Tag Archives: Wendell Berry

We Have Lost More Than We Never Imagined

Imagine a child who has never lain back in the grass just to feel thin leaves whisper against his earlobe, never watched cloudplay to find a story told for him alone, never learned to hear the separate song of robin, sparrow, chickadee. How can he hear the separate song of loneliness, sung by the owl-eyed little girl, the skinny immigrant with his beautiful eyelashes, the old lady liver-spotted with near 100 years of secrets, stories, songs?

How can a poverty of imagination purchase empathy?

Imagine a child who has never lain on the bedroom floor with Peter Pan, Treasure Island, Hardy Boys, never plucked out a tune on unfamiliar instruments, never learned to look for shooting star.

How can he dream, who never dreams?

How can he plan for tomorrow, who lives in the never-quiet racket of today?flower-bird

How can a poverty of thought purchase purpose?

Imagine a child nourished on binge-watching, blinking neon games, portable noise. There is no end to thumping bass and chime of inbox, the unceasing prattle of friends (no more waiting, even, for a phone call).

There is no waiting, period. There is no delayed gratification, no longing, no patience needed. And we are surprised when impatience bears its ugly fruit.

Where do they come from, the children with their guns? Where is this carnage born? Is it a failure of legislation? Of health care? Of education? Of parenting?

Or is it simply that we have forgotten how to sit, quiet? It takes quiet to see—are you surprised? Sit in a nickel arcade and try to see your neighbor’s heart, try to see your own.

We have forgotten how to see what others see, forgotten how to slip into their shoes.

We have forgotten how to imagine, how to dream.

We have forgotten how to listen, how to wait.

We are always loud, forever moving. Why then are we surprised when there is no peace? We are paying for the sins of omission.

Without quiet, there is no thought.

Without thought, there is no thoughtfulness.

Without thoughtfulness, there is no empathy.

Without empathy, there is no remorse.

Without imagination, there is no vision.

Without vision, there is no reason for hope.

Without hope, there is no reason to live.

With nothing to lose, there are no inhibitions.

We sow the wind, and we shall reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
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.

― Wendell Berry

Stretching my brain a few pages a day.

Ahhh… books.  Summer’s here, and for a lot of people, that means a stack of paperbacks and a beach towel.  As always, I used my summer birthday to get a small pile of wanna-read, need-to-read, and gotta-read titles; the only problem is deciding what to tackle first!  Tim Challies’ blog has a fantastic 2016 reading challenge (I know, I know, I’m a little late).  But I actually did list out a dozen books I wanted to get to this year, and slowly, I’m working my way through them.  On my list?  Les Misérables (thought it would be tough but I’m loving it!), Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard (started it and lost steam), Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (really great — now I’m reading some of his poetry, which is even better), The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King (it is staring at me from the bookshelf), Tim Keller’s book on prayer.

One on my list I’ve been chipping away at on and off for a few years.  It’s called Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups,  edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith — two guys from one of those little Quaker colleges in the midwest.  Michael assigned it for a class, and I’ve been meandering through it ever since.

I LOVE this book.  When I finish it I’m going to have to go back to the beginning and do it again.  Here’s the thing.  When you find an author or a style that you like, you tend to go back again and again, and maybe, after some time, you find yourself kind of stuck in a rut.  You read people who think like you.  You start to hear all of the same conversations repeated by new voices.  Yeah?  You can relate, right?  But this book is a survey of some pretty stinking amazing people over the span of 2,000 years of history.  It’s devotional, so you can dip a toe in without committing to the diving board (hello, 1,200 pages of Les Mis).  It’s a perfect kick-start to reading the Bible, just the right length for a cup of coffee.

Some of these folks are deep end of the pool thinkers (OK, most of them are.)  Some are mystics.  Some are poets.  Some are missionaries, scholars, monks, people the world was not worthy of (and yet the world has forgotten.)  There are folks in here who strike me as flat-out crazy and others who make me weep, people who challenge my assumptions and my complacency.  I could crank through this book in a short time, but I’d rather keep going my lazy way through, because there are words in this book that float around in my mind for a week or two if I don’t rush past.

Hmm… let me give you a few quotes to chew on.

There is no Christian who does not have time to pray without ceasing.... No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience.

There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.

The basic response of the soul to the Light is internal adoration and joy, thanksgiving and worship, self-surrender and listening. The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary of adoration...

What if a few pages a day could change your life?  What are you reading?