And how to understand?

Posted on November 6, 2009


Once again shockwaves of violence out of Texas. What is it about Texas? Is that even a fair question? Neighbors around the world want to know what it is about us, the U.S. Not a fair question either, I think. What is it about people . . . why do we torture ourselves with hatred of our own kind?

Shortly after September 11, 2001, I was at a colloquium in Traverse City. A still-shaken Joe Vandermeulen opened the session with a reading: Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things. It is a fine poem, and you can read it at Poetry Foundation. It could be interpreted, I suppose, as an excuse to flee to the woods to escape from our troubles . . . but I have read a lot of Wendell Berry, and he seems to me above all to believe in personal responsibility, accountability for the choices we make, the virtue of doing the right thing and the obligation to seriously, without cynicism, study just what “the right thing” might be. I think the poem is an invitation to quiet our minds for a moment, “where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.” But only for a moment. Then it is time to rise and move forward, to do our work.

I’m going to work. I can’t think of anything else to do. Can you?

Through the office window