Kristi's Reviews > The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
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Dec 16, 10

bookshelves: own, essays, nature, gardening, food, health, second-read-worthy, kentucky, favorites
Read from March 13 to December 16, 2010

Wendell Berry has certainly captured my heart - and my mind - with this collection of essays. Berry is an astute, witty, and poetic writer, and does not shy away from boldly confronting and challenging the status quo and generally accepted ways of living and going about life. His wisdom and insight is unique and much needed in our world. I found myself longing more for the rolling hills and quiet of a more agrarian lifestyle with each essay, while simultaneously longing I could have Mr. Berry as my next door neighbor or even adopted grandfather. (I'll also confess - to have such a gifted writer and thinker from my home state fills me with pride in being a Kentuckian.)

This surely will not be the last book I read that Wendell Berry authored. Should you be interested in Wendell Berry, these essays are a great start. I would wager they wouldn't be the last you read of him, either.
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Quotes Kristi Liked

Wendell Berry
“We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world - to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear. It is not only our own creativity - our own capacity for life - that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled.
We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. (pg. 20, "A Native Hill")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Once the creator was removed from the creation, divinity became only a remote abstraction, a social weapon in the hands of the religious institutions. This split in public values produced or was accompanied by, as it was bound to be, an equally artificial and ugly division in people's lives, so that a man, while pursuing Heaven with the sublime appetite he thought of as his soul, could turn his heart against his neighbors and his hands against the world...
Though Heaven is certainly more important than the earth if all they say about it is true, it is still morally incidental to it and dependent on it, and I can only imagine it and desire it in terms of what I know of the earth.
(pg. 23, "A Native Hill")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest - the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways - and re-enter the woods. For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in this silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world's longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it. Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in - to learn from it what it is. As its sounds come into his hearing, and its lights and colors come into his vision, and its odors come into his nostrils, then he may come into its presence as he never has before, and he will arrive in his place and will want to remain. His life will grow out of the ground like the other lives of the place, and take its place among them. He will be with them - neither ignorant of them, nor indifferent to them, nor against them - and so at last he will grow to be native-born. That is, he must reenter the silence and the darkness, and be born again.
(pg. 27, "A Native Hill")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“We have made it our overriding ambition to escape work, and as a consequence have debased work until it is only fit to escape from. We have debased the products of work and have been, in turn, debased by them.
(pg. 43, "The Unsettling of America")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“[All the ancient wisdom] tells us that work is necessary to us, as much a part of our condition as mortality; that good work is our salvation and our joy; that shoddy or dishonest or self-serving work is our curse and our doom. We have tried to escape the sweat and sorrow promised in Genesis - only to find that, in order to do so, we must forswear love and excellence, health and joy.
(pg. 44, "The Unsettling of America")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“...the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“In a society in which nearly everybody is dominated by somebody else's mind or by a disembodied mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn the truth about the activities of governments and corporations, about the quality or value of products, or about the health of one's own place and economy.
In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. And as our private economies become more abstract, the mutual, free helps and pleasures of family and community life will be supplanted by a kind of displaced or placeless citizenship and by commerce with impersonal and self-interested suppliers...
Thus, although we are not slaves in name, and cannot be carried to market and sold as somebody else's legal chattels, we are free only within narrow limits. For all our talk about liberation and personal autonomy, there are few choices that we are free to make. What would be the point, for example, if a majority of our people decided to be self-employed?
The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth - that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community - and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“If we are looking for insurance against want and oppression, we will find it only in our neighbors' prosperity and goodwill and, beyond that, in the good health of our worldly places, our homelands. If we were sincerely looking for a place of safety, for real security and success, then we would begin to turn to our communities - and not the communities simply of our human neighbors but also of the water, earth, and air, the plants and animals, all the creatures with whom our local life is shared.
(pg. 59, "Racism and the Economy")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“A proper community, we should remember also, is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members - among them the need to need one another. The answer to the present alignment of political power with wealth is the restoration of the identity of community and economy.
(pg. 63, "Racism and the Economy")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“We do not need to plan or devise a "world of the future"; if we take care of the world of the present, the future will have received full justice from us. A good future is implicit in the soils, forests, grasslands, marshes, deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans that we have now, and in the good things of human culture that we have now; the only valid "futurology" available to us is to take care of those things. We have no need to contrive and dabble at "the future of the human race"; we have the same pressing need that we have always had - to love, care for, and teach our children.
