Wendell Berry, widely acclaimed agrarian poet, writer, and farmer, was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers. For those of you who have found Mr. Berry’s writings to be prophetic and transformative like I have – this interview is a feast. For those of you who are unaquainted with his genius – this short segment shines a light on Mr. Berry’s down-to-earth wisdom that is both provocative and stirring. In an age when many of us (even those of us who call ourselves Christians) view GOD’s Creation as a commodity or as irrelevant to our modern life, Mr. Berry’s literary voice pierces like that of a prophet- calling us towards wholeness. Here is the video (below) and a few of the most interesting highlights from the transcribed interview:
On His Christian Faith
“BILL MOYERS: Many years ago, you said, if you make a commitment and you stick to it to the end, there will be rewards.
WENDELL BERRY: Well that’s a, that’s…comes under the heading, faith.
BILL MOYERS: Faith. You still consider yourself a Christian.
WENDELL BERRY: I still consider myself a person who takes the gospels very seriously. And I read in them and am sometimes shamed by them and sometimes utterly baffled by them. But there is a good bit of the gospel that I do get, I think. I believe I understand it accurately. And I’m sticking to that. And I’m hanging on for the parts that I don’t understand. And, you know willing to endure the shame of falling short as a price of admission. All that places a very heavy and exacting obligation on me as a writer. A lot of my writing I think has been, when it hasn’t been in defense of precious things, has been a giving of thanks for precious things. So that enforces the art.
BILL MOYERS: What are the precious things that you think are endangered now?”…
On Patience, Farming and Taking Action
WENDELL BERRY: I say to the young people, don’t get into this with the idea that you’re going to save it and solve all the problems even in your lifetime. The important thing to do is to learn all you can about where you are and if you’re going to work there it becomes even more important to learn everything you can about that place to make common cause with that place and then resigning yourself, becoming patient enough to work with it over a long time. And then what you do is increase the possibility that you will make a good example and what we’re looking for in this is good examples.
BILL MOYERS: You and Wes Jackson have proposed, speaking of patience, and part of the answer, a 50 year farm bill. What is the heart of it?
WENDELL BERRY: The heart of it is to recognize that agriculture as we are now practicing it involves a highly destructive ratio between people and land. More and more land is being used and used fairly destructively by fewer and fewer people. This…used destructively because the fewness of the people implies and requires a dependence on more and more mechanical power and more and more toxic chemicals. …
On Animals and Ethics
BILL MOYERS: You also recommend taking animals out of their confinement and putting them back in…
WENDELL BERRY: Putting them back on grass where they belong.
BILL MOYERS: Why?
WENDELL BERRY: Because in the first place it’s wrong for people to mistreat fellow creatures. To use them inconsiderately and…and cruelly. Let me say that there is an inescapable cruelty involved in our life. We have to live at the expense of other creatures. Doesn’t make any difference how vegetarian we are, we’re still displacing other creatures. But the rule in using other creatures and I mean plants and animals is to use them with the minimum of violence.
BILL MOYERS: As you talk about that I thought of your poem, “For the Hog Killing.” Would you read that?
WENDELL BERRY: All right. This is all about the…the practical ethics.
Let them stand still for the bullet, and stare the shooter in the eye, let them die while the sound of the shot is in the air, let them die as they fall, let the jugular blood spring hot to the knife, let its freshet be full, let this day begin again the change of hogs into people, not the other way around, for today we celebrate again our lives’ wedding with the world, for by our hunger, by this provisioning, we renew the bond. …
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