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November 2013
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Wendell Berry Noted on Small Town Wisdom

As we consider authors within this group, it is worthwhile to acknowledge the important role small town wisdom and experience has played in the work of many of America’s greatest writers. Wendell Berry stands out as a leading elder statesman whose activism on behalf of local famers and in opposition to the abuses of industrialism, the military industrial complex, and other irresponsible technologies are notable. Recently, he has weighed in on social issues like gay marriage and pro-life causes, which he, like many among this group, extends both to abortion and the death penalty. Given his social conservatism, his acceptance among the academic elite stands in stark contrast to many Evangelicals who share many, if not most, of his beliefs.

via Patrol

Wendell Berry article among top three most-read at Christian Century

Here are the Century magazine articles that got read the most online this year. Thanks for reading.

1) Singing from one book: Why hymnals matter, by Mary Louise Bringle. “Many churchgoers greet the announcement of a new hymnal with a single puzzled, even outraged question: Why?”

2) Sticky faith: What keeps kids connected to church? by Jen Bradbury. “We youth ministers have often tried to make our ministries cool enough to compete. But every teen knows that the church is not cool.” 

3) Caught in the middle: On abortion and homosexuality, by Wendell Berry. “Nowhere has our callow politics asserted itself more thoughtlessly and noisily than in the politicization of personal or private life.”

via The Christian Century


Thinking about Wendell Berry and God's Presence

As this excerpt from Mr. Berry’s essay has been fermenting in my mind amidst Christmas tree decorating and singing carols – the ancient prophecies of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah have been jumping out to me. He speaks, from his time of a forthcoming Messiah:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

In the gospel of Matthew it is clearly spelled out that this name Immanuel means ‘GOD with us’ and that Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy (among many, many more prophecies) concerning a Messiah for both Israel and all the nations.

via Sustainable Traditions

Blog Watch: Quoting Wendell Berry on Literacy

In a country in which everybody goes to school, it may seem absurd to offer a defense of literacy, and yet I believe that such a defense is in order, and that the absurdity lies not in the defense, but in the necessity for it. The published illiteracies of the certified educated are on the increase. And the universities seem bent upon ratifying this state of things by declaring the acceptability, in their graduates, of adequate – that is to say, of mediocre writing skills.

The schools, then, are following the general subservience to the “practical,” as that term has been defined for us according to the benefit of corporations. By “practicality” most users of the term now mean whatever will most predictably and most quickly make a profit. Teachers of English and literature have either submitted, or are expected to submit, along with teachers of the more “practical” disciplines, to the doctrine that the purpose of education is the mass production of producers and consumers.


Wendell Berry at Stone Barns, December 2013

Joy was palpable in the air at the 6th National Young Farmers Conference, as Wendell Berry came to Stone Barns Center the first week in December to address the annual gathering of beginning farmers. Called at times the “prophet of rural America” and the “modern-day Thoreau,” Berry—poet, farmer, author and activist—has been writing about farming and our relationship to the land for more than four decades. In the process, he has influenced two generations of Americans to care for the land and take up farming, and many of them were present. To witness the meeting and mutual admiration between 20-something-year-old beginning farmers and 79-year-old esteemed teacher was nothing short of remarkable, and very moving. “Magical” and “life-affirming” were just some of the words farmers used to describe Berry’s presence among them. 

via Stone Barns Center

Site Update for Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky

Here at the start of a lovely slow Christmas break I've decided to review some parts of this site and see what could be tidied up and/or improved. So I have begun with WB General Information, a page that has never pleased me much. Some broken links have been fixed or deleted, and I've happily added a section of links related to Mary Berry, whose work as executive director of The Berry Center is extending her family's and father's legacy out to new horizons.

If you have any suggestions for further changes to this site, please let me know. How might this site better serve your needs?

On Wendell Berry and Transience

But we should note that as a young man, Berry was also no “sticker.” He went away from his community as a high school boarding student and then as one at the University of Kentucky. Then there was Stanford, Europe, and New York City before he returned to Kentucky. And only a year after returning, now over 30 years old, did he renew his heritage of farming, though he continued for more than a decade to commute in order to teach at the University of Kentucky.

How different his young adulthood was than that of some of his fictional Port William characters like Danny Branch, who always remained deeply rooted in his small community. Danny appears in several of Berry’s works. In his wonderful short story “Fidelity” he was “growing a crop of his own” before he started high school. “He quit school the day he was sixteen and never thought of it again.” Two years later he married. “Danny never had belonged much to the modern world.” Yet he matures into a rock-solid member of the “Port William Membership” and is the hero of “Fidelity.”

via LA Progressive

Blog Watch: Wendell Berry cited on What Farmers Need

Wendell Berry wrote in Conserving Communities of the need for farmers to stop looking for help where we continually fail to find it. Sadly, in my decade of food work in Maine I have found little direct financial support for farmers, and about zero discussion of improving wages and conditions for farm workers. We won’t get where we wish continuing the centuries old practice of devaluing farm work, pretending a generation of farmers and entrepreneurs can fix everything with low-interest loans. Or treating farm labor as an afterthought and separate from the “good food” movement.


Blog Watch: "Tolkien's Kentucky Hobbits"

But it was a chance encounter Davenport had in Shelbyville, Kentucky with a former classmate of Tolkien—a history teacher named Allen Barnett—that changed Davenport’s perspective about his former professor’s clever tales. To Davenport’s amazement, Barnett had no idea that Tolkien had turned into a writer, and had never read any of the adventures of Middle Earth.

“Imagine that! You know, he used to have the most extraordinary interest in the people here in Kentucky. He could never get enough of my tales of Kentucky folk. He used to make me repeat family names like Barefoot and Boffin and Baggins and good country names like that,” Barnett told Davenport.

via The Pinstripe Pulpit

Blog Watch: Wendell Berry at Stone Barns Center

1) Wendell Berry spoke at length about the value of what he calls “country pleasures,” like jumping in the river on a summer afternoon and walking home uphill after, experiences that are all but lost in a world where most people spend more time with screens than trees (a notion I was tempted to live tweet, but the irony was too great).

2) He decried the arrival of commodity soy and corn in his Kentucky county, comparing it to the foolishness of fracking. The only difference between fracking-enduced explosions and soy-enduced erosion, he sagely said, is speed. Erosion’s slower, but the result is the same: exhaustion of our most precious natural resources. Amen.

3) He spoke of another kind of erosion, that of community, and recalled the days when his neighbors took pride in helping one another, gratis. One farmer friend of his had, in his lifetime, helped every single farm on his road, and never accepted any payment except a shared meal when the work was done. By the end of Berry’s description, everyone in the room would have stepped into a one-way time machine.

4) In conclusion, he spoke of sharing his land with wildlife and reasoned that it is not they who should be called wild animals, as they build homes and raise their young, year after year. Rather it is the human race with our blind destruction of soil, who deserve that description.