Thursday, April 2, 2009

Allot of Garden and Wendell Berry by the Riverside

The ADGMD and I are now the proud renters of our very own garden plot in an Allotment garden! Let the garden planning begin.

On our way back from the Community Centre were we rented the plot, I stopped off at the library and picked up the copy I had placed on hold, of Wendell Berry's The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays.

Having a little bit of time before I needed to go to work, the ADGMD and I walked down to the river and sat on a bench in the sun. I opened the book to Berry's essay, The Whole Horse, and read:

"One of the primary results- and one of the primary needs- of industrialism is the separation of people and places and products from their histories. To the extent that we participate in the industrial economy, we do not know the histories of our families or of our habitats or of our meals. This is an economy, and in fact a culture, of the one-night stand....

In this condition, we have many commodities, but little satisfaction, little sense of the sufficiency of anything. The scarcity of satisfaction makes of our many commodities, in fact, and infinite series of commodities, the new commodities invariably promising greater satisfaction than the older ones. And so we can say that the industrial economy's most-marketed commodity is satisfaction, and this commodity, which is repeatedly promised, bought and paid for is never delivered. On the other hand, people who have much satisfaction do not need many commodities.

The persistent want of satisfaction is directly and complexly related to the dissociation of ourselves and all our goods from our and their histories. If things do not last, are not made to last, they can have no histories, and we who use these things can have no memories. We buy new stuff on the promise of satisfaction because we have forgot the promised satisfaction for which we bought our old stuff...

The problem of our dissatisfaction with all the things that we use is not correctable within the terms of the economy that produces those things. At present, it is virtually impossible for us to know the economic history or the ecological cost of the products we buy; the origins of the products are typically too distant and too scattered and the processes of trade, manufacture, transportation, and marketing too complicated. There are, moreover, too many good reasons for the industrial suppliers of these products not to want their histories to be known...

If the industrial economy is not correctable within its own terms, then obviously what is required for correction is a countervailing economic idea..." you think anyone at the G-20 is thinking along these lines?


SoapBoxTech said...

This reminds me of my environmental philosophy classes in second year college. I loved having these kinds of discussions with the professor, and it was easy to get into his classes. He looked like your typical aging hippie from Berkeley, all long grey hair and beard and birkenstocks and I seriously loved going to his classes. After all, they were ideas which had been in the back of my head throughout my youth.

And then a couple of years later I learned of his hypocrisy. I learned, by having become involved with college government through student government, that he and his wife liked to milk the college for maximum wages and time off. I learned that they lived in a sprawling house in the most expensive neighborhood (at the time) in town, just the two of them. I learned how hard he worked to sacrifice the successful but technically non-instructional drama program, in order to not have to give up any portion of his wages.

It was a pretty big hit at the time. I think it was likely part of why I put my head in the sand for so many years. But I often look back at that now, and remind myself not to allow myself to be so corrupted or to fall into such grotesque hypocrisy.

Good luck with your garden allotment!

Amber said...

Oh my! I'm sorry you had such an unfortunate experience with your professor. No doubt it was difficult to discover that this person you looked up to and respected didn't walk the walk.

Thank goodness that are lots of people with integrity (like Wendell Berry) from whom we can draw inspiration!

I'm excited for my garden plot and hope I can help lots of good things grow!

SoapBoxTech said...

I think the difference is that now I can find or make my own inspiration but I agree that it is definitely nice to find exterior inspiration like this.