In the last 50 years or so, Wendell Berry’s name has become almost synonymous with a sort of simple, agrarian lifestyle.
A great activist, writer and thinker, Berry has written dozens of stories, poems, essays and novels.
He also is a farmer and a Christian who has challenged the Church to take environmental issues seriously.
In today’s hectic, consumeristic world, there is much we can learn from Berry’s commitment to simple living, good stewardship and value of nature.
Today, in honor of the new film Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky, we’ve gathered some of his best pieces of wisdom:
On Sacred Space
“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
On Knowing Which Way to Go
“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
On How to Approach Every Day
“So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute … Give your approval to all you cannot understand … Ask the questions that have no answers. Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years … Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts … Practice resurrection.”
― The Country of Marriage
On Nature’s Memory
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
― Endorsement statement for The Dying of the Trees
On What Is and Isn’t ‘Christian’
“Especially among Christians in positions of wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus’ commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic. According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective ‘Christian.’”
― Blessed are the Peacemakers: Christ’s Teachings of Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound…
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
—“The Peace of Wild Things”
On Understanding Your Past
“If you don’t know where you’re from, you’ll have a hard time saying where you’re going.”
On Why God Made the World
The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good, and He loves it. It is His world; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it.
—What Are People For?
On Organized Religion
“As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think.”
― Jayber Crow
On the Fear of the Unknown
“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”
“The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.”
— What Are People For?
On the Lord’s Prayer
“This, I thought, is what is meant by ‘thy will be done’ in the Lord’s Prayer, which I had prayed time and again without thinking about it. It means that your will and God’s will may not be the same. It means there’s a good possibility that you won’t get what you pray for. It means that in spite of your prayers you are going to suffer.”
— Jayber Crow