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Manifesto of a Mad Farmer

Tony at A Way With Words asked if I like Wendell Berry. I do and rank him among my favourite poets. When I hear or read his name, I think of this poem.

What does it mean to be radical? The word radical comes from Old English and means going to one’s origins or roots. When I read this poem, it reminds me of the possibilities in a radical life. I can seek out my roots, the wisdom of those who came before me, and lived on the land. I love the second stanza and it just carries on from there for the rest of the poem.

Do something that does not compute, make many tracks, and sometimes confuse the world of where I go. Go against the grain.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

About ivonprefontaine

I have been an educator for almost 20 years. Prior to that, I worked in private industry for 15 years, then returned to university to earn my education degree. For the past 11 years, I have been a co-creator of learning in a unique, progressive, alternative educational school of choice. Currently, I am engaged in a doctoral program at Gonzaga University in Spokane. A main theme in my learning there has been the roles of systems thinking, complexity theory, and organizational theory, and how they apply to education generally and the learning environment I share with students, parents, and colleagues.

21 responses »

  1. Wow. I like Wendell Berry but haven’t read this one before. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. This is more than wonderful.

    Reply
  3. He’s brilliant. Wonderful ethic.
    “Practice resurrection.” … such a wonderful thing to write.

    Reply
  4. There is truly something magnificent that I would quote in each line..which of course would make my comment just a repetition of the poem itself. I need to read more Wendell Berry of this I am sure – and “be joyful though you have considered all the facts”..Thank you Ivon

    Reply
  5. I’ll be thinking about radical all day now!

    Reply
  6. This was an absolutely breath-taking read Ivon. You really know how to pick the best poetry. Thank you so much for this. I felt exhilarated reading it.

    Reply
  7. I love this… it’s wonderful. Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Tremendous poem. Definitely one of my favorites.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: About damn time! « The Eclectic Eccentric Shopaholic

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