Wendell Berry

This would be work worthy of the name human

To learn to meet our needs without continuous violence against one another and our only world would require an immense intellectual and practical effort, requiring the help of every human being perhaps to the end of human time. This would be work worthy of the name "human." It would be fascinating and lovely.

~ Wendell Berry in OUR ONLY WORLD
Our Only World: Ten Essays
By Wendell Berry

To work is to pray

In an essay on the origin of civilization in traditional cultures, A.K. Coomaraswamy wrote that "the principle of justice is the same throughout: that each member of the community should perform the task for which he or she is fitted by nature." The two ideas, justice and vocation, are inseparable. It is by way of the principle and practice of vocation that sanctity and reverence enter into human economy. It was thus possible for traditional cultures to conceive that "to work is to pray."

~ from IN THE PRESENCE OF FEAR by Wendell Berry

The real work

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 come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~ Wendell Berry
Standing by Words: Essays
By Wendell Berry

Every leaf and flower and grass blade sings

The houses are clean and white, and great trees stand among them and spread over them. The fields lie around the town, divided by rows of such trees as stand in the town and in the woods, each field more beautiful than all the rest. Over town and fields the one great song sings, and is answered everywhere; every leaf and flower and grass blade sings. And in the fields and the town, walking, standing, or sitting under the trees, resting and talking together in the peace of a Sabbath profound and bright, are people of such beauty that he weeps to see them. He sees that these are the membership of one another and of the place and of the song or light in which they live and move.

~ from REMEMBERING by Wendell Berry

Hearing the light

And now above and beyond the birds' song, Andy hears a more distant singing, whether of voices or instruments, sounds or words, he cannot tell. It is at first faint, and then stronger, filling the sky and touching the ground, and the birds answer it. He understands presently that he is hearing the light; he is hearing the sun, which now has risen, though from the valley it is not yet visible. The light's music resounds and shines in the air and over the countryside, drawing everything into the infinite, sensed but mysterious pattern of its harmony. From every tree and leaf, grass blade, stone, bird, and beast, it is answered and again answers. The creatures sing back their names. But more than their names. They sing their being. The world sings. The sky sings back. It is one song, the song of the many members of one love, the whole song sung and to be sung, resounding, in each of its moments. And it is light.

~ from REMEMBERING by Wendell Berry

Prayer is like lying awake at night

Prayer is like lying awake at night, afraid, with your head under the cover, hearing only the beating of your own heart. It is like a bird that has blundered down the flue and is caught indoors and flutters at the window panes. . . . But sometimes a prayer comes that you have not thought to pray, yet suddenly there it is and you pray it. . . . Sometimes the bird finds that what looks like an opening is an opening, and it flies away.

~ from JAYBER CROW by Wendell Berry
Jayber Crow
By Wendell Berry

I could die in peace, I think if the world was beautiful

Her eyes filled with tears, but she said quietly, "I could die in peace, I think, if the world was beautiful. To know it's being ruined is hard."

Then, in the loss of all the world, when I might have said the words I had so long wanted to say, I could not say them. I saw that I was not going to be able to say them. I saw that I was not going to talk without crying, and so I cried.

She looked at me and held out her hand. She gave me the smile that I had never seen and will not see again in this world, and it covered me all over with light.

~ from JAYBER CROW by Wendell Berry
Jayber Crow
By Wendell Berry

What we need is here -- we pray to be quiet in heart

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

~ Wendell Berry

Wilderness as sacred groves

The survival of wilderness -- of places that we do not change, where we allow the existence of creatures we perceive as dangerous -- is necessary. Our sanity probably requires it. These places function, whether we intend them to or not, as sacred groves -- places we respect and leave alone, not because we understand well what goes on there, but because we do not.

~ from GETTING ALONG WITH NATURE by Wendell Berry
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