Learning Wisdom Through the Writings of Wendell Berry

by Mark Votava


  • The need for better communities

“If we are to hope to correct our abuses of each other and of other races and of our land, and if our effort to correct these abuses is to be more than a political fad that will in the long run be only another form of abuse, then we are going to have to go far beyond public protest and political action.  We are going to have to rebuild the substance and integrity of private life in this country.  We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibility that we have parceled out to the bureaus and the corporations and the specialists, and put those fragments back together in our own minds and in our families and households and neighborhoods.  We need better government, no doubt about it.  But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities.  We need persons and households that do not have to wait upon organizations, but can make necessary changes in themselves, on their own.”  A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural

  • How can a society live when its communities die?

“…for I cannot see how a nation, a society, or a civilization can live while its communities die.”  Another Turn of the Crank

  • The truth of the imagination to prove itself in every life and place in the world

“One of the most profound of human needs is for the truth of the imagination to prove itself in every life and place in the world, and for the truth of the world’s lives and places to be proved in imagination.”  Home Economics

  • Cultivate the possibility of peace and harmlessness

“If one disagrees with the nomadism and violence in our society, then one is under an obligation to take up some permanent dwelling place and cultivate the possibility of peace and harmlessness in it.  If one deplores the destructiveness and wastefulness of the economy, then one is under an obligation to live as far out on the margin of the economy as one is able: to be economically independent of exploitive industries, to learn to need less, to waste less, to make things last, to give up meaningless luxuries, to understand and resist the language of the salesmen and public relations experts, to see through attractive packages, to refuse to purchase fashion or glamour or prestige…”  The Long-Legged House

  • The destruction of local economies, neighborhood, and community

“The mess that surrounds us, then, must be understood not just as a problem in itself but as a symptom of a greater and graver problem: the centralization of our economy, the gathering of the productive property and power into fewer and fewer hands, and the consequent destruction, everywhere, of the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community.”  What Are People For?

How can we care for our local economies, neighborhood, and community?