The essay “Faustian Economics” by Wendell Berry starts out with a observation about the apparent belief that the American way of life is somehow indestructible. If you are like me, just the word “economics” would make you hesitant about reading this essay–economy is practically a bad word in today’s economy. However this essay is more about the limits within our social system and economy of life, so I recommend it if you are looking for something highly thought-provoking. Berry goes on to explore a number of other dilemmas that the American mindset of limitlessness has presented, but his initial comments on being limitless and defining ourselves stood out to me.
“The problem with [Americans] is not only prodigal extravagance but also an assumed limitlessness. We have obscured the issue by refusing to see that limitlessness is a godly trait. We have insistently, and with relief, defined ourselves as animals or ‘higher animals.’ But to define ourselves as animals, given our specifically human powers and desires, is to define ourselves as limitless animals–which of course is a contradiction in terms. Any definition is a limit, which is why the God of Exodus refuses to define himself: ‘I am that I am.’”
SHC says of its mission: "As a charitable clinic for the uninsured, Siloam prioritizes care for those with no other options. Since it accepts no regular insurance or federal reimbursement for indigent care, it depends on the generous contributions of our community members. Patients do contribute towards the cost of care according to their capacity, but no one is turned away because of inability to pay."
The interview is one of those experiences where you come away believing there is still such a thing as common sense, the wisdom of elders and concern for the common good. Held at St. Catharine College near Louisville, KY the interview tape is accessible on the internet and if you are able, you should watch it.Since you might not, there is a response to one question that deserves sharing here. Berry uses the phrase "grace of the world" in one of his best known poems, "The Peace of Wild Things." Moyers asks him about that word "grace." It gives Berry an opportunity to express something of his religious convictions about our relationship to the earth. This is what he says."People of religious faith know that the world is maintained every day by the same force that created it. … All creatures live by breathing God's breath and participating in his spirit and this means the whole thing is holy, the whole shootin' match. There's no sacred and unsacred places, there are only sacred and desecrated places."
The most powerful way to draw a portrait of such an accomplished thinker and artist with a painfully lucid voice is to attempt to get behind his eyes and to imagine the world as he sees it. Rather than train the lens on Berry himself, as would be an expected and more typical approach, this film allows Berry, in a sense, to point the camera toward the stories and landscapes he would have us regard: the stories of small generational farmers in Henry County as a way to better understand the struggles, hopes and vital importance of rural land-based communities.
Food and agriculture have become popular topics recently, but of all the major voices on this collections of issues, Wendell’s is the only one coming from rural America. How can we have a real discussion of food and agriculture if we don’t begin to truly regard, understand and better care for our rural communities and farmers?
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Abel, Earth’s roaming steward, and Cain, Earth’s settled owner, could never have lived peaceably. The relationship between those who follow Earth’s ever-changing movements, and those who try to shackle Earth to their whims, will inevitably turn violent, as they forever cross purposes. Van Ham sees a late anti-urban allegory here, much like Jacques Ellul, and his exposition of two ultimately incompatible systems permeates his book.
This moral vision differentiates Van Ham from the numerous voices already propounding similar messages. While Wendell Berry, for instance, shares Van Ham’s faith, Berry frequently avoids current events, focusing on transcendent, almost mystical themes. McKibben, though a professed Christian, prefers scientific arguments, using spirituality sparingly. Van Ham’s moral catholicity claims the broad middle ground between these visions, the domain where most Americans live, but where environmentalists fear to tread.
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We are at a point in history where we are progressively destroying more and more land. That can't continue. The greatest cause behind long-term destruction of land is absentee owners who own so much land, and live so far from the land they are destroying (and the people affected by that destruction) that they no longer care what happens to it. Many people are starting to notice this issue, but the philosopher/theologian Wendell Berry has been one of the most consistent voices laying out the reasons why our move towards global economy is destroying the people and the land (What Are People For?. Citizenship Papers, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community).I believe that this more just local economy can only be brought about by individuals.
Read more at To Trust in God
During the Cold War, when the rhetoric of hate was used to manufacture enmity, and the world stood as never before on the brink of mutual destruction, and the imagination was seduced, exploited and ultimately corrupted into seeing the Other as ultimate threat, malign in fanatic intent to destroy those who were not them - during that chilling time, there were other voices. One of them was Wendell Berry. The following poem is the rhetoric of respect, empathy, understanding and flagrant humanity. Yes flagrant, there to be seen, unmistakable evidence, an example of the imagination redeemed from alienating the other to seeking shared concern, murtual help, unambiguous welcome.
Read more and the poem at Living Wittily.
Watch with Me is a collection of short stories centering on Ptolemy “Tol” Proudfoot, a reticent man proud of his farming skill, but without the need to expand beyond the beautiful and successful farm he can run by himself. The last leaf of his family tree, he doesn’t have the joyfully rambunctious persona that Port William remembers of the Proudfoots (Proudfeet?), but he does have deep feelings whose few expressions become affectionate stories shared among his neighbors. His late-to-wed wife, Miss Minnie, is the pole star of his life, and Berry’s descriptions of their wagon rides together are simple and affecting.
Although Berry specifically targets the scientific establishment in “Life is a Miracle,” he does not claim that science created the social problems he identifies in it, and by no means does he think that society’s problems are consigned to that sphere. Berry also takes to task the literary establishment for buying into similar myths that parallel the myth of self-directing scientific progress. Artists and authors often describe art as a means to uncover all the dirty little secrets of the human condition. Books that touch on some new, edgy subject are often considered milestones. As a result, the ability of authors to “unmask” what real individuals would otherwise keep private is highly revered in Western literary culture. The problem with this steamy, iconoclastic project is that it leads to a crass reductionism whereby characters, and by implication actual individuals, become mines from which authors extract precious resources. Berry points out that this attitude is incredibly myopic- we don’t love characters or other individuals because we want to distill a special characteristic from them. We love people and characters because of the experiences we share with them, and the personhood we see in them. Good art, art that promotes human understanding and solidarity, cannot rest on reductionism.
For me, what joins these two important literary figures of our time is not their activism but, literally — and more importantly I think –it is the ground which has nourished them, out of which their words have been informed and encouraged.
For readers of Berry and Lane it is evident that their creative “genius” flows from his visceral connections to the places which have most influenced them. For Berry it is the eastern Kentucky farming communities surrounding the town of Port Royal and the Kentucky River. For Lane it is the hills and valleys of the interior of British Columbia around Kelowna and Merit.
And be sure to continue with Part Two HERE.