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March 2014
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May 2014

Blog Watch: Sabbath and Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry, born in 1934, is an American novelist, poet environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. He writes poetry, novels, and essays as “a person who takes the Gospel seriously.” Berry writes in This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems, “We are to rest on the sabbath also, I have supposed, in order to understand that the providence or the productivity of the living world, the most essential work, continues while we rest.  This is entirely independent of our work, and is far more complex and wonderful than any work we have ever done or will ever do.  It is more complex and wonderful than we will ever understand.

Berry’s description of sabbath as complex and wonderful, inspires me to explore it more deeply.  If, like me, you need a sabbath tutor, Berry is a good place to start.

Read more at Jesus Creed

Blog Watch: Reflecting on Creaturehood and Wendell Berry

The fact that we are creatures is the dirty little secret of human existence. It is the inescapable fact—even in denouncing it we use breath and words and energy that we did not create, that are gift: from others, from the earth, and from God.  Despite much modern energy and rhetoric dedicated to declaring otherwise, we are not autonomous.

via Imagining Otherwise

Walter Moss on Wendell Berry

Over the past six months or so, historian Walter Moss has published a number of brief essays related to Wendell Berry and his concerns. I list them here in order of publication. [UPDATED 18 April 2014]

12 October 2013
Bill Moyers and Wendell Berry

28 October 2013
Wendell Berry’s Reflections on Racism

25 November 2013
Wendell Berry’s Pacifism: Part I, The Late 1960s

2 December 2013
Wendell Berry’s Pacifism: Part II, 1970-2013

26 December 2013
Leo Tolstoy and Wendell Berry: Pacifists and Critics of Modern Life

13 January 2014
Wendell Berry on Women and Feminism

14 March 2014
Professors and Politics a la Wendell Berry

24 March 2014
Duke Energy, Cigarettes, Pollution, Profits, and Philanthropy

10 April 2014
The Wondrous World of Wendell Berry’s Fiction

17 April 2014
Global Warming, Waste and Greed

On Reading Wendell Berry's Fiction

Writes Walter Moss:

Why do I keep reading Berry? What’s the appeal of his fiction? Here’s my list

1. His characters and Port William setting possess a wondrous quality.

2. His main characters are likeable, good people. There are not too many of them, so as we go from one novel or short story to another we continue to come across them and are happy to do so.

3. They possess good values.

4. They grapple with the important questions of life: love, marriage, aging, sickness, war, the environment, technological change, death.

5. Berry’s style is very readable. Once into novels like The Memory of Old Jack, Jayber Crow, and Hannah Coulter, it is difficult to put them down.

Read much more at Hollywood Progressive

Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson

Last Friday three men at the heart of my passion for the intellectual investigation of food systems spoke at Cooper Union about Nature as Measure. In the forward to the eponymously titled book, Wendell Berry quotes longtime friend and the book's author Wes Jackson saying, "Do not try to improve on this patch of native prairie for it will serve as your standard by which to judge your agricultural practices. There is no higher standard..." In other words, no human intervention can create a more perfect natural world because nature is perfection. Just as one man quoted from the other in print, so too did the two men share glimpses of their intimate relationship on stage by completing their responses to Mark Bittman's prompts with quotes from each other's long histories of writings.

via Runaway Apricot

Reading a Sabbath Poem by Wendell Berry

We travelers, walking to the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessings now appear, risen

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

The blessed light that yet to us is dark.

Wendell Berry

Growing up, “God’s Will” was a path we were all looking for, and this way of thinking limited our understanding of God’s purposes into a single ideal we had to find for ourselves. With every choice we were either stepping towards the straight and narrow or unknowingly walking away.  With a belief like this, “trying to discern God’s will” seemed more like religious language to hide our anxiety about the future and our desire to control it.

Read more at The Commonplace Book

Huh? Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson in NYC last night?

I've stunned myself again by completely missing not only the event itself, but also any hint of foreknowledge—not a scrap of intel about this big night came my way (as far as I can see). Losing my touch ... and perhaps some part of my mind. 



Cooper Union indicates that "the recording will be made available at a later date. Please check back to this page for details." And I will.

via Cooper Union

[UPDATE: Hear the conversation HERE.]

More on Wendell Berry in Nashville, May 2

If you’re not familiar with Wendell Berry, I can tell you that probably no description I could write would be comprehensive. Among the descriptors would be novelist, environmental activist, farmer, poet and pioneer of sorts who is often described as a modern-day Thoreau.Mark Bittman says he’s the “soul of the real food movement” as well as advocate for small farms and conservation from his own farm in northern Kentucky where his family has lived for generations. For a sample of Berry's work, visit this GoodReads quotation page.

Wendell Berry will be in Nashville May 2 at Montgomery Bell Academy for a discussion with theology professor Norman Wirzba to answer the question, “What Makes a Healthy Community?” Proceeds from the event will benefit Siloam Family Health Center, a Christian charitable clinic for the uninsured located in Berry Hill.

via Nashville Scene

Wendell Berry, Two Minds, and Teaching

In his essay Two Minds, Wendell Berry, unsurprisingly enough, offers up two tones of thought produced by two kinds of “mind”—Rational, and Sympathetic.

One is driven by logic, deduction, data, and measurement, the other by affection and other wasteful abstractions—instinct, reverence, joy, and faith.

These minds struggle for to manifest in our collective behavior. That is, they both seek to control our actions–what we say and do.

Berry explains their distinctions:

“The Rational Mind of [sic] is motivated by the fear of being misled, of being wrong. Its purpose is to exclude everything that cannot empirically or experimentally be proven by fact.

The Sympathetic Mind is motivated by fear of error of a very different kind: the error of carelessness, of being unloving. Its purpose is to be considerate of whatever is present, to leave nothing out.”

Read more at TeachThought

The essay "Two Minds" can be found in Mr. Berry's Citizenship Papers.