The Presence of Nature in the Natural World
This section of Wendell Berry’s book digs deep into English literature to find writings from the 12th Century that describe the relationship of humans to the natural world in regard to wisdom about how to relate to the natural world that we are a part of and interdependent upon to survive. Every one of these natural relationships has been destroyed with the coming of militarism and a competitive, destructive industrialism that has pushed us to the brink Thus, the problem. As I read this section, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between the wisdom of English scholars, and spiritual leaders and those of the “The Peacemaker.” In fact, the theme of “The Peacemaker” is that the problems of 21st Century Society have been spawned by the violation of this basis relationship of humans to the natural world that sustains us resulting in its decline and the decline of the society built upon it unless the relationship is returned to its proper balance. The following quotes are ones that resonated with me about ways of thinking and acting that need to be put back into our education and work ethics.
· Who or what is right? “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong if it tends otherwise.”
· What is human goodness? “Human goodness comes from the practice of human virtues – chastity, temperance, generosity, and humility.
· What are the laws that govern the human economy? Law of Frugality - there is no waste. Law of Fertility - Humans borrow from nature's creation upon the condition of payment in full. Don’t destroy the ability of the earth to continue to create. Industrialism is the opposite of this. Cut down the forests to make fields to plow which eventually creates a desert. The Dust Bowl of the 30’s is a prime example of this and the Law of Diversity – Single crop planting (wheat and corn) only destroys the economic and ecological health of the natural world.
- · When does the economy become too big – over inflation? “There can be no economy larger than its own sources and supports (what is available locally).”
- · What do I grow on my land? What are the resources? “Farming should fit the land.”
- · What makes a good neighborhood? “A good neighborhood is one that is an economic asset to all its members “– those who live there – not investors.
- · What is charity to Nature? “Her charity is to need charity.” What goes around comes around.
- · What type of farming is best suited to Kentucky? “Kentucky is not a plain; it is made up of rolling hills. The best type of farming is two-story farming. The lower level should be grass and the upper one filled with fruit and nut trees.”
- · What is the definition of economy? “(Economy is) the management and care of the given means of life. “
- · Where are the teachers and books about farming? “We learn to farm properly only under the instruction of nature.”
- · Why are humans and other sentient beings interdependent? “Communal life (especially for humans) is a necessity because we cannot survive on our own like plants, but plants also need our “waste products” to survive.”
- How do we manage self-interest and ego in humans? Self- interest and ego are dissolved through imagination, sympathy and charity. Then, the ego can see other points of view.
- What do humans need to do to preserve the integrity of nature? “The integrity of the natural world depends upon the maintenance of humans who practice their own integrity by the practice of the virtues.”
- What is the difference between industrial politicians and industrial conservationists? “Industrial politicians ignore everything that can be ignored; mainly the whole outdoors. Industrial conservationists ignore everything but the wilderness. Give us our wild lands, but do as you will with the rest.”
- These lessons were derived from a book Wendell Berry read that came from the 13th Century. The name of the book was “The Pliant of Nature” by Allanus De Insulis. In the book the author recounts the history of our thought about the natural world as well as the history of the conservation laws that rule our relationship with the natural world. The story is a metaphorical one that recounts his (the author’s) encounter with a female spirit that speaks to him as Mother Nature. By learning from her the truth of nature and natural laws the author finds wisdom as she dissolves into the horizon where the division between Heaven and Earth disappear. This, most certainly, is what those who control the planet using industrial economies must learn in order to continue the process of creation and re-creation of life.