“Practice resurrection”

March 4, 2011

Wendell Berry simultaneously inspires and depresses me. He inspires me because when I read his essays, I know he’s telling the truth, which is always liberating—even when the truth punches me in the gut. As blogger Fred Clark writes, “[W]hen I read Wendell Berry I can’t help but think that if he is right, then a great deal of the rest of the world is wrong. And he usually seems to be right.” Yep.

Berry received a humanities medal this week at the White House

But he doesn’t depress me because a great deal of the rest of the world is wrong—that’s sort of a given for Christians like us, right? He depresses me because how on earth can we practically realize his many good ideas about farming, conservation, and community? As Berry well knows, neither Big Business nor Big Government can do it for us. And growing a garden or buying food from a local farmer seems hopelessly inadequate. Baby steps, I guess…

Regardless, I’m sure he’s a worthy recipient of the National Humanities Medal he received this week from President Obama at the White House.

As I’ve been thinking about this Sunday’s sermon—which will deal in part with the tenth commandment (“Do not covet”)—and how our consumerist culture is practically built on a spirit of covetousness, this poem by Berry inspires me. Here is its first stanza:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

See my earlier posts on Wendell Berry, here and here.

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