Revitalizing the community

“We pray, not for a new earth or heaven,” writes Wendell Berry, “but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here.”

The insightful wisdom of this Kentucky farmer, writer and professor came back to me as I prepared my yard for winter. Berry pleads for us to learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the Earth: in the way we treat our land, raise our families and nurture our communities.

“Do this,” he warns, “or perish.”

Remember when the agricultural establishment advised “get big or get out?” Berry and his many followers shudder with fear and embarrassment when they hear that.

He draws attention to the resulting soil erosion and aquifer degradation, and shows how he is able to reclaim what was neglected and abused. He takes delight in observing how, through cycles of growth and death, gravity and decay, nature can slowly build an inch of black humus in an old bucket along the fence line.

The same slow enriching can be done within local communities. We can either develop social standards set by TV sales folk and outside “experts,” or we can encourage storytelling, sharing of experience and knowledge, and building of respect and trust among neighbours as a community moves forward. Given a chance, the virtues of a strong local culture can outshine what the global society feels it should impose on us.

Consider the biblical story of the prodigal son who was lured by elusive promises. When he realized his mistake, he returned home. He was forgiven.

Communities still have values and rules of neighbourliness. They can renew themselves and enrich the lives of their people.


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