Telling Stories with: Wendell Berry

12 Apr

The other week in class when my professor was handing out our final paper prompts, he included a reading list. As most of my friends know, I am a sucker for a good reading list. I collect them like some people collected baseball cards, rocks, or rare books. I collect reading list, I have a whole collection of about four and this one makes five. It is about five or six books long. I decided to try one out and bought The Art of Commonplace, by Wendell Berry.

The Art of Commonplace is a collection of agrarian essays about the environment and presents the arguement on how argiculture society would cure with stress, anxiety, ill-health, and destructiveness of contemporary American culture.

Writing it, we shape it with our hands. Reading aloud what we have written- as we must do, if we are writing carefully- our language passes in at the eyes, out at the mouth, in at the ears, the words are immersed and steeped in the sense of the body before they make sense in the mind. They cannot make sense in the mind until they have made sense in the body. Does shaping one’s words with one’s own hand impart character and quality to them, as does speaking them with one’s own tongue to the satisfaction of one’s own ear? There is no way to prove that it does. On the other hand, there is no way to prove that it does not, I believe that it does (76).

The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity (12).

We are working well when we use ourselves as the fellow creatures of 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 responsibly within the human estate. It defines us as we are; not too good to work with our bodies, but too good to work poor or joylessly or selfishly or along (134).

Our bodies are involved in the world. Their needs and desires and pleasures are physical. Our bodies hunger and thirst, yearn toward other bodies, grow tired and seek rest, rise up rested, eager to exert themselves. All these desires may be satisfied with honor to the body and its maker, but only if much else besides the individual body is brought into consideration (147).

I have not finished reading yet but Berry wants us to turn back to the land because we are losing ourself in a society where we can isolate ourself and rely heavily on technology in order for our needs to be met.

1 Comment

Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Telling Stories with, Uncategorized


One response to “Telling Stories with: Wendell Berry

  1. Sara Katherine

    April 14, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Ooh, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this when you finish reading it. It sounds right up your alley. Sounds slightly Emerson-esque with the whole return to nature bit.


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