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Friday, January 9, 2015


I recently read Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters ofWendell Berry and Gary Snyder (edited by Chad Wriglesworth, 2014).

The book is a collection of letters exchanged by these two kindred and influential souls over a 40-year span of time.  Both WB and GS are intellectual agrarians, teachers, activists, and poets.  One is a Christian, the other a Buddhist.   One lives near the west coast in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the other in the tobacco lands of Kentucky.  Both hold the earth in sacred regard, and actively promote policy and behavioral changes in our society that would cause each of us to come to a deeper understanding of just how dependent we are on the well-being of the planet we inhabit.

The letters exchanged by these two men over time give insight into their values, their fears for the future of our species and Earth, their passion for the written and spoken word, and their profound belief in participating in agricultural practices that attend to the health of the soil, the plants that grow therein, the animals that feed on those plants, and the humans who are dependent on all.

Some of my big takeaways:
  • Fight for what you love and believe in (and don’t spend too much time fighting against).
  • ”Technological despotism” emperils our health, the future of our species, the Earth itself.
  • Never exploit others, figuratively or literally.
  • The only place we are “urgently needed” is home.
  • We learn to work, then learn from the work we do.
  • Take a side, but always serve the truth.
  • No matter how long we agrarians work on a piece of land, we still are only just beginning to know it.
My favorite quote:
“The idea that truth is all on your side is the worst danger to your side.” 
-Wendell Berry, (p. 89)

Thanks for the recommendation, DM.  Very glad for the time I spent peeking into the minds of these two giants.

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