It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there*
I haven't read the newspaper in days. It's not that I don't think it's important to be informed. I do. It's just that some days I can't take it. Like many citizens of humanity, I often find myself feeling depressed and hopeless about the state of the world. But I am routinely reminded that this sense of despair exists only because my attention is focused on the wrong things. Like newspapers instead of people.
Newspapers provide valuable information about what's going on in the world around us, but they rarely tell us much at all about the tiny slivers of the world we each inhabit. It is from these little patches of the world -- OUR patches -- that we can draw inspiration, because it is here that we're most likely to encounter everyday people doing small things with great love.
Take the man I met with this afternoon, for example. He's an organic farmer who runs a small Community Supported Agriculture program. He is also, as he told me, "committed to being a force of education in this world," which is why he's willing not only to come talk to my city kids about farming but also to allow them to visit him en masse and tromp around on his farm for a day.
Farmer John is as committed to organic agriculture as he is to education, and his CSA program is small simply because his farm is; in his second year of business he has a waiting list 200 families-long. That's not just cool for Farmer John, it also means there are at least 200 other everyday people out there who care about supporting family farmers, preserving our environment, and making the world a better place.
Wendell Berry would be ecstatic. And because I was reminded of Mr. Berry as I talked with Farmer John about farming and sustainability and peak oil and voting with your wallet, I give you this, one of my (and everyone else's) favorite Wendell Berry poems:
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry, 1973
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
*another poetry reference: "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" by William Carlos Williams, 1955