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The Wisdom of Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

On Friday, November 22nd, I met Mr. Wendell Berry. He signed a book for me, while I told him what an inspiration and a guiding light his words have been to my ministry and my life. And I shook his hand . . . twice!

(Ginny said that she hadn’t seen me this giddy since the birth of our child.)

Later that evening, he was part of a panel. Here are some nuggets of wisdom he offered, which I give to you to reflect upon:

“Life has a certain cruelty to it. You are here because something else is not. We are experiencing original sin, round two. There is no one who is innocent. Each of us participate daily in the destruction of this world. Therefore, our aim is to be as less cruel as possible.”

“I do not have favorites. Life is more complicated than that; we need to like many things!”

“Always preach to the choir; after all, they will listen to you the longest.”

“Something fundamentally goes wrong when we allow a machine to come between us and nature.”

“Through conversation, we can more clearly define the problems. And that gives me hope.”

My dear friends gave Berry’s new collection of poems to me. In reading This Day, I was reminded, yet again, of Mark Twain’s distinction between the “right” word and the “almost” right word as the difference between lightning and lightning bugs! Those familiar with his work already know that Berry excels in the precision of his language. This collection allows reader to track his evolving, deepening views over thirty-five years. His careful choice of words reflects his deep, spiritual insights about our destructive way in the world; and yet, these poems remain ultimately hopeful, illuminated from within. Not only a pleasure to read, these poems provide light to see one’s own humanity and a way to see our path ahead.

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.


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