I’m sitting at home after my evening class on American Entrepreneurs scrolling through Facebook looking for topics for school when I saw this episode on Bill Moyers page. What I love about Bill Moyers is that he is calm, intelligent and rational. I like that he talks to all kinds of people and then listens. It’s what is right about social media and television today. He makes complex information relatable. I just can’t digest TV with people screaming at you or each other. This kind of TV requires you to get pissed at it’s not so wholly or factual information, and then insults you by requiring nothing more than inappropriate negative emotion. But, back to Bill Moyers page which incidentally doesn’t need negative emotion, or at least inappropriate negative emotion.
The post was on one Wendell Berry whom I’d never heard of. Yet after watching Moyer’s Wendell Berry, Poet & Prophet, I’m clearly late to the brain soaking I’m about to get. My appetite is whet; I’ve yearned for what I call social intellectuals, people who speak without theatrical music and paid audiences… voices that are like a steady, running stream anyone is free to enjoy and whose presence nourishes everything around it including the mind.
Today, the stream is Mr. Berry who renewed in me a love of a topic from one of my first classes: Fair Trade, sustainable farming and wages. Like a pig, I suckled on Mr. Berry’s insight on the life of a farmer and, like the animals in his poem “For The Hog Killing“, his words struck a familiar, familial chord. Through Mr. Berry’s humility and faith, a melody unheard in years played from his lips; “all creatures live by breathing God’s breath and participating in his spirit”. He illuminates further his lament of the Kentucky strip mining with a genuine depth of emotion scarcely heard or seen today, remarking “this means that the whole thing’s holy, the whole shooting match. There are no sacred and unsacred places, there are only sacred and desecrated places”. His words immediately transported me back to my grand parents’ farm where hogs were raised and sold, where all was valued and all was used. It made me pause in a way that only a peaceful truth does, by forcing a reckoning in the mind to acknowledge what it doesn’t know, and silently compel you to want to learn more. It is so disparate from anything on TV because it politely and respectfully requests your attention. It requires you to think calmly, and question, and listen, and choose whether to act and how….. ever so deliberately and with patience, like life on a farm.
Both Mr. Berry and Mr. Moyers’ calm demeanors and respectful dialogue lead you quietly to a stream of knowledge. There is no rude awakening, only a gentle breaking of the reality through information. You grasp that these people are learned about life as they humbly and unbegrudgingly lend what knowledge they possess with only the expectation that you think.
I sat there thinking. I have seen and heard so many talk without delivering any real value or long-term goals, merely bashing those who dare to try. Oh dismay over the talking heads who delight in enraging their throngs with empty words only to withdraw taking all that powerless anger back into they dying, rusty battery of disinformation. The talking heads are like an abusive relationship which, despite all your efforts and conversation, fool you into thinking you have power until you depart in exasperation and begin to recognize the depth of the abuse once you have been gone for a while. Yes, Americans and our talking heads are in an abusive relationship. We know something is wrong, we want to require more of the talking heads, and yet we fail to require more of ourselves. Is thought not also sustainable, like the farm, to be considered over the long haul? Are we willing to stop and think…and think again, and consider all options, not just words? Are we content to be angry and used?
Mr. Berry’s poem rings … “let this day begin again, the change of hogs into people, not the other way around, for today we celebrate again our lives wedding with the world, for by our hunger, by this provisioning, we renew the bond.” I ponder his words “to make a living is not to make a killing, it’s to have enough.” Mr. Berry kept saying “from the bottom up” and I had to ask whether my voice at the bottom will be heard? Who am I to require respectful dialog? And yet, I do… more and more. I had to agree with him, it is hard to have hope. But if we can think it …we can create it, a peaceful and respectful dialogue for all things…. just like I do in college 2 nights a week, at work and with friends. Don’t you?