99 Wendell Berry Quotes That Will Give You A Fresh Perspective
Wendell Berry is an American poet, cultural critic, environmental activist and novelist. He lives on a farm that he has maintained in Port Royal, Kentucky, for about 40 years. A farmer by profession, Berry holds deep reverence for agrarian values, marital fidelity and traditions. Being mistrustful of technology, Wendell believes in the holiness of life. In his lifetime, he has written over 40 books comprising of essays, fiction and poetry. His beliefs and values are reflected in his life and works. His classics include 'The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture' that highlights the failure of modern, machine-based life, 'New Farm Magazine and Organic Gardening and Farming' and agricultural treatises that touch green aspects of farming. In 'The Broken Ground', he wrote about farm life and family bonds and 'The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture' traces the foundation of American culture on modern agriculture. In today's technological world, authors like Berry represent the beauty and simplicity of life. The prolific author is a recipient of 'Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement' award (2013), 'National Humanities Medal' and the Jefferson Lecturer in 2012. He's the first living writer to make it to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. There is so much we can learn from Berry’s commitment to simple living, and value of nature. We have excerpted some of Wendell Berry Quotes from his writings, his take on several subjects and everyday life. Here are some of Wendell Berry's most memorable quotes.
Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire. Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do. Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you. Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy. You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it. Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. Be joyful because it is humanly possible. A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance. Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope. I don't believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure. There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places. What I stand for is what I stand on. ...And we pray, not for new
earth or heaven, but to be quiet
in heart, and in eye clear.
What we need is here. Let us have the candor to acknowledge that what we call "the economy" or "the free market" is less and less distinguishable from warfare. The cloud is free only to go with the wind. The rain is free only in falling. Eating is an agricultural act. There comes . . . a longing never to travel again except on foot. Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup. One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener's own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race. If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going. When going back makes sense, you are going ahead. ...the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope. If you can read and have more imagination than a doorknob, what need do you have for a 'movie version' of a novel? I have always loved a window, especially an open one. Young lovers see a vision of the world redeemed by love. That is the truest thing they ever see, for without it life is death. I could die in peace, I think, if the world was beautiful. To know it's being ruined is hard. Some nights in the midst of this loneliness I swung among the scattered stars at the end of the thin thread of faith alone. After a while, though the grief did not go away from us, it grew quiet. What had seemed a storm wailing through the entire darkness seemed to come in at last and lie down. The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life. It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines. If the devil doesn't exist... how do you explain that some people are a lot worse than they're smart enough to be? Perhaps all the good that ever has come here has come because people prayed it into the world. People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons. The Christian gospel is a summons to peace, calling for justice beyond anger, mercy beyond justice, forgiveness beyond mercy, love beyond forgiveness. It is certain, I think, that the best government is the one that governs the least. But there is a much-neglected corollary: the best citizen is the one who least needs governing. Battle with unconditioned breath the unconditioned air. Shun electric wire. Communicate slowly. Live a three-dimensional life; stay away from screens. The promoters of the global economy...see nothing odd or difficult about unlimited economic growth or unlimited consumption in a limited world. Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence. There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things. The past is our definition. We may strive with good reason to escape it or to escape what is bad in it but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass. What can't be helped must be endured. What could be more superstitious than the idea that money brings forth food? The mercy of the world is time. Time does not stop for love, but it does not stop for death and grief, either. The mercy of the world is you don't know what's going to happen. The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life. Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest. A man with a machine and inadequate culture is a pestilence. He never complained. He seemed to have no instinct for the making much of oneself that complaining requires. It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey. The music, while it lasted, brought a new world into being. You don't need to be told some things. You can sometimes tell more by a man's silence and the set of his head than by what he says. Charity even for one person does not make sense except in terms of an effort to love all Creation in response to the Creator's love for it. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. To love anything good, at any cost, is a bargain. It is impossible to prefigure the salvation of the world in the same language by which the world has been dismembered and defaced. If we do not live where we work and when we work we are wasting our lives and our work too. The Earth is what we all have in common. For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment the size of its income or even the statistics of its productivity but the good health of the land. ...I was a young man. I hardly knew what I knew, let alone what I was going to know. The road is a word, conceived elsewhere and laid across the country in the wound prepared for it: a word made concrete and thrust among us. To define knowledge as merely empirical is to limit one's ability to know; it enfeebles one's ability to feel and think. The rule, acknowledged or not, seems to be that if we have great power we must use it. We would use a steam shovel to pick up a dime. We have experts who can prove there is no other way to do it. He imagines a necessary joy in things that must fly to eat. Beauty . . . cannot be interpreted. It is not an empirically verifiable fact; it is not a quantity. I don't think I had even begun to have an idea where I was going, but wherever it was, that was where I wanted to go. The only true and effective "operator's manual for spaceship earth" is not a book that any human will ever write; it is hundreds of thousands of local cultures. He loved the woods, where it seemed to him that every life was secret, including his own. It is not a terrible thing to love the world, knowing that the world is always passing and irrecoverable, to be known only in loss. To love anything good, at any cost, is a bargain. ...Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed... Waking up from a dream of violence is much the same as waking up from a dream of love. You must go on living your life. The language that reveals also obscures. True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible… In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. Thinking is the most overrated human activity. We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist. Novelty is a new kind of loneliness. A man's life is always dealing with permanence, that is the most dangerous kind of irresponsibility is to think of your doings as temporary. When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.
When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf. To mind being disliked by a woman you don’t desire and are not married to is yet another serious failure of common sense. Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. We cannot know the whole truth, which belongs to God alone, but our task nevertheless is to seek to know what is true. I had changed, and the sign of it was only that my own death seemed to me by far the least important thing in my life. No man will ever be whole and dignified and free except in the knowledge that the men around him are whole and dignified and free, and that the world itself is free of contempt and misuse. It's sad that we live in a society that has the refrain 'thank God it's Friday, that means you despise 5/7ths of your life. We’ve all got to go through enough to kill us. The crisis of community has its source in the corruption of character. The world doesn't stop because you are in love or in mourning or in need of time to think. And so when I have thought I was in my story or in charge of it, I really have only been on the edge of it. So it is that the life force may take possession of a man-- so that in the end he may be possessed by something greater, no longer at all belonging to himself.
It was a country . . . that he and his people had known how to use and abuse, but not how to preserve.
It surely is far better to be disliked by somebody you don't love than by somebody you do. Even so, I mind. Even so, failing to love somebody is a failure.
A tree forms itself in answer
to its place and the light.
Explain it how you will, the only
thing explainable will be
Sabbaths 1999 IV
Marriage has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. (from "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine")
The Satisfactions of the Mad Farmer...the quiet in the woods of a summer morning, the voice of a pewee passing through it like a tight silver wire; ...
This religion that scorned the beauty and goodness of this world was a puzzle to me. Jesus' military career has never compelled my belief.