Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wendell Berry And Scott Russell Sanders On The Road Together

Wendell Berry and Scott Russell Sanders
on the road together

Dear Maria,

An hour ago, Josie M sent an email introducing me to Scott Russell Sanders, a "friend of Wendell Berry."

This is an excellent follow-up to the email I recently based on the following Wendell Berry quote: 

“There is also the Territory of historical self-righteousness: if we had lived south of Ohio in 1830, we would not have owned slaves; if we had lived on the frontier, we would have killed no Indians, violated no treaties, stolen no land.  The probability is overwhelming that if we had belonged to the generation we deplore, we too would have behaved deplorably.  The probability is overwhelming that we belong to a generation that will be found by its successors to have behaved deplorably.  Not to know that is, again, to be in error and to neglect essential work, and some of this work, as before, is work of the imagination.  How can we imagine our situation or our history if we think we are superior to it?” 

I think you will warm to Wendell. He is a remarkably insightful fellow who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. I believe Berry still tills his native Kentucky hillside with horse and plow. 

25 years ago Sunil Nepali introduced me to Berry's "The Unsettling Of America: Culture And Agriculture," a collection of inter-related essays which made Newsweek's list of "50 Books For Our Times," a compilation that also includes Michael Pollan's "Botany Of Desire."

"The Unsettling of America" is an extraordinary history.  

And here is an extraordinary extract from Scott Russell Sanders' "Journal": 

17 January 2015

When I told my parents I wanted to switch my major, midway through college, from physics to English, my father replied, “But you already know English.” So I explained that I wanted to study British and American literature, go on for a Ph.D., and become a professor. To my parents, neither of whom had graduated from college, that goal seemed rather grand, but like many others of their generation, who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II, they believed that a brighter future awaited their children. My father had earned his living in factories, first as a line worker and eventually as a manager, and he was surprised to learn that a person could actually get paid for reading and talking about books. My mother was a homemaker with sundry skills, none of which was dignified by a paycheck, but she was an artist at heart as well as an avid reader, and she understood that my real ambition was to become a writer. If becoming a professor of English would help me pursue that dream, then she would support me wholeheartedly, and she persuaded my father to do the same.

Half a century after my parents gave me their blessing, I can look back on a career that has proven to be more fulfilling than anything I could have imagined as an undergraduate. What a privilege to have earned my living all these years in the way my father found so implausible—by reading and writing, and by discussing works of literature with bright, inquisitive young people. In what other profession could one share on a daily basis the pleasures of language well used and art well made, while exploring the variety and meaning of human experience?

It is not fashionable in today’s academy to speak of literary study as a source of aesthetic pleasure, much less as a way and of exploring what it means to be human. But those were the rewards that drew me to the reading of stories and novels and poems in childhood, and that keep me reading now. Literature helps me think about how we shape our individual lives, how we treat one another, how we organize ourselves into communities, how we relate to the rest of nature, and how we might do all of those things differently. Biology influences our behavior profoundly, of course, as it does that of all animals; but humans are distinctive in the degree to which we must choose how to act, individually and collectively. Shall we go to war or make peace? Shall we enslave one another, or embrace one another? Shall we cheat and lie and steal, or shall we deal honestly? Shall we care for the poor, or discard them? Shall we regard Earth as a warehouse of raw materials or as our beautiful and irreplaceable home? Shall we think of ourselves as machines made of meat, or as beings with souls?

Love you tons,

Daddy man

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Alan Archibald <>
Date: Tue, May 26, 2015 at 9:30 PM
Subject: Re: friend of wendell berry
To: Josie M

Thank you Josie!

Tomorrow morning Danny and I leave for five weeks in Portugal, Spain and Morocco.

We return early July.

Pax vobiscum


On Tue, May 26, 2015 at 7:21 PM, Josie M wrote:

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