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Wendell Berry reading here the story "Fly Away, Breath" which is so far uncollected, but was published in the Spring 2008 edition of The Threepenny Review.


Quotations from Wendell Berry (Wendell Berry and his works)


“One of the hardest things humans have to deal with is their stupidity.
Despite calling ourselves Homo sapiens, we’re really pretty dumb.”


"...in pre-industrial country towns and city neighborhoods, the people who needed each other lived close to each other. This proximity was free, and it provided many benefits that were either free or comparatively cheap. This simple proximity has been destroyed and replaced by  communications and transportation industries that are, again, enormously expensive and destructive, as well as extremely vulnerable to disruption."
-- Wendell Berry. "Search for Common Ground." Home Economics, 1987.


“We are clearly at the point in life and the economy where we have to think of restraint,” said Berry. “Not just self-restraint, that old killjoy, but communal restraint.”

Whether it’s mountaintop-removal coal mining in east Kentucky or foreign policy blunders or large-scale industrial farming techniques, the notion that “anything goes” has long prevailed in modern art, science and politics, Berry said. Across the nation and around the globe, so-called “experts” are busy trying to apply “everywhere” what they learned “somewhere.” But the critical issue is really context and place, Berry said.

“Whatever doesn’t fit a place is wrong,” Berry said. “It doesn’t matter if it is true or false. If it doesn’t belong, it is wrong.” Without a standard of place as a measure of real prosperity, Berry said, we will never know what to make of development, technology, research, education, modernization, religion and the environment, or ecosphere.

“We have gone from ‘anything goes’ to a strenuous warning, ‘Attend to context, or else,’” Berry said.

at Duke Divinity School, October 29, 2007


"Though I can see no way to defend the economy, I recognize the need to be concerned for the suffering that would be produced by its failure. But I ask if it is necessary for it to fail in order to change: I am assuming that if it does not change it must sooner or later fail, and that a great deal that is more valuable will fail with it. As a deity the economy is a sort of egotistical French monarch, for it apparently can see no alternative to itself except chaos, and perhaps that is its chief weakness. For, of course, chaos is not the only alternative to it. A better alternative is a better  economy. But we will not conceive the possibility of a better  economy, and therefore will not begin to change, until we quit  deifying the present one."
-- Wendell Berry in "A Continuous Harmony"


"a people who are entirely lacking in economic self-determination, either personal or local, and who are therefore entirely passive in dealing with the suppliers of all their goods and services, including political goods and services, cannot be governed democratically
--or not for long."
-- Wendell Berry


"And even today, against overpowering odds and prohibitive costs, one does not have to go far in any part of the country to hear voiced the old hopes that stirred millions of immigrants, freed slaves, westward movers, young couples starting out: a little farm, a little shop, a little store
--some kind of place and enterprise of one's own, within and by which one's family could achieve a proper measure of  independennce, not only of economy, but of satisfaction, thought, and character."
-- Wendell Berry


"capitalism against communism...If one must spend one's life as an employee, what difference does it make whether one's employer is a government or a corporation?" Berry


"...if we want our forests to last, then we must make wood products that last, for our forests are more threatened by shoddy workmanship than by clear-cutting or by fire." Berry


"We assume that we can have an exploitive, ruthlessly competitive,  profit-for-profit's-sake economy, and yet remain a God-fearing and a democratic nation, as we still apparently think of ourselves. This simply means that our highest principles and standards have no practical force or influence, and are reduced merely to talk." Berry


"...our country is not being destroyed by bad politics, it is being destroyed by a bad way of life. Bad politics is merely another result."
-- Wendell Berry (http://brtom.typepad.com/wberry/)


"A change of heart or of values without a practice is only another  pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life."  
-- Wendell Berry in "The Idea of a Local Economy"

On inevitability:


"Eventually this mechanistic line of thought brings us to the doctrine that whatever happens is inevitable. Actually, this stark determinism is altered  in general use to a doctrine that is even more contemptible. Every bad thing that happens is inevitable. For every good thing that happens there are mobs of claimers of credit. Every good and perfect gift comes from politicians, scientists, researchers, governments, and corporations. Evils, however, are inevitable; there is just no use in trying to choose against them. Thus all industrial comforts and labor saving devices are the result only of human ingenuity and determination (not to mention the charity and altruism that have so conspicuously distinguished the industrial subspecies for the past two centuries), but the consequent pollution, land destruction, and social upheaval have been "inevitable."


