Posts Tagged ‘Wendell Berry’

Living Toward Yes

Monday, January 4th, 2021

There is all this untouched beauty
The light the dark both running through me
Is there still redemption for anyone?

-Karin Bergquist

In an earlier post in this series, I hinted at two versions of freedom. Standard contemporary understandings of freedom center on the power to choose among alternatives. A second, older view locates freedom in the giving of consent. Consent freedom doesn’t mean passive acceptance of evil or injustice. These must be named and opposed. Consent freedom involves reckoning with human and earthly limits, living responsibly, and acknowledging we control almost nothing in life save how we respond. It requires constancy in a world where the chief constant is change. It means finding goodness in the shape of what’s given and saying “yes.”

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The Duty of Delight

Friday, January 1st, 2021

Intending to look for beauty and hope in a dark season is admirable, but how does one sustain the practice? Short cuts and how-to recipes don’t last. Sheer willpower eventually becomes grim determination. Imagination, honest work, and genuine delight are needed to break the chains of apathy and despair.

Consumer culture offers countless ways to narcotize body and mind with the promise of more and better things. Not that this is entirely new. In 1804, William Wordsworth wrote, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;/Little we see in Nature that is ours;/We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!” Perfected over the next two centuries, that system now functions much as T.S. Eliot said of history, “She gives when our attention is distracted/And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions/That the giving famishes the craving.” It’s a vicious circle all the more cruel in a time of selective economic hardship, festering racial injustice, and ballooning inequality.

Politicians and profiteers make their living by playing on resentments and fears. Freedom is reduced to pursuing the next treasure or experience and adding it to a closely guarded private hoard. Happiness becomes the absence of pain. Truly joyful people, in contrast, don’t seek to escape the world’s burden of suffering. They cultivate active compassion. Compassionate people face suffering and adversity with confidence and grace, having made a duty of delight. Freedom is found in consent, not consumer choice. Some call it madness, but joy is meant to be shared, thrives in community, grows when given away.

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Reflections on the Pandemic

Monday, April 13th, 2020

I have two thematically-related, Wendell Berry-inflected essays on living through the COVID-19 pandemic that were posted today. Fill out your reading list here or ponder what limits mean for health in community here.

Image of Wendell Berry from Center for Interfaith Relations via Flickr

Caring for Words, XII: Risk Your Heart

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Write and read with your whole heart. Embrace mystery. Shun mystification, which is to mystery what sentimentality is to honest feeling. Treasure words that prove difficult to pin down but impossible to live without. Go out on limbs. Be willing to fall. Get up again. Even in moments of great bitterness, remember your deepest affections, beautiful and broken. Attend to your words as if someone’s life depends on it, because it does. (more…)