculture movement.
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But it’s fair to say that people of faith, all across the theological spectrum, are an important part of the grass-roots movement for climate action — a fact easily overlooked at a moment when science and environmentalism are often assumed to be at odds with religion, especially the more traditional kinds.
So it’s refreshing to see that on Oct. 20, PEN New England will honor Wendell Berry - the Kentucky farmer, environmental hero, and Christian poet, essayist, and novelist - with its Howard Zinn/People Speak Award in Cambridge. Berry will be joined by Bill McKibben, the environmental scholar (and Methodist Sunday school teacher) who, as founder of 350.org and a leader of the campaign to stop the Keystone XL “tar sands’’ pipeline, is probably the most influential climate activist in the world today.
Although Berry is often linked with the environmental movement, he transcends any narrow idea of what environmentalism means. For Berry, it’s as much about preserving the wildness in a handful of good topsoil as any pristine wilderness. Above all, it’s about community and love of neighbor, which means finding the right balance between human culture and the rest of creation.
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