Front Porch Blog

A Giving of Thanks for Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry, image screen capture from Moyers and Company

I know of no wiser or more insightful thinker alive today than Wendell Berry. The work of this Kentucky farmer, author and activist has been a constant source of inspiration for me ever since I read a collection of his essays, “Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community,” in college 17 years ago, so it was a real treat to see his rare television interview with Bill Moyers that aired on PBS earlier this month.

In the interview, we see a man gravely concerned with the state of the world. Yet, despite his acute awareness of the problems we face — including the rampant mountaintop removal mining in his home state — what makes Berry stand out today is his clear, unwavering vision of the good and the beautiful, which is informed and inspired by his own well-lived life. His writing celebrates nature, close families and communities, and the potential for healthy interaction between people and the earth — and, as a farmer who’s devoted his life to caring for the land and his loved ones, he writes with great authority.

Something really hit me when Berry noted in his conversation with Moyers that much of his writing has been “a giving of thanks for precious things.” It’s so easy these days to become fixated on what’s wrong with the world, and, as Berry went on to say, “it’s mighty hard right now to think of anything that’s precious that isn’t in danger.” Berry’s extensive body of work reminds us, however, to take the time to fully appreciate, love, and learn from the good and beautiful things in the world.

As his example at age 79 shows, living this way will give us the energy, wisdom and positive vision to be brave, creative and effective over the long haul in our work to protect what we love. For his courageous example and extraordinarily insightful work, we owe Wendell Berry a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Read Brian Sewell’s post on Moyers’ interview with Berry, and learn more about Berry and his work at www.wendellberrybooks.com.

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