Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wendell Berry

I've long loved Berry, particularly his poetry and beautifully challenging exposes on nature and our responsibility in the world. His novel, "Jayber Crow", may not be my favorite book of his, but it's a work of layers and depth nonetheless.

"My questions were still with me, but for the time being anyhow they weren't crying out to be answered. I wasn't yet as free as I was going to become, but I knew that I was freer than I had ever been before". - Chapter 7

"The sermons, mostly, were preached on the same theme I had heard over and over... We must lay up treasures in Heaven and not be lured and seduced by this world's pretty and tasty things that do not last but are like the flower that is cut down. The preachers were always young students from the seminary who wore, you might say, the mantle of power but not the mantle of knowledge... You couldn't learn those things in a school. They went to school... to learn to say over and over again, regardless of where they were, what had already been said too often. They learned to have a very high opinion of God and a very low opinion of His works...

To them, the church did not exist in the world where people earn their living and have their being, but rather in the world where they fear death and Hell, which is not not much of a world... the young preachers knew Port William only as it theoretically was ('lost') and as it theoretically might be ('saved'). And they wanted us all to do our part to spread this bad news to others who had not heard it - the Catholics, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Buddhists, and the others - or else they (and maybe we) would go to Hell. I did not believe it. They made me see how cut off I was. Even when I was sitting in the church, I was a man outside.

Those world-condemning sermons were preached to people who, on Sunday mornings would be wearing the prettiest clothes... While wickedness of the flesh was preached from the pulpit, the young husbands and wives and the courting couple sat thigh to thigh, full of yearning and joy, and the old people thought of the beauty of the children. And when church was over they would go home to Heavenly dinners of fried chicken... and hot biscuits and butter and cherry pie and buttermilk. And the preacher and his family would always be invited to eat with somebody... and the preacher, having just foresworn on behalf of everybody the joys of the flesh, would eat with unconsecrated relish." - Chapter 15


Drew Miller said...


I like the quote from Chapter 7. It sums up a sense of being in process, not quite where I'd like to be but also not where I have been. It's a strange place that fuses (sometimes uncomfortably) peace and longing, happiness and a profound sense of being unfinished. Thanks for sharing this quote.

Also, in continuing to review your "Perfect Spot" newsletters and Appetite column, I say you are doing a great job and seem to be thoroughly enjoying what you are doing. To that I say, way to go.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!