Wisdom from Wendell

I’m reading of collection of interviews that Wendell Berry has given over the years.  They are another quality addition to his body of work that includes novels, essays, and poetry.  There’s much to highlight, but this section was particularly profound:

Plowboy: …it takes a conscious effort to reinstate the ceremony and ritual in our lives.  Many intentional communities are trying to generate this kind of awareness and stability…

Berry: But I’m much more interested in the results of accidental communities that have formed by fate and fortune and circumstance.  The intentional community seems to me a rather escapist idea, sort of a new version of the white citizen’s council.  I thought that’s what we were trying to get away from.  I think the idea that you can have an intentional community is about as misleading as saying you can have an intentional life.  If you’re going to have a decent and stable community, you’ve got to produce the cultural and social forms by which to deal with the unexpected and the undesirable.  The intentional community idea assumes that when you say love your neighbor as yourself, you have some kind of right to go out and pick your neighbor.  I think that the ideal of loving your neighbor has to take on the possibility that he may be somebody you’re going to have great difficulty loving or liking or even tolerating.

Plowboy: In your writing you emphasize that the inhabitants of a region thrive on the daily interchange between old and young… yet many of these new communities are made up primarily of young people.

Berry: Yes, and that’s one of the worst possible kinds of segregation.  This is probably the first generation not to have a history.  They have their own immediate history but not one that comes from having older people around them.  They’re coming up to adult life without the awareness that anyone has ever gone through their experiences before, much less learned anything from them.  But I know people who as children had their grandparents’ memories in their memories, so that in a sense, as young people they had old minds.  They had a kind of seasoning.

From Morris Allen Grubbs, ed., Conversations with Wendell Berry (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), 10.

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