Friday, November 7, 2014

Wendell Berry's 'The Way, the Truth, and the Life'

I came upon this gripping, insightful 2012 Sabbath poem of Wendell Berry this morning. With him, my heart aches at the ripping fabric and cultural insanity of twisted words, shallow values, hollow justifications, and indefensible violence.

Praise "family values,"
"a better future for our children,"
displacing meanwhile the familiar
membership to be a "labor force"
of homeless strangers. Praise
work and name it "jobs."
With "labor-saving technology"
replace workers at their work
and hold them in contempt
because they have no "jobs."
Praise "our country" and oppress
the land with poisons, gouges,
blastings, the violent labors and
pleasures of the unresting displaced,
skinning the earth alive.
This is the way, the truth, the life.

Welcome the refugees set free
from the "nowhere" of rural America,
from the "drudgery" of the household
and the "mind-numbing work"
of shops and farms, into
the anthills of "liberation,"
the endless vistas of "growth,"
of "progress," the "limitless adventure
of the human spirit" rising
through inward emptiness into
"outer space." Welcome
the displaced naturally "upwardly
mobile" to their "better world"
as they gather bright-lighted
in "multicultural" masses
in the packed streets. Catch
those who inevitably
fall from the light-swarm
in meshes of "safety nets," "benefits,"
"job training," the army,
the wars, mental hospitals,
jails, graves. Forget
vocation, memory, living
and dying at home. This
is the way, the truth, and the life.

Flourish your weapons of official
war where they are needed
for peace, bring death by chance
but needfully to small houses
where children play at war
or a wedding that is taking place
so that the bride and groom
will not be separately killed,
for you have an enemy
somewhere, who must be killed.
Therefore forgive the unofficial
entrepreneur who brings
your weapons to your
school, your office, your
neighborhood theater, bringing
death randomly but needfully,
for his enemies are his
as yours are yours. This is
the way, the truth, and the life.

- from This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA


  1. Jamison8:40 AM

    Wendell is one of my heros:


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