(pg. 73, "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“My wish simply is to live my life as fully as I can. In both our work and our leisure, I think, we should be so employed. And in our time this means that we must save ourselves from the products that we are asked to buy in order, ultimately, to replace ourselves.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“A crowd whose discontent has risen no higher than the level of slogans is only a crowd. But a crowd that understands the reasons for its discontent and knows the remedies is a vital community, and it will have to be reckoned with. I would rather go before the government with two people who have a competent understanding of an issue, and who therefore deserve a hearing, than with two thousand who are vaguely dissatisfied.
But even the most articulate public protest is not enough. We don't live in the government or in institutions or in our public utterances and acts, and the environmental crisis has its roots in our lives. By the same token, environmental health will also be rooted in our lives. That is, I take it, simply a fact, and in the light of it we can see how superficial and foolish we would be to think that we could correct what is wrong merely by tinkering with the institutional machinery. The changes that are required are fundamental changes in the way we are living.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer's anxiety that he is missing out on what is "in." In this state of total consumerism - which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves - all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“While the government is "studying" and funding and organizing its Big Thought, nothing is being done. But the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it - he is doing that work...
A man who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.
(pg.87, "Think Little")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“If we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of the earth, but also the earth's ability to produce. We will see that beauty and utility are alike dependent upon the health of the world. But we will also see through the fads and the fashions of protest. We will see that war and oppression and pollution are not separate issues, but are aspects of the same issue. Amid the outcries for the liberation of this group or that, we will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man's only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place - a much humbler place than we have been taught to think - in the order of creation.
(pg.89, "Think Little")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Until modern times, we focused a great deal of the best of our thought upon rituals of return to the human condition. Seeking enlightenment or the Promised Land or the way home, a man would go or be forced to go into the wilderness, measure himself against the Creation, recognize finally his true place within it, and thus be saved both from pride and from despair. Seeing himself as a tiny member of a world he cannot comprehend or master or in any final sense possess, he cannot possibly think of himself as a god. And by the same token, since he shares in, depends upon, and is graced by all of which he is a part, neither can he become a fiend; he cannot descend into the final despair of destructiveness. Returning from the wilderness, he becomes a restorer of order, a preserver. He sees the truth, recognizes his true heir, honors his forebears and his heritage, and gives his blessing to his successors. He embodies the passing of human time, living and dying within the human limits of grief and joy.
(pg.95, "The Body and the Earth")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.
(pg.99, "The Body and the Earth")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The soul, in its loneliness, hopes only for "salvation." And yet what is the burden of the Bible if not a sense of the mutuality of influence, rising out of an essential unity, among soul and body and community and world? These are all the works of God, and it is therefore the work of virtue to make or restore harmony among them. The world is certainly thought of as a place of spiritual trial, but it is also the confluence of soul and body, word and flesh, where thoughts must become deeds, where goodness must be enacted. This is the great meeting place, the narrow passage where spirit and flesh, word and world, pass into each other. The Bible's aim, as I read it, is not the freeing of the spirit from the world. It is the handbook of their interaction. It says that they cannot be divided; that their mutuality, their unity, is inescapable; that they are not reconciled in division, but in harmony. What else can be meant by the resurrection of the body? The body should be "filled with light," perfected in understanding. And so everywhere there is the sense of consequence, fear and desire, grief and joy. What is desirable is repeatedly defined in the tensions of the sense of consequence.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“A purposeless virtue is a contradiction in terms. Virtue, like harmony, cannot exist alone; a virtue must lead to harmony between one creature and another. To be good for nothing is just that. If a virtue has been thought a virtue long enough, it must be assumed to have practical justification - though the very longevity that proves its practicality may obscure it. That seems to be what happened with the idea of fidelity...
Our age could be characterized as a manifold experiment in faithlessness, and if it has as yet produced no effective understanding of the practicalities of faith, it has certainly produced massive evidence of the damage and disorder of its absence.
(pg.115-116, "The Body and the Earth")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“What marriage offers - and what fidelity is meant to protect - is the possibility of moments when what we have chosen and what we desire are the same. Such a convergence obviously cannot be continuous. No relationship can continue very long at its highest emotional pitch. But fidelity prepares us for the return of these moments, which give us the highest joy we can know; that of union, communion, atonement (in the root sense of at-one-ment)...
To forsake all others does not mean - because it cannot mean - to ignore or neglect all others, to hide or be hidden from all others, or to desire or love no others. To live in marriage is a responsible way to live in sexuality, as to live in a household is a responsible way to live in the world. One cannot enact or fulfill one's love for womankind or mankind, or even for all the women or men to whom one is attracted. If one is to have the power and delight of one's sexuality, then the generality of instinct must be resolved in a responsible relationship to a particular person. Similarly, one cannot live in the world; that is, one cannot become, in the easy, generalizing sense with which the phrase is commonly used, a "world citizen." There can be no such think as a "global village." No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one's partiality.
