12 Wendell Berry Quotes That Will Give You a Fresh Perspective

In honor of the great American author's 81st birthday, here are some of his most memorable quotes.

In the last 50 years or so, Wendell Berry’s name has become almost synonymous with a sort of simple, agrarian lifestyle.

A great activist, writer and thinker, Berry has written dozens of stories, poems, essays and novels.

He also is a farmer and a Christian who has challenged the Church to take environmental issues seriously.

In today’s hectic, consumeristic world, there is much we can learn from Berry’s commitment to simple living, good stewardship and value of nature.

Today, to celebrate his 81st birthday, we’ve gathered some of his best pieces of wisdom:

On Sacred Space

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
Given

On Knowing Which Way to Go

“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

On How to Approach Every Day

“So, friends, every day do something that won't compute ... Give your approval to all you cannot understand ... Ask the questions that have no answers. Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years ... Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts ... Practice resurrection.”
The Country of Marriage

On Nature's Memory

“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
― Endorsement statement for The Dying of the Trees

On What Is and Isn't 'Christian'

“Especially among Christians in positions of wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus' commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic. According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective 'Christian'”
Blessed are the Peacemakers: Christ's Teachings of Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness

On Peace

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound...
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—“The Peace of Wild Things”

On Understanding Your Past

“If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going.”

On Why God Made the World

The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good, and He loves it. It is His world; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it.
What Are People For?

On Organized Religion

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“As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think.”
Jayber Crow

On the Fear of the Unknown

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”

On Teaching

“The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.”
What Are People For?

On the Lord's Prayer

“This, I thought, is what is meant by 'thy will be done' in the Lord's Prayer, which I had prayed time and again without thinking about it. It means that your will and God's will may not be the same. It means there's a good possibility that you won't get what you pray for. It means that in spite of your prayers you are going to suffer.”
Jayber Crow

Top Comments

Steve Cornell

344

Steve Cornell commented…

"We have founded our present society upon delusional assumptions of limitlessness,’ that ‘the commonly accepted basis of our economy is the supposed possibility of limitless growth, limitless wants, limitless wealth, limitless natural resources, limitless energy, and limitless debt. In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define ‘freedom’ as an escape from all restraint.” http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/lets-talk-about-freedom/

Erin Cook

1

Erin Cook commented…

umm... Just wanted to clarify, the second quote under "On How to Approach Every Day", is actually a quote from his poem "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front", not the poem "The Country of Marriage".

6 Comments

Nate Branson

21

Nate Branson commented…

Yes! Wendell Berry! If you get a chance, read this Wendell Berry essay:

http://www.barrylou.com/thinkLittle.pdf

The essay above is something I have my class read every semester. "Think Little" could be a great way to approach politics today or anything for that matter. The thing about Wendell Berry is that you never know what he is going to say. You can't really put him in a box. You would expect him to say one thing, but then he says something completely different.

We could stop spending our money on what Pitchfork tells us to listen to and instead listen to what Berry has been saying for the last 30-60 years.

Mickey Westbrook

1

Mickey Westbrook commented…

I think it's soo simple we miss the fact JESUS came to give us ever lasting life. And we in turn be kind to one another and tell others of JESUS'S love for all of us.

Ray Hartsfield

60

Ray Hartsfield commented…

“If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going.”

This is especially poignant for married people, because if you're married, your past together can be a treasure or a cinder block tied to your feet. It can bless you or destroy you. Face it.

My wife and I write a blog about our road to recovery from infidelity and we talk about facing the past a lot.. check it out:
www.themeaningofrepentance.blogspot.com

Erin Cook

1

Erin Cook commented…

umm... Just wanted to clarify, the second quote under "On How to Approach Every Day", is actually a quote from his poem "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front", not the poem "The Country of Marriage".

Steve Cornell

344

Steve Cornell commented…

"We have founded our present society upon delusional assumptions of limitlessness,’ that ‘the commonly accepted basis of our economy is the supposed possibility of limitless growth, limitless wants, limitless wealth, limitless natural resources, limitless energy, and limitless debt. In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define ‘freedom’ as an escape from all restraint.” http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/lets-talk-about-freedom/

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