Lent 4

From Wendell Berry’s Nature as Measure (1989)

An agriculture using nature, including human nature, as its measure would approach the world in the manner of a conversationalist. It would not impose its vision and demands upon a world that it conceives of as a stockpile of raw material, inert and indifferent to any use that may be made of it… On all farms, farmers would undertake to know responsibly what they are and to “consult the genius of the place”.

They would ask nature would be doing there if no one were farming there. They would ask what nature would permit them to do there, and what they could do there with the least harm to the place and to their natural and human neighbours. And they would ask what nature would help them to do there.

And after each asking, knowing that nature will respond, they would attend carefully to her response. The use of the place would change and the response of the place to that use would necessarily change the user. The conversation itself would thus assume a kind of creaturely life, binding the place and its inhabitants together, changing and growing to no end, no final accomplishment, that can be conceived or foreseen.

Farming in this way… is not visionary in the political or utopian sense. In a conversation, you always expect a reply. And if you honour the otherness of the other party, you understand that you must not expect always to receive a reply that you foresee or a reply that you will life. A conversation is immitigably two-sided and always to some degree mysterious; it requires faith.

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