(pg.117-118, "The Body and the Earth")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The forsaking of all others is a keeping of faith, not just with the chosen one, but with the ones forsaken. The marriage vow unites not just a woman and a man with each other; it unites each of them with the community in a vow of sexual responsibility toward all others. The whole community is married, realizes its essential unity, in each of its marriages...
Marital fidelity, that is, involves the public or institutional as well as the private aspect of marriage. One is married to marriage as well as to one's spouse. But one is married also to something vital of one's own that does not exist before the marriage: one's given word. It now seems to me that the modern misunderstanding of marriage involves a gross misunderstanding and underestimation of the seriousness of giving one's word, and of the dangers of breaking it once it is given. Adultery and divorce now must be looked upon as instances of that disease of word-breaking, which our age justifies as "realistic" or "practical" or "necessary," but which is tattering the invariably single fabric of speech and trust.
(pg.117, "The Body and the Earth")”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“In a time of disorder [Laertes] has returned to the care of the earth, the foundation of life and hope. And Odysseus finds him in an act emblematic of the best and most responsible kind of agriculture: an old man caring for a young tree. (pg. 123, The Body and the Earth)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“If we are to have a culture as resilient and competent in the face of necessity as it needs to be, then it must somehow involve within itself a ceremonious generosity toward the wilderness of natural force and instinct. The farm must yield a place to the forest, not as a wood lot, or even as a necessary agricultural principle but as a sacred grove - a place where the Creation is let alone, to serve as instruction, example, refuge; a place for people to go, free of work and presumption, to let themselves alone. (pg. 125, The Body and the Earth)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Connection is health. And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is. We lose our health - and create profitable diseases and dependences - by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. In gardening, for instance, one works with the body to feed the body. The work, if it is knowledgeable, makes for excellent food. And it makes one hungry. The work thus makes eating both nourishing and joyful, not consumptive, and keeps the eater from getting fat and weak. This is health, wholeness, a source of delight. (pg.132, The Body and the Earth)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“As the connections have been broken by the fragmentation and isolation of work, they can be restored by restoring the wholeness of work. There is work that is isolating, harsh, destructive, specialized or trivialized into meaninglessness. And there is work that is restorative, convivial, dignified and dignifying, and pleasing. Good work is not just the maintenance of connections - as one is now said to work "for a living" or "to support a family" - but the enactment of connections. It is living, and a way of living; it is not support for a family in the sense of an exterior brace or prop, but is one of the forms and acts of love. (pg. 133, The Body and the Earth)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“We are working well when we use ourselves as the fellow creatures of the plants, animals, materials, and other people we are working with. Such work is unifying, healing. It brings us home from pride and from despair, and places us responsible within the human estate. It defines us as we are: not too good to work with our bodies, but too good to work poorly or joylessly or selfishly or alone. (pg. 134, The Body and the Earth)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“We could say that the human race is a great coauthorship in which we are collaborating with God and nature in the making of ourselves and one another. From this there is no escape. We may collaborate either well or poorly or we may refuse to collaborate, but even to refuse to collaborate is to exert an influence and to affect the quality of the product. This is only a way of saying that by ourselves we have no meaning and no dignity; by ourselves we are outside the human definition, outside our identity.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“I believe that the community - in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures - is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms. (pg. 146, Health is Membership)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“In order to survive, a plurality of true communities would require not egalitarianism and tolerance but knowledge, an understanding of the necessity of local differences, and respect. Respect, I think, always implies imagination - the ability to see one another, across our inevitable differences, as living souls. (pg. 181, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The acquisition of knowledge always involves the revelation of ignorance - almost is the revelation of ignorance. Our knowledge of the world instructs us first of all that the world is greater than our knowledge of it. To those who rejoice in the abundance and intricacy in Creation, this is a source of joy, as it is to those who rejoice in freedom...
