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Americans Who Tell the Truth

Wendell Berry

Writers, Journalists and Filmmakers

Wendell Berry

Farmer, Essayist, Conservationist, Novelist, Teacher, Poet (1934 -  )

The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.


Additional Quotes by Wendell Berry

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.

You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.  

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.  

We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.   

When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.

Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. 

I don't believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.

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.



Wendell Berry was born in Newcastle, Kentucky. He continues to farm the land along the Kentucky River that his family has worked for two centuries. A graduate of the University of Kentucky. Berry has taught English and written more than thirty books of poetry and essays as well as novels.

Although he has been called the prophet of rural America, his life and thought have meaning for people in cities and suburbs as well as for farmers like himself. He sees the connection between the natural environment and the whole range of human activity. Ultimately his vision is of community in the largest possible sense. Berry sees and proclaims that humankind must learn to live in harmony with nature or perish.

Wendell Berry has written widely, including The Unsettling of America (1977) and an essay, The Failure of War (1999). In the latter he asks: How many deaths of other people’s children are we willing to accept in order that we may be free, affluent and (supposedly) at peace? To that question I answer: None . . . Don’t kill any children for my benefit. His essay, Thoughts in the Presence of Fear, relates the events of September 11, 2001 to crucial questions about the global economy, the purpose of education and the necessity for active peacemaking. Citizenship Papers, a collection of his essays, is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2003.



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