The Occupy Movement is a symbolic expression of this alienation. To occupy is a demonstration of the need to make oneself an affective part of something. At the same time, the Movement has no agreed upon agenda. It proclaims its alienation from the world of power politics and economics by stating they are "the 99%” and “this is what democracy looks like,” but it is powerless to even suggest a solution or a way forward.
It occurs to me these circumstances are symptomatic of the point poet Wendell Berry is offering us. We cannot bring peace to the conflictual condition in our world, nor can we heal our spiritual alienation, unless we begin to recognize the sacred nature of the world in which we live. “There are no unsacred places … [only] desecrated places.”
With an introduction by YES! senior editor Madeline Ostrander, the issue marks the publication’s 15th anniversary as an ad-free, independent magazine by presenting the stories of ordinary people tackling the United States’ extraordinary challenges. “We believe it’s never been more important to recognize how influential ordinary people can be,” says Ostrander, “Our political leaders have stalled every effort to pass climate-change policies and given trillions of dollars to corporations while ignoring the needs of average Americans. It’s high time for the grassroots to take matters into our own hands.”
YES! Magazine's special 15th Anniversary Issue honors the following 15 people:
Wes Jackson (selected by poet and essayist Wendell Berry), revolutionizing agriculture with crops that grow like a prairie.
Wendell Berry is that rarest of intellectuals–a man of the ivory tower who got his hands in the dirt. An academic, author of both fiction and essay, and, most importantly, a farmer, he has written extensively since the 60s on the problems with our industrial food system, predicting many of the worst excesses that we are still fighting now. Anyone who has read Joel Salatin or Michael Pollan should go back and read Dr. Berry, whose philosophy and politics presaged their thoughts. You’ll have seen him most recently engaged in civil disobedience against mountaintop sheering in Kentucky.
Before the reading began, Berry said of Warren Wilson, “This is a great place; this is an exceptional place.” After his reading, he fielded several questions that had been submitted beforehand by students at this “exceptional place.”
In responding to a question about needed change in our society, Berry said, “The great change we can make is to change the standards.” He later optimistically added, in replying to another question: “No matter how bad things get, somebody who’s willing can make it a little better.” He also told the students, “You are very fortunate to be at a small college,” noting that Warren Wilson “is not a battleship, but a canoe” where students can make a real difference.
"Love in this world doesn't come out of thin air. It is not something thought up. Like ourselves, it grows out of the ground. It has a body and a place." So writes Wendell Berry in his breathtaking novel Hannah Coulter. If any four sentences can sum up the core thesis of Craig G. Bartholomew's Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today (Baker Academic), then surely it is these.
Recently, Warren Wilson College welcomed Berry and his family to its campus, celebrating his ideas about sustainability. He packed the spacious college chapel for a reading. The 77-year-old writer didn’t pretend to have any easy answers to the difficult questions the students face.
Nevertheless, it’s nearly as easy to find signs of hope — lots of them — as well as people and organizations who’ve been prodding American food back on a natural, sustainable, beautiful track.
Then, of course, there are the things that just plain make you glad to be alive. Aside from the smell of garlic simmering in olive oil, what and whom am I thankful for?
Click the "via" link to read the complete article. Mr. Berry appears at #15.
The Berry Center is a foundation that has been established for the purpose of bringing focus, knowledge and cohesiveness to the work of changing our ruinous industrial agriculture system into a system and culture that uses nature as the standard, accepts no permanent damage to the ecosphere, and takes into consideration human health in local communities.
The Berry Center will accomplish its mission by studying where we have been, establishing where we are now and envisioning where we want to go in the rural landscape. When we consider these objectives, the remarkable accomplishments of three Kentuckians stand out. The works of author Wendell Berry, his father, lawyer and farmer John M. Berry, Sr., and his brother, state senator and lawyer, John M. Berry, Jr. reflect a single vision: a state and a nation of prosperous well-tended farms serving and supporting healthy local communities.
Please visit this new venture's website by clicking on the "via" link.
When I first saw his lean 77-year old frame, Berry and his wife Tanya were walking on campus: Berry moved with steady intention, a cadence most likely refined over years as a fifth-generation farmer. While I still bought my curtains (and a 20-ounce Diet Coke), the sight of this couple slowed my internal clock, unfettering me from time for a short spell.
For the next two days, our campus felt giddy. We paused from the often divisive debates about campus policies and procedures because we were in the presence of something bigger: an authentic hero who had influenced the ethos of our school.
“His values and emphases–such as creative writing, sustainable agriculture, local economies, environmental stewardship, and the importance of the labor required to support a community– closely match those of the College,” said Undergraduate Writing Program Director Catherine Reid. “It’s an enormous honor to have him choose Warren Wilson, as he travels little these days and limits his engagements during the year.”
In preparation for Berry’s visit, classes across campus read Berry’s essays and responded to teaching prompts supplied by Reid and the Environmental Leadership Center. In addition, Matthews compiled and distributed a chapbook entitled “The Responsibility of the Poet,” in which 35 poets from across the country respond to an excerpt from Berry’s The Poet’s Responsibility.