Monday, November 17, 2008

Wendell Berry

I've just discovered Wendell Berry. I found him recommended in a book by Stanley Hauerwas, and I've been reading through his marvelous book of essays Standing By Words. He has a great deal in common with both Lewis and Chesterton, and crafts lovely, precise sentences that make my own seem somewhat silly and pedantic in comparison. For a book whose ostensible object is literary criticism, it has far more to do with my interests in technology than I would have thought.

A few examples:

Value and technology can meet only on the ground of restraint. (p. 57)

Only the action that is moved by love for the good at hand has the hope of being responsible and generous. Desire for the future produces words that cannot be stood by. But love makes language exact, because one loves only what one knows. One cannot love the future or anything in it, for nothing is known there. And one cannot unselfishly make a future for someone else. Love for the future is self-love – love for the present self, projected and magnified into the future, and it is an irremediable loneliness. (p. 61)

We know that people stay married for different reasons than those for which they get married, and that the later reasons will have to be discovered. (p. 67)

The standard of decorum calls all available art and learning and experience into its service; that of "originality," as often construed, calls only for self-importance, irreverence, and recklessness – the "daring" of the manifestoes and reviews. (p. 85)

The right function of abstraction is to give appropriate clarity and distinction to the particular. (p. 105)

A product that exists for its own sake is a debased and a debasing product. (p. 111)

Temperance, not gluttony, is the safeguard of abundance; sexual discipline, not promiscuity, safeguards fecundity. (p. 126)

The great economic discovery of modern times is that vast numbers of people can be made to believe that "we might be all/We dream of…," and that, though there may be no correspondence whatever between this belief and any history or hope, people so believing will buy things. (p. 167)


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