Intro to Berry

At the risk of sounding crunchy, and with the possible exception of the ever-so-slightly contentious tone of the first paragraph, I really enjoyed this introduction to Wendell Berry in The New Pantagruel. Elegant, clear writing, says I.


  1. Cubeland Mystic says

    As a Vet of the crunchy debates, I can tell you that there is a lot of misunderstanding of people’s motives for living a countercultural lifestyle.

    The opponents present a litany of good things provided by the dominant culture, from more free time because of efficiency, to the computers we use to argue against their claims. They make very strong points. But their arguments are contextual. It’s like those folks who argue for women priests. They overlay a political context on to the argument appealing to justice as a major tenet for women in the priesthood. The defenders of male priesthood defend from the proper context citing the doctrine of in persona Christi. The point is the contra vs. crunchy debate is a similar one of context.

    I see the context more about sustaining a faith filled lifestyle, and that dominant culture does not allow for a continuity of faith. For example I work in the corporate orctocracy and we have a lot of avoidable Sunday work, I’ve never heard a manager say “I got three Catholics on my team they have to fulfill their Mass obligation.” Faith is not even on the radar.

    One of my many “beefs” with the culture of death is more the noise and distraction of it all. Faith is relegated to a private little corner of one’s life. On Sunday one barges out of Mass in flight to the nearest soccer field. There is really nothing wrong with rushing out of Mass other than one’s faith becomes just another activity you do on the weekend. Even with young kids we have to say “no” to a lot of stuff, and hence are the heavies for not going along with the crowd.

    Tending the garden, teaching the kids to make scones, building the bird house, writing, listening to music, lifting burdens from your friends, praying, making pizza from scratch can all be done in the context of faith. In our home this is not entertainment it is sacred activity and offered as prayer. This is the context that we try to live. We know it is at odds with the dominant culture, but we think we can do it from the city.

    Do you have country fever having just returned from your brother’s farm? If so I know a little bit about the lifestyle and we can talk about it here if you like.

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    Not country fever, exactly, but a renewed appreciation for their project, and for a slower, more thoughtful way of life. Distraction is indeed a bugbear, one rampant in Urbania.

  3. Mark Lickona says

    I didn’t know you yourself were in Urbania (“the city”), Cube. If so, I think you’ve got the hardest but noblest mission of all: domesticating Technopoly from within. (I think I just apprehended the meaning of your moniker.) Not that we’ve “dropped out,” exactly…but we’re certainly not living city life.

    The beauty out here does have a way of slowing you down. I think it’s “addictive” as well. If I were Matt, I think I’d need to de-tox (or is that re-tox?)…

  4. Cubeland Mystic says


    I am a geek by trade and a cube rat. It is a very dull life indeed. I wish many times to awake and watch the sunrise on some misty fall morning over a quiet cup of coffee with my wife. I long for the simplicity of finishing a task that I know well, or putting up a row or two of canned peas for winter. It would be nice. I am happy for you and your family.

    Since I love the lifestyle I know how to do much of the work. I’ve actually worked in the family food business so I empathize with you. Even small scale farming can be back breaking. If I can help by giving advice please ask. I’ve done a lot from making wine to planting fairly large gardens.

    Yes there is way too much noise in the city and in corporations. But the big question is how to find balance in this mess. I really don’t know how. The lack of balance really messes with your spiritual life. It is like being in a cage waiting for the next electric shock.

    To out myself, I feel a call to write fiction. The way to make a difference for others is to develop characters who live in this mess and then still find God. It is a way to offer hope. Beautiful things do offer hope. That’s why we should write beautiful works.

    Why did you move to the country?

  5. Cubeland Mystic says

    Here is a quote from Berry. Never read him before tonight.

    In our time it is useless and probably wrong to suppose that a great many urban people ought to go out into the countryside and become homesteaders or farmers. But it is not useless or wrong to suppose that urban people have agricultural responsibilities that they should try to meet. And in fact this is happening. The agrarian population among us is growing, and by no means is it made up merely of some farmers and some country people. It includes urban gardeners, urban consumers who are buying food from local farmers, consumers who have grown doubtful of the healthfulness, the trustworthiness, and the dependability of the corporate food system — people, in other words, who understand what it means to be landless.

  6. Mark Lickona says

    We moved to the country because a farm in the family was left unoccupied after my grandmother died. It is indeed a lot of work, requiring a lot of skill and know-how. If my wife hadn’t already been a country girl waiting to get back “home,” we’d be lost. Recovery of tradition (or worse, re-inventing the wheel, which is what I feel like I’m doing sometimes) is difficult. That’s probably why Berry says it’s “useless and probably wrong [i.e., mis-guided]” for most urbanites to simply head out to the country (sounds like it would be just right for you, though).

    Awesome quote from Berry. He’s talking right to you, it seems. Like I said, there’s much to be done from within Technopoly. Wonder what he would have (has?) to say about balance, i.e., living free from Urbania in the very midst of it. Your cage metaphor is disturbingly apt: In Cubeland, you jump when the button is pushed; your life is not your own. Whereas it has to be if you’re going to be a full-on agrarian. Come to think of it, if Berry (or anybody else) has written more on the life of the urban agrarian, it seems it would be essential reading.

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