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October 2011
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December 2011

Wendell Berry: "These lies are not innocent"

Wendell Berry, a farmer, novelist and poet from Kentucky, put his finger on the problem precisely: "Young people are being told, 'You can be anything you want to be,'" Berry writes. "This is a lie. ... A high professional salary is not everything. You can't be everything you want to be; nobody can. Everybody can't be a leader; not everybody even wants to be. And these lies are not innocent. They lead to disappointment. They lead good young people to think that if they have an ordinary job, if they work with their hands, if they are farmers or housewives or mechanics or carpenters, they are no good."


Wendell Berry addresses Warren Wilson College

"College isn't for everyone," the septuagenarian told the crowd, adding that the decision to earn a degree merits serious thought, especially in view of the high cost of attending college. "College has been oversold," he said, and can promote a feeling of inferiority among those who opt not to earn a degree. As for the institutions themselves, Berry argued that small colleges offer their leaders more institutional flexibility than large ones, comparing the former to a canoe: "Easier to steer, compared to a battleship, when it's time to change course."


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On reading "Andy Catlett: Early Travels" by Wendell Berry

This is a deceptively simple book. On the surface, it is just the story of a young boy’s holiday visit to family, the things he did while there, the people he talked to and worked with. But look a little deeper, and you see how talented Berry is at weaving universal themes like war, love, grief, race relations, change, and the passage of time into Andy’s tale.


Wendell Berry cited on limits

Wendell Berry does an excellent job of illuminating the beauty of limits: "If we always have a theoretically better substitute ... we will never make the most of anything ...Where there is no more, our one choice is to make the most and the best of what we have." The best way to wake up from the American Daydream is to find contentment in the here and now--to be okay with inconveniences, limits and failings. It's okay to dream big, but just realize it's a fantasy that success can be achieved without a whole lot of pain, sacrifice and, of course, hard work.