Coffee with Wendell Berry

We meet at dawn when the air is cool and resonates with chirps and whistles, caws and clucks. A woodpecker drills down the block. The scalloped edges of clouds glow in the eastern sky.

Wendell speaks. I listen. Today he talks of man’s overriding desire.

The fullness of a cup equals
that of the sea – unless the mind
conceive of more, longing for women
in disregard of the limit
of singularity, gluttonous beyond
hunger, greedy for money in excess
of goods, lusting for Heaven
in excess, …

I put down my cup, avoiding his eyes, while he continues.

And so the mind
grows a big belly, a sack full
of the thought of more, and the whole
structure of enough, of life itself,
which is never more nor less
than enough, falls in pieces.

I stare into the mirror at the full belly of my mind, folded upon itself, captive by its hungers, stuffed, yet ceaselessly reaching out its restless tentacles to enlarge its holdings – a mind so full and yet so vacant, so satiated and yet so fretfully incomplete.

I see the whole structure of enough demolished, blown and blasted, and I in dull stupor, ignorant of the gracious sufficiency sweeping over me with each drawn breath.

Wendell sips and watches me a moment, as if to gauge my strength, and then goes on:

In the name of more we destroy
for coal the mountain and its forest
and so choose the insatiable flame
over the green leaf that within our care
would return to us unendingly
until the end of time.

Wendell, I say to the poet farmer from Kentucky.

Wendell. I reach across the table and take hold of his hand as though I were drowning.

Wendell,
teach me to tend the green leaf
before it is too late.


Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself…  Philippians 2: 5-6

This post includes  excerpts from a poem by Wendell Berry, 2008, II, Leavings, p. 106.
Stay in Touch:  lross@fromholyground.org
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