To those would-be solvers of "the human problem," who hope for knowledge equal to (capable of controlling) the world, it is a source of unremitting defeat and bewilderment. The evidence is overwhelming that knowledge does not solve "the human problem." Indeed, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests - with Genesis - that knowledge is the problem. Or perhaps we should say instead that all our problems tend to gather under two questions about knowledge: Having the ability and desire to know, how and what should we learn? And, having learned, how and for what should we use what we know? (pg. 183, People, Land, and Community)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“To think better, to think like the best humans, we are probably going to have to learn again to judge a person's intelligence, not by the ability to recite facts, but by the good order or harmoniousness of his or her surroundings. We must suspect that any statistical justification of ugliness and violence is a revelation of stupidity. (pg.192-193, People, Land, and Community)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Community, then, is an indispensable term in any discussion of the connection between people and land. A healthy community is a form that includes all the local things that are connected by the larger, ultimately mysterious form of the Creation. In speaking of community, then, we are speaking of a complex connection not only among human beings or between humans and their homeland but also between human economy and nature, between forest or prairie and field or orchard, and between troublesome creatures and pleasant ones. All neighbors are included. (pg. 202-203, Conservation and Local Economy)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Where is our comfort but in the free, uninvolved, finally mysterious beauty and grace of this world that we did not make, that has no price? Where is our sanity but there? Where is our pleasure but in working and resting kindly in the presence of this world? (pg. 215, Economy and Pleasure)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The two ideas, justice and vocation, are inseparable.... It is by way of the principle and practice of vocation that sanctity and reverence enter into the human economy. It was thus possible for traditional cultures to conceive that "to work is to pray." (pg. 258, The Idea of a Local Economy)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The principle of neighborhood at home always implies the principle of charity abroad. (pg. 260, The Idea of a Local Economy)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The word agriculture, after all, does not mean "agriscience," much less "agribusiness." It means "cultivation of land." And cultivation is at the root of the sense both of culture and of cult. The ideas of tillage and worship are thus joined in culture. And these words all come from an Indo-European root meaning both "to revolve" and "to dwell." To live, to survive on the earth, to care for the soil, and to worship, all are bound at the root to the idea of a cycle. It is only by understanding the cultural complexity and largeness of the concept of agriculture that we can see the threatening diminishments implied by the term "agribusiness." (pg. 285, The Use of Energy)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Charity even for one person does not make sense except in terms of an effort to love all Creation in response to the Creator's love for it.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“In the loss of skill, we lose stewardship; in losing stewardship we lose fellowship; we become outcasts from the great neighborhood of Creation. It is possible - as our experience in this good land shows - to exile ourselves from Creation, and to ally ourselves with the principle of destruction - which is, ultimately, the principle of nonentity. It is to be willing in general for being to not-be. And once we have allied ourselves with that principle, we are foolish to think that we can control the results. (pg. 303, The Gift of Good Land)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Creation is thus God's presence in creatures. The Greek Orthodox theologian Philip Sherrard has written that "Creation is nothing less than the manifestation of God's hidden Being." This means that we and all other creatures live by a sanctity that is inexpressibly intimate, for to every creature, the gift of life is a portion of the breath and spirit of God. (pg. 308, Christianity and the Survival of Creation)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“I don't think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a "hypaethral book," such as Thoreau talked about - a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Good human work honors God's work. Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love. It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God. But such blasphemy is not possible when the entire Creation is understood as holy and when the works of God are understood as embodying and thus revealing His spirit. (pg. 312, Christianity and the Survival of Creation)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“It is impossible to see how good work might be accomplished by people who think that our life in this world either signifies nothing or has only a negative significance.
If, on the other hand, we believe that we are living souls, God's dust and God's breath, acting our parts among other creatures all made of the same dust and breath as ourselves; and if we understand that we are free, within the obvious limits of moral human life, to do evil or good to ourselves and to the other creatures - then all our acts have a supreme significance. If it is true that we are living souls and morally free, then all of us are artists. All of us are makers, within mortal terms and limits, of our lives, of one another's lives, of things we need and use...
If we think of ourselves as living souls, immortal creatures, living in the midst of a Creation that is mostly mysterious, and if we see that everything we make or do cannot help but have an everlasting significance for ourselves, for others, and for the world, then we see why some religious teachers have understood work as a form of prayer...
Work connects us both to Creation and to eternity. (pg. 316, Christianity and the Survival of Creation)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“We still (sometimes) remember that we cannot be free if our minds and voices are controlled by someone else. But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else. The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition. One reason to eat responsibly is to live free. (pg. 323, The Pleasures of Eating)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best. Such a memory involves itself with the food and is one of the pleasures of eating. (pg. 326, The Pleasures of Eating)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


Reading Progress

03/21/2010 page 35
9.94% "Finished first essay, A Native Hill, about his native and current home, Kentucky."
03/26/2010 page 46
13.07% "Finished essay The Unsettling of America."
04/23/2010 page 61
17.33% "Berry's views on racism- really interesting and insightful."
05/07/2010 page 100
28.41% "I have met a kindred spirit in Wendell Berry."
05/11/2010 page 135
38.35% "Finished 40pg essay "The Body and the Earth." Almost out of book darts! So many thoughts I want to hold! And not even halfway through!"
10/30/2010 page 195
55.0% "I've been away from Berry much too long..."
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