"It All Turns On Affection"
April 25, 2012 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Last night, author and farmer Wendell Berry delivered a powerful lecture [video; full text here includes portions not delivered verbally] to a full house on the occasion of his accepting the National Endowment of the Humanities' Jefferson Award. The famous PC holdout has appeared previously in the blue, but this lecture is not to be missed. Here is soul nourishment for the long-time Berry follower, and for the newcomer a superb introduction to one of our time's greatest intellects.

An account of the lecture from Inside Higher Ed

Coverage by Mark Bitman (NYTimes, I think you have to log in)

Missed the point: The American Conservative.
posted by maniabug (27 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for the video link; I was frustrated reading Bittman's article last night and being unable to find either a video or audio of the lecture. Here's a direct download link for the video (roughly 330 MB).
posted by Auden at 9:20 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love him. Thanks for this.
posted by librarina at 9:37 PM on April 25, 2012

Mr. Wendell is awesome. Thank you!
posted by magstheaxe at 9:47 PM on April 25, 2012

I was honored to give up the name Wendell to let him control the first page of Google results. (Now, by being a Craig, I can compare myself to Ferguson, who's lots more fun)
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:42 AM on April 26, 2012

They never ask, in their professional oblivion, why we are willing to do permanent ecological and cultural damage “to strengthen the economy?”

There's a word this: Externalities. Good economists take it into account. Bad economists do not. Okay?
posted by Chekhovian at 1:45 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The part about the statue of James B. Duke and its legends INDUSTRIALIST and PHILANTHROPIST immediately reminded me of this.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:52 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thanks for this. I got through the first part, and realized I need to carve out some time and give this the careful reading it deserves.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:03 AM on April 26, 2012

I just spent a good chunk of time reading this in bits and pieces since yesterday. Truly nourishment for this parched soul. I'm glad someone posted it here.
posted by bardophile at 4:21 AM on April 26, 2012

I was in the audience Monday night, and it was amazing. The applause that erupted after Berry concluded with "we do not have to live as if we are alone" was deafening, and he (apparently bashfully) came out twice to acknowledge it. Jim Leach followed up with a deadpan "Mr. Berry's remarks do not necessarily represent the opinion of the United States government", which got quite a laugh from the audience.

What was also amazing - and heartening - was the large numbers of people younger than me in attendance (there were also quite a few older, Very Serious Person-types in suits, which made for a very interesting mix). It gave me quite a bit of hope for the future.
posted by jhandey at 6:00 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Thanks for the recon! I wondered what the atmosphere was like in the audience, and heard a few muted chuckles (kudos to the audio technicians, did a great job making his soft-spoken delivery perfectly intelligible). Split my face at the applause and the whooping.
posted by maniabug at 6:19 AM on April 26, 2012

I took the 78 minutes to watch this video last night and it was well worth it. Sadly, I am going to point out that the people who really need to see it are very unlikely to spare the 78 minutes. This morning I was laying in the half-world and I was thinking of one of my favorite far-suburban-near-wilderness-hikes. It is possible to easily find places in most of the United States within a forty minute drive of the city where there is a trail you can hike where if you go there on a Monday through Friday you will encounter more deer than people. It isn't that people do not desire to go there. They just do not feel that they have the time.
posted by bukvich at 7:23 AM on April 26, 2012

“Well, sir, I’ve looked with all the eyes I’ve got, and I wouldn’t trade the field behind my barn for every inch I’ve seen.”
--Wendell Barry's Grandfather's reply after being asked about his recent travels...

This, This, This... my grandfather would have said the same. It's my dream in life to be able to follow in their vocal-footsteps.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2012

A great dream, the kind that can make a difference—but is it a matter of finding just the right barn? All I got behind my barn is gnarled old white pine roots and chicken poop. Still, I wouldn't trade it for some other place to which I have no connection. What if everybody started saying that about whatever is in their own back yard? Imagine, fifty people a day...
posted by maniabug at 7:43 AM on April 26, 2012

All I got behind my barn is gnarled old white pine roots and chicken poop.

Is that because you haven't gotten around to making it into what you want it to be or because you like the white pines or chickens that are somewhere else? The thought of this becoming anything close to a movement is exhilarating. I guess that's why I enjoy Berry so much.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:55 AM on April 26, 2012

Wendell anecdote time!!

Once, in the 60s, my dad and Wendell were hanging out in the Bay Area, and I think it was maybe Wendell's first time out there. Both Wendell and my pop are old Kentucky guys, and I guess they were just kinda cruising around and marveling at the sights of California. At some point, they drove over the Golden Gate. When they pulled up to pay the toll, the booth operator gave them what I have always imagined to be a mumbled and cursory "thank you." Wendell, true to his form as a man and a Kentuckian, leaned over my dad to address the booth attendant: "Thank you, sir, and this sure is a fine bridge you've got here!"

I've always thought that story sums Wendell up nicely. That same sort of...thing...shines through anytime he's around. It's all over this address.
posted by broadway bill at 7:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

Also: awesome to see and hear Bobbie Ann Mason on this. Love her endlessly.
posted by broadway bill at 8:03 AM on April 26, 2012

The chickens like it that way. And I'm outnumbered.

I never heard of Bobbie Ann Mason. And so many other of his references... it's continually surprising to me how deep is this intellectual tradition of good thinking about the Earth, as far off the mainstream radar as it is. Just an example, last year I discovered Edward Abbey when I was lent Desert Solitaire, and re-read Berry's "A Few Words In Favor Of Edward Abbey" in his What Are People For anthology—wow!
posted by maniabug at 8:32 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

maniabug you may like this old Plowboy interview with Ralph Borsodi.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:41 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for ruining my afternoon. I have a job you see, and I am supposed to be working!
posted by maniabug at 10:37 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

(also, Mark Bittman, I'm sorry for mangling your name in the FPP)
posted by maniabug at 10:38 AM on April 26, 2012

posted by RolandOfEld at 10:38 AM on April 26, 2012

This past Sunday, Wendell Berry also spoke at the National Cathedral (video here). I'm grateful to have been there.
posted by apartment dweller at 7:34 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:23 PM on April 26, 2012

This post prompted me to post an AskMe that's kinda related to the issue at hand. Anyone feel free to memail me or comment if you know where I can find WB's speaking schedule...
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2012

Thanks for the Nat Cathedral video link. Gets off to a slow start but it's nice to hear Berry speak in a less structured format.
posted by maniabug at 5:42 PM on April 27, 2012

I don't know much about Berry, but was prepared for some wisdom given the comments.
I was instead struck by the lack of nuance in his argument that there are two types of people: "Boomers" and "Stickers". This disrespects the complexity of the world.

His family, were Stickers and the rapacious Duke was a Boomer. Duke was a ruthless robber baron alright but was Berry's family all that innocent? They were *tobacco* farmers, growing a crop that killed millions.

There are no pure angels and devils, and arguments of this kind foment tribalism in an already divided world.
posted by storybored at 8:56 PM on May 1, 2012

I was instead struck by the lack of nuance in his argument that there are two types of people: "Boomers" and "Stickers".

I didn't take this to mean that there are only two types of people. Rather, that this was one way in which people's fundamental perspectives can differ, with significant practical consequences. No one can ever encompass the complexity of the world. I take it for granted that unless they explicitly state things in absolute terms, they recognize that their descriptions are incomplete. I would find it tedious to read texts that perpetually qualified every generalization.
posted by bardophile at 12:50 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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