"Thus President Clinton (for whom I voted) could tell an audience of "farmers and agricultural organization leaders" in Billings, Montana on June 1, 1995, that the American farm population now is "dramatically lower, obviously, than it was a generation ago. And that was inevitable because of the increasing productivity of agriculture."

Who so Hath his minde on taking, hath it no more on what he hath taken. MONTAIGNE, III. Vl
-- from "The Unsettling of America"


"But for the time being (may it be short) the corporations thrive, and they are doing so at the expense of everything else. Their dogma of the survival of  the wealthiest (i.e. mechanical efficiency) is the dominant intellectual fashion. A Letter to the New York Times, of July 8, 1999 stated it perfectly: "While change is difficult for those affected, the larger, more efficient business organization  will eventually emerge and industry consolidation will occur to the benefit of the many." When you read or hear those words "larger" and "more efficient" you may expect soon to encounter the word "inevitable," and this letter writer conformed exactly to the rule: "We should not try to prevent the inevitable consolidation of the farming industry." This way of talking is now commonplace among supposedly intelligent people, and it has only one motive: the avoidance of difficult thought. Or one might as well say that the motive is the avoidance of thought, for that use of the word "inevitable" obviates the need to consider any alternative, and a person  confronting only a single possibility is well beyond any need to think. The message is: "The machine is coming. If you are small and in the way, you must lie down and be run over." So high a level of mental activity is readily achieved by terrapins."  
-- from "Life is a Miracle"


It is, in every way, in the best interest of urban consumers to be surrounded by productive land, well farmed and well maintained by thriving farm families in thriving farm communities.
-- Wendell Berry


Our national political leaders do not know what we are talking about,  and they are without the local affections and allegiances that would permit them to learn what we are talking about. Wendell Berry


The message is plain enough, and we have ignored it for too long: the great, centralized economic entities of our time do not come into rural places in order to improve them by "creating jobs." They come to take as much of value as they can take, as cheaply and as quickly as they can take it. They are interested in "job creation" only so long as the jobs can be done more cheaply by humans than by machines. They are not interested in good health
--economic or natural or human
--of any place on this earth.
-- Wendell Berry


...if you should undertake to appeal or complain to one of these great corporations on behalf of your community, you would discover  something most remarkable: you would find that these organizations are organized expressly for the evasion of responsibility. They are structures in which, as my brother says, "the buck never stops." The buck is processed up the hierarchy until finally it is passed to "the shareholders," who characteristically are too widely dispersed, too poorly informed, and too unconcerned to be responsible for anything. The ideal of the modern corporation is to be (in terms of its own  advantage) anywhere and (in terms of local accountability) nowhere.
-- Wendell Berry


We are now pretty obviously facing the possibility of a world that the supranational corporations, and the governments and educational systems that serve them, will control entirely for their own enrichment
--and, incidentally and inescapably, for the impoverishment of all the rest of us.  
-- Wendell Berry


We can't go on too much longer, maybe, without considering the likelihood that we humans are not intelligent enough to work on the scale to which we have been tempted by our technological abilities.
-- Wendell Berry


...the neighborhood, the local community, is the proper place and frame of reference for responsible work.
-- Wendell Berry


...contrary to all the unmeaning and unmeant political talk about "job creation," work ought not to be merely a bone thrown to the  otherwise unemployed...work ought to be necessary; it ought to be  good; it ought to be satisfying and dignifying to the people who do it, and genuinely useful and pleasing to the people for whom it is done.
-- Wendell Berry


Biotechnology, variety patenting, and other agribusiness innovations are intended not to help farmers or consumers but to extend and prolong corporate control of the food economy; they will increase the cost of food, both economically and ecologically.
-- Wendell Berry


What we have before us, if we want our communities to survive, is the  building of an adversary economy, a system of local or community  economies within, and to protect against, the would-be global  economy.
-- Wendell Berry


From now on we should disbelieve that any corporation ever comes to any rural place to do it good, to "create jobs," or to bring to the local people the benefits of the so-called free market.
-- Wendell Berry


Our mistreatment of children is not mitigated by our interest in "reforming" the institutions into which we put them. We will not have better children by having better day care centers, schools, and jails.
-- Wendell Berry


Nothing is more pleasing or heartening than a plate of nourishing, tasty, beautiful food artfully and lovingly prepared. Anything less is unhealthy, as well as a desecration.
-- Wendell Berry


It is certain, I think, that the best government is the one that governs least. But there is a much-neglected corollary: the best citizen is the one who least needs governing. The answer to big government is not private freedom, but private responsibility. -Wendell Berry, "The Loss of the Future" in The Long-Legged House  (1969),


To put the bounty and the health of our land,  our only commonwealth, into the hands of people who do not live on it and share its fate will always be an error. For whatever determines the fortune of the land determines also the fortune of the people. If history teaches anything, it teaches that.
-- Wendell Berry


As I understand it, I am being paid only for my work in arranging the words; my property is that arrangement. The thoughts in this book, on the contrary, are not mine. They came freely to me, and I give them freely away. I have no "intellectual property," and I think that all claimants to such property are thieves.
-- Wendell Berry, from the Joys of Sales Resistance


"If what we call the modern world is inescapable, I think we're doomed. I'll be honest about it. I don't think that there is a chance. Do you know what Thoreau said? Thoreau saw the railroad coming and it gave him the shakes. Not very many people had the shakes at that time; plenty of them got them now, because what we've done is just an extension of the railroad that went past Walden Pond. "Thoreau said, 'They think they're going to go on with this business of stocks and spades until everybody will ride. But when the whistle blows and the smoke clears away, it will be found that a few are riding and the rest run over.' "
-- Wendell Berry speaking at the Agriculture for a Small Planet Symposium, Spokane, WA, July 1, 1974.


"There are some notable exceptions. A few people have learned to do a few things better. But it is discouraging to reflect that, though we have been talking about most of our problems for decades, we are still mainly talking about them. The civil rights movement has not given us better communities. The women's movement has not given us better marriages or better households. The environment movement has not changed our parasitic relationship to nature."
--Wendell Berry, from "What Are People For"


"The question that must be addressed, therefore, is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet's millions of  human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others. Our understandable wish to preserve the planet must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence
-- that is, to the wish to preserve all of its humble households and neighborhoods.


"What can accomplish this reduction? I will say again, without overweening hope but with certainty nonetheless, that only love can do it. Only love can bring intelligence out of the institutions and organizations, where it aggrandizes itself, into the presence of the work that must be done.


"Love is never abstract. It does not adhere to the universe or the planet or the nation or the institution or the profession, but to the singular sparrows of the street, the lilies of the field,'the least of these my brethren.' Love is not, by its own desire, heroic. It is heroic only when compelled to be. It exists by its willingness to be  anonymous, humble, and unrewarded.


The older love becomes, the more clearly it understands its involvement in partiality, imperfection, suffering, and mortality. Even so, it longs for incarnation. It can live no longer by thinking."


"We can safely predict that for a long time there are going to be people in places of power who will want to solve our local problems by inviting in some great multinational corporation. They will want to put millions of dollars of public money into an "incentive package" to make it worthwhile for the corporation to pay low wages for our labor and to pay low prices for, let us say, our timber. It is well understood that nothing so excites the glands of a free-market capitalist as the offer of a government subsidy."
-- Wendell Berry, in  "Conserving Forest Communities"


"Our model citizen is a sophisticate who, before puberty, understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato"
-- Wendell Berry "



---A direct result of the disintegration of the household is the division of sexuality from fertility and their virtual takeover by specialists. The specialists of human sexuality are the sexual clinicians and the pornographers, both of whom subsists on the increasing possibility of sex between people who neither know nor care about each other. The specialists of human fertility are the evangelists, technicians, and salesmen of birth control, who subsist upon our failure to see any purpose or virtue in sexual discipline. In this, as in our use of every other kind of energy, our inability to contemplate any measure of restraint or forbearance has been ruinous. Here the impulse is characteristically that of a laboratory scienist: to encapsulate sexuality by separating it absolutely from the problems of fertility.


This division occurs, it seems to me, in a profound cultural failure. That failure is in the loss of any sense that sexuality and fertility might exist together in this world. We have lost this possibility because we do not understand, because we cannot bear to consider, the meaning of restraint. The sort of restraint I am talking about is illustrated in a recent _National Geographic_ article about the people of Hunza in northern Pakistan. The author is a woman, Sabrina Michaud, and she is talking with a Hunza woman in her kitchen:


"'What have you done to have only one child?' she asks me. Her own children range from 12 to 30 years of age, and seem evenly spaced, four to five years apart. 'We leave our husband's bed until each child is weaned,' she explains simply. But this natural means of birth control has declined, and population has soared."


The woman's remark is thus passed over and not returned to, but if I  understand the significance of this paragraph, it is of great  importance. The decline of "this natural means of birth control" seems to have been contemporaneous with the coming of roads and "progress" and the opening up of a previously isolated country. What is of interest is that in their isolation in arid, narrow valleys surrounded by the stone and ice of the Karakoram Mountains, these people had practiced sexual restraint as a form of birth control. They had neither our statistical expertise nor our doom-prophets of population growth; it just happened that, placed geographically as they were, they lived always in sight of their agricultural or ecological limits, and they made a competent response.


We have been unable to see the difference between this kind of restraint
--a cultural response to an understood practical limit
--and the obscure, self-hating, self-congratulating Victorian self- restraint, of which our attitudes and technologies of sexual "freedom" are merely the equally obscure other side. This so-called freedom fragments us and turns us more vehemently and violently than before against our own bodies and against the bodies of other people.  " 
---Wendell Berry in "The Unsettling of America" pp. 132-3


...the word `planetary' also refers to an abstract anxiety or an abstract passion that is desperate and useless exactly to the extent that it is abstract. How, after all, can  anybody—any particular body— do anything to heal a planet? The suggestion that anybody could do so is preposterous. The heroes of abstraction keep gallopping in on their white horses to save the planet—and they keep falling off in front of the  grandstand. "


What we need, obviously, is a more intelligent—which is to say, a more accurate—description of the problem. The description of a problem as planetary arouses a motivation for which, of necessity, there is no employment. The adjective `planetary' describes a problem in such a way that it cannot be solved. In fact, though we now have serious problems nearly everywhere on the planet, we have no problem that can accurately be described as planetary. And, short of the total  annihilation of the human race, there is no planetary solution.


"There are also no national, state, or county problems, and no national, state, or county solutions. That will-o'-the-wisp, the large-scale solution to the large-scale  problem, which is so dear to governments, universities, and corporations, serves mostly to distract people from the small, private problems that they may, in fact, have the power to solve.


"The problems, if we describe them accurately, are all private and small. Or they are so initially.


"The problems are our lives. In the `developed' countries, at least, the large problems occur because all of us are living either partly wrongly or almost entirely wrong. It was not just the greed of corporate shareholders and the hubris of corporate executives that put the fate of Prince William Sound into one ship; it was also our demand that energy by cheap and plentiful.


"The economies of our communities and households are wrong. The answers to the human problems of ecology are to be found in economy. And the answers to the problems of economy are to be found in culture and in character. To fail to see this is to go on dividing the world falsely between guilty producers and innocent consumers.

"The planetary versions—the heroic versions—of our problems have attracted great intelligence. But these problems, as they are caused and suffered in our lives, our households, and our communities, have attracted very little intelligence."  
--Wendell Berry (from What Are People For?)


It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you get old.”


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