In my own journey, I’ve only read snippets and essays and a little fiction by him, but manny of the people that converse on agriculture and community find inspiration in Wendell. His work delves into the heart of what it means to be human and exposes the lies that industrial culture can force upon us or veil from our eyes. Not rejecting technology or the discoveries that we have made, he forges a different path that engages more genuinely with what it means to flourish as a human being.
All of that, and I’ve only read a few essays.
Words are ultimately meaning making entities. They allow us to tie back into greater realities. The operate the way sacraments operate in the Church. Strung together they offer a picture of a greater reality, and little marks on the page and syllables uttered into the air offer a greater engagement with reality – sometimes a reality that is beyond comprehension.
Plato wrote about this in his allegory of the cave. Words are but shadows on the wall compared to the world of real ideas, but the conduit of discovering tangible ideas or ideals is along the shafts of the cast shadows. Ideas and words can be holy, and sometimes you cannot approach them directly, and that is where a novelist shines!
His novels and his essays bring to life concepts that bring into sharper focus what it really means to be human and happy. In exploring his use of words and stories, he brings into clearer relief a tangible, touchable, tastable, smellable humanity crafted from the hummus, the rich earth, and dependent on that sod for life and health – every blessing of God. He’s a meaning maker that draws us into the sacred presence of the almighty – pulling back the veil of the Holy of Holies with words and stories.
I know that I want to read more Wendell Berry.