Friday, July 08, 2005 +

Wendell Berry on Intentional Communities

From the ploughboy interview: Wendell Berry (1973):

PLOWBOY: In the face of that kind of cultural pressure, it takes a conscious effort to reinstate the ceremony and ritual in our lives. Many intentional communities are trying to generate this kind of awareness and stability . . . .

BERRY: But I'm much more interested in the results of accidental communities that have formed by fate and fortune and circumstance. The intentional community seems to me a rather escapist idea, sort of a new version of the white citizen's council. I thought that's what we were trying to get away from. I think the idea that you can have an intentional community is about as misleading as saying you can have an intentional life. If you're going to have a decent and stable community, you've got to produce the cultural and social forms by which to deal with the unexpected and the undesirable. The intentional community idea assumes that when you say love your neighbor as yourself you have some kind of right to go out and pick your neighbor. I think that the ideal of loving your neighbor has to take on the possibility that he may be somebody you're going to have great difficulty loving or liking or even tolerating.

More good Berrys:

A young fellow came up to me after one of those meetings [on college academic requirements] and said, "I've never had a foreign language and I want you to tell me why I should take French. I'm studying agriculture, not literature." "Well," I said, "if you don't know, I can't tell you. That's why you take French for two or three or four years, to learn why you should take it."

The fact is that a great deal that's necessary and satisfying to know is not pleasant to learn.

What I'm saying is that the young have had lots of praisers and lots of detractors but few critics which is really a way of saying they've had few friends.

A farmer, who's a neighbor of mine and probably the oldest friend I've got in the world, had told me, "They'll never do worth a damn as long as they've got two choices." That's the most important thing that's been said to me in the last couple of years. It illuminates the meaning of marriage. When you believe in a thing enough so that you eliminate the second choice, forsake all others, then you're married to it. So we decided that this place would have to be our fate and that we'd stay here no matter what happened as long as life was possible. That decision changed us and became a kind of metaphor of our own marriage. Since then, life on this place has had a much different and fuller meaning for us.

Many of the things we're asked to call the blessings of progress are actually deforming diseases.