Reflecting on Wendell Berry on Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day and we thought it a proper time to highlight the Brazos book Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life by J. Matthew Bonzo and Michael R. Stevens.

Wendell Berry offers an important and redemptive vision for life through his poetry, fiction, and essays. His themes of community, place, and conservation speak to a range of people, both conservative and progressive, who are concerned with finding health in the midst of our restless, transient “culture of death.” Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life is a systematic overview of Berry’s life and work and a concise introduction to his cultural and spiritual themes. It demonstrates the power of Berry’s vision and shows how his account of the world resonates with the biblical narrative of creation.

The following excerpt was taken from the first chapter.

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[Wendell] Berry’s vision is not a new metaphysic—another world offered as an escape from fallenness and despair. Instead, the story to be told is one of healing within the bounds of creation, not yet a final resurrection, not yet a new creation. Nowhere does Berry articulate this more eloquently than in the long essay “The Body and the Earth.” Here the mask is seen as the glossy embodiment of human pride, a pride that reduces the world to its mechanical functions: “We become less and less capable of sensing ourselves as small within Creation . . . because we were becoming creators, ourselves, of a mechanical creation by which we felt ourselves greatly magnified.”

But Berry also elaborates on the theme of blessed limitation which characterizes the “Sympathetic Mind.” When we perceive that “healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness,” we are back at the root of healing, the communal recognition and obligation. This extends outward, not with the universalizing or otalizing motive of modernity, for such a motive would reject the very particularity that makes community possible. But there is a sweeping scope to this healing: “to be healed, we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.”

©2008 by J. Matthew Bonzo & Michael R. Stevens. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.