Friday, June 20, 2008

A Berry Pleasant Surprise

I usually have a deep conflict about work: the work that pays the bills isn't necessarily the work that feeds my deeper hunger. It's not easy to see how I can make a difference by sitting in front of a computer all day, pushing electrons around.

Sometimes, though, working with government information gives me a inside track to finding more information about agriculture and environment and our food system, all of which fit into my personal interests of cooking and preserving and gardening and general homesteading. And sometimes, I find something really interesting in our collection.

Such was the case this week.

There it was on the return shelf, all by itself and staring me in the face: an Education Department document with the title "Rural Philosophy for Education: Wendell Berry's Tradition."

A government document about Wendell Berry! Amazing! This prophetic firebrand, one of my intellectual and practical heroes, had caught the attention of the federal government in a positive way, as someone who had insightful perspective on education in rural settings.

In skimming it, I found much to appeal to my own sensibilities, including a quote found here: "If rural dwellers are to have real communities, then, according to Berry, the equilibrium with nature must be re-established. People must care intimately for one another and cherish the land they inhabit."

Somehow, I think Wendell Berry would correct the author of this fact sheet (PDF) to say that all of us must re-establish that balance and learn to care for each other and for the land.

I like to think that that's what many of us are trying to do with our writings and with our actions, with our blogs and our Victory Gardens and our food preservation -- just to name a few essential things.

And I like to think that someone, somewhere in the federal government, somehow thought this was important enough to share through a publication aimed at those responsible for educating the next generation.

Some days, it's easier to make a difference, I guess.

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