“In Defense of Precious Things”

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“All of my writing is either in the defense of precious things or giving thanks for precious things.”  This was one of many striking statements in Bill Moyer’s recent interview with farmer-writer Wendell Berry.  Earlier, he states that “the world and our life in it are conditional gifts.”

Berry has long been one of my favorite writers and I think this interview helped clarify for me why that is.  He sees the precious things of our lives–our soil, our animals, our food, our rivers, our marriages, and our communities as conditional gifts.  Either we give close attention to these fundamental matters of our lives or we lose the gift, and with that some form of our lives.

What deeply troubles me at the present time is that it seems we either take these precious things for granted or we in fact trivialize, mock, abuse, and pollute them.  We neither defend them nor give thanks for them, and thus acknowledge their precious character and conditional nature. Berry’s challenge to us is to pay close attention to our immediate context, to learn from our land, our people, our communities and to love them.

What I wonder is that while this seems just to stand to reason, it is so hard for us to really do.  Why is that?

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