The Jefferson lecture has many moving passages. But it somehow struck me as a kind of ecological utopianism. It promotes a world of villages. Berry wants to put us all to work. He seems to reverse Pieper’s notion that we work in order to have leisure. The lives of his characters are honorable and deeply sensitive, no doubt of it. His grandfather, he tells us, took but one trip in his life, to Tennessee, and didn’t see much there that would want to make him leave again. Ever since I read William Cobbett, I have realized that we can achieve our salvation even if we never leave home. If Berry does anything, he makes us nostalgic for our homes. To what extent we are also “restless” at home is not always clear. The Jefferson Lecture re-domesticates us. Still, it does not seem like a lasting city, let alone a lasting farm, even when we live there all our lives and care for the land and animals.
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