Work Done Well Brings Us into Wholeness

It is in work that we find the test of our relationship to the creation because work is the question of how we will use the creation. For Berry, work done well brings us into a wholeness and cooperation with the creation in which we can find health. Bad work destroys the connections that make life possible. For Berry, good work is like a prayer—it is an act of both gratitude and return. Good work accepts the gifts of creation and uses those gifts to further their givenness. There are seeds that lie for decades in the soil, waiting for the right conditions before springing to life. Good work is that which creates the conditions for such life to burst forth from the whole of the creation.

–from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Finding Fulfillment by Embracing Our Limits

To be humble, to accept our limits, is to find the grounding for our becoming fulfilled. It is a striving against those limits that has led to much misery and a great deal of destruction, including the wide-scale erosion of the very soil we are supposed to move toward in our lowliness.

What if we could stop, breathe in our God-given breath, live our given lives in the forms through which we can find our fullness?

–from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Sabbath Frees Us from the Anxiety of Achievement

If we are to recover what it means to be a creature, to live a given life in a given world, then Sabbath will be a central practice. It is in Sabbath that we learn to rest and wrest ourselves from the anxieties of achievement, of making and doing, that clamor inside and out. “It invites us to rest,” writes Berry. “It asks us to notice that while we rest the world continues without our help. It invites us to find delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.” In our greed that rushes to consume the world to our own destruction, “it may be asking us also to consider that if we choose not to honor it and care well for it, the world will continue in our absence.”

–from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Included in the Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is a place where all is not only included but connected, whether we know it or not. It is a whole and it is orderly, but our understanding cannot comprehend it. It comprehends us, to be our subject we must recognize first that we are subject to it. We cannot know all of the creatures included in this kingdom or “the whole pattern or order by which it contains them.”

–from the book: Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Culture Brings Us Together for Healing

Culture connects us to a history, not merely as an assortment of past facts, but as an evaluative means of remembering. Culture enables us to remember and be remembered—to connect with the larger set of human wisdom through which we find a way to live in the truth. In theological terms, this is called anamnesis, the recollection, particularly in the Eucharistic Prayer, in which we draw our own lives back into the tradition of faith and recognize that our worship in each particular service is continuous with the worship that has gone before us. Though Berry doesn’t speak in these terms, the work of local culture has this kind of sacramental nature for him. Culture enables the healing by which “the scattered members come together” and “the holy enters the world.”

–from the book: Wendell Berry and the Given Life


Honor the Sabbath

Like so much of Wendell Berry’s writing and ideas, it is easy to be captured by the vision but frustrated when we look at our own lives and imagine how we might practice it. How do we find the retreat into this Sabbath world where we can be reoriented while living in a place with busy streets and our only options for wilderness are parks that hardly embody the creation in its abundant autonomy?

The answer is that we must engage our imaginations and learn to translate these truths, as all truths must be translated, to our own places and contexts. Even city sidewalks host feral grasses that break through, a wild whisper that signals what will come when the city’s noise finally fades. Sabbath is a reality that can break through anywhere if we learn to have the eyes to see it.

–from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Give Love, Gather Love

To love, we must be able to enact love, and we must be able to do it day in and day out in our work. It is this love that will guide us away from the carelessness that leads us to the destruction of the world and our neighbors through our everyday, middleclass existence of buying plastics, fertilizing lawns, eating cheap food, and driving to soccer practices.

It is love that will ultimately move us toward being good and therefore doing good. “In order to be good, you have to know how,” writes Wendell Berry, “and this knowing is vast, complex, humble and humbling; it is of the mind and of the hands, of neither alone.” It is knowledge that requires a spirit and a body and so brings us necessarily to the question of livelihood.

–from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Meeting God in the Upper Room