Wendell Berry is a great poet and writer. Several contributors to one of the texts we use in Eco-Ethics , Rethinking Nature, refer to his thinking. I call it deep thinking and takes us to another level of consciousness where there is an awareness that we are part of something much bigger.
I read Wendell Berry’s work and enjoy it immensely. He does not suggest I think like he does or live like he does in a low-tech world. What he proposes is I take time and think more deeply. I read somewhere that Berry, when he was much younger during the 1960’s was asked to write an anti-Vietnam War poem. He responded that he would not. The person asking was surprised as they had always believed he was opposed to the Vietnam War. He responded by saying he was not opposed to that particular war, just war in general. He wrote an anti-war poem with no reference to Vietnam. When I take time and engage in thinking at this level, I come to a different level of awareness than I usually do. It does not mean that I would things differently than I currently do. I become aware of the values I hold and act accordingly. Obviously, it is tricky. What if my values sanction war? What if my values sanction a view that nature is for human consumption? I think what Berry and others get is when we go deeper and look inside we see that we live in the world and not outside it as spectators.
When I read a poem like The Wild Geese, I am struck by the message of the last line: “What we need is here.” It likely always was. I need to open the persimmon seed to find the tree which is not separate from the seed. I am not separate from daily life or the world. I am in it. I need to go deeper to find it, recognize it, and cherish it.
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed
to find the tree that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them in their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, no
for the new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in